Reader Poll: Deep Water Drilling
The BP oil spill off the Louisiana coast is undeniably a pivotal event as our nation debates alternatives to borrowing money from the Chinese to buy oil from the Saudis and their neighbors.
With which devil do we make the next pact? If you like to drive that Mustang GT, you have to choose your devil.
We had a very short interval to either celebrate or deplore President Obama’s decision to open up new offshore drilling before British Petroleum’s blowout preventer in 5000 feet of water failed to operate, releasing thousands of barrels of oil into the Gulf each day, making a very big, very embarrassing, horrifying mess. BP’s mud engineer also failed to operate that day. For his sake, I hope there is not a hell.
Scientists and engineers devise technological solutions to challenging situations; I like science and technology and I want them to succeed. But they certainly did not succeed here.
Birds are diving into this oil and dying. Coral reefs are at risk. Billions of dollars of marine fishing, shrimping and sport fishing industries are shut down. Offshore oil leasing and deep water drilling are suspended. Who can know what the long-term consequences of this spill will be? Huge is an understatement.
Everyone agrees that importing massive infusions of oil daily is bad. Many disagree about which alternatives are acceptable.
There are vast quantities of oil and gas off the coasts of the United States. Developing these assets can reduce our dependency on foreign sources of oil. This is a good goal.
But, at what cost? Or, stated differently, what costs are acceptable?
The Wall Street Journal ran an opinion piece which stated that accidents will happen, they are inevitable, but we should still drill offshore.
A bunch of environmental groups are saying “we told you so” as they rip BP and other offshore exploration and production companies and their contractors. The total lack of any useful plan for cleanup and control of spills affords even the most extreme critics a defensible basis for harsh criticism. BP is desperately inventing solutions which should have been on the shelf two decades ago.
Coastal state governors and many business groups are running from Obama and BP and their allies; “we don’t want offshore oil development.”
Industry experts have developed sophisticated technologies, including underwater blowout preventers, remotely controlled robots, redundant systems. One can conclude that these technologies are equal to an awesome task, and just failed to work on this isolated case, or one might conclude that these technologies may be awe-inspiring but they cannot handle the vagaries of high-pressure undersea oil and gas formations.
Every oil spill eventually disappears. Damage to birds, fish, otters, economies, beaches, eventually goes away. Some recovery curves are longer than others, but at some point the tar balls are gone. The interim costs can be tremendous, but eventually the damage is gone. Litigation from this spill will continue for the next decade, but memories will fade.
Meanwhile this well might produce 70,000 barrels per day. Ten or twenty such wells, coupled with energy conservation, could come close to weaning us from foreign sources.
The provocative question, given that there is a national benefit to producing oil and gas from our offshore assets instead of borrowing yuan from Beijing to pay the Saudis, the Libyans, Hugo Chavez and the Yemenis:
Is an oil spill like the present BP spill:
____ an unacceptable cost regardless of how often it happens, and we should stop deepwater drilling?
____ an unfortunate event, but such events are an inevitable cost of developing domestic oil and gas assets, and we can live with one of these every 20 years?
____ the same as above, only every five years?
____ the same as above, only once each year?
No one will find this type of excursion to be acceptable on a recurring basis of one year or five years.
Is this the end of deepwater drilling? Should it be?