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Debate: US offshore oil drilling

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Is offshore drilling a good idea? Was Obama right to open new drilling in 2010?

Background and context

On March 31st, Barack Obama announced a plan to open significant portions of the Eastern seaboard and the western coast of Florida to offshore oil drilling. This ended two major federal bans that have prevented offshore energy exploration and drilling in the United States.
An Executive Moratorium signed in 1990 and a Congressional Moratorium that requires annual renewal. With oil prices at relatively high levels, global crude supplies set to dwindle over time, and accompanying economic difficulties in the United States and elsewhere, many began to call for lifting the offshore drilling ban. Polls show that most Americans favor it. President Bush tried to lift the Executive Moratorium on July 14th, 2008. Yet, Congress would not pass key legislation to enable the action. Under President Barack Obama, the prospects of Congress approving lifting the moratorium seemed more likely, and the debate has continued apace.

Contents

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Energy crunch: Can offshore drilling help avert an energy crisis?

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Yes

  • US oil crisis warrants drastic action and offshore oil drilling "An Outdated Ban". Washington Post. 28 June 2006 - "The United Statesis suffering a major energy crisis right now, and we should be drilling in as many places as we can manage. Offshore drilling may be a short-term solution to a long-term energy problem, but if countries like China can already drill and drain our nearby coastal regions of oil and gas deposits, there's no reason why we shouldn't save ourselves a few bucks at the gas pump until alternative energy sources are further developed."
  • A comprehensive US energy plan must include offshore drilling "An Outdated Ban". Washington Post. 28 June 2006 - "The United Statesis suffering a major energy crisis right now, and we should be drilling in as many places as we can manage. Offshore drilling may be a short-term solution to a long-term energy problem, but if countries like China can already drill and drain our nearby coastal regions of oil and gas deposits, there's no reason why we shouldn't save ourselves a few bucks at the gas pump until alternative energy sources are further developed."


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No

  • US offshore drilling would hardly lower global oil prices Joseph Romm. "New offshore drilling does little for gas prices." Forbes. April 2, 2010: "The Obama administration announced Wednesday that it will be approving 'significant oil and gas exploration off America’s coasts.' [...] Last year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration report, 'Impact of Limitations on Access to Oil and Natural Gas Resources in the Federal Outer Continental Shelf' analyzed the difference between full offshore drilling (Reference Case) and restriction to offshore drilling (OCS limited case). In 2020, there is no impact on gasoline prices (right hand column). In 2030, US gasoline prices would be three cents a gallon lower. Woohoo!"
  • General statements against offshore oil drilling Mike Daulton, Audubon's policy director, said in March of 2010: "We urge the Obama administration to focus on clean energy priorities and to protect America’s special places from the risks of oil drilling.[3]


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Timing: Would new offshore drilling come soon enough?

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Yes

  • Offshore oil still valuable, even if years away While it may be true that - in a perfect world - it would be better for offshore oil to be available now, it is not true that it would be of no value down the line five, ten, or twenty years from now. In the future, energy needs will have grown, and the supply of traditional sources will have dwindled. In the event that alternative sources have not fully matured to fill the gap, offshore oil will indeed be very important in smoothing the transition to alternative, renewable energy sources.


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No


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Environment: Is offshore drilling consistent with environmental preservation?

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Yes

  • The environmental footprint of offshore drilling is negligible James Hackett, president & CEO of Anadarko Petroleum, on energy issues, said in an interview with Larry Kudlow, "[We’ve] got a world class project that is the deepest producing well in the history of the world. It’s providing clean, natural gas to America, about 1.5 percent of all of our gas supply. Everyday it’s being provided from a football field and a half sized environmental footprint, a two-hour flight away from the shoreline. So it’s not in any visual contact with any human being. These platforms have gone through 200-year hurricanes, back in 2005, without any environmental consequences. It’s a bit of a fiction hoisted on us by people who don’t know better."[4]


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No

  • The three D's: oil rigs drill, drain and devastate. Drills were made to do three things. Drill, drain, and devastate. Drills drill for oil, drill oil, while devastating the area around it. No matter how advanced technology is used, there will be accidents. Even after years of using electricity and making safety regulations and devices, there are still thousands of electrocution cases each year. This proves that even if advanced safety measures are taken, there will be accidents and tragedies. The drill is just like this. No matter how safe it is made to prevent accidents, it will have accidents. Also, the drilling, draining, and burning it causes is enough to devastate the ecosystem. Why try to deny the truth?
  • Offshore oil involves leaks, spills, environmental damage David Ivanovich and Kristen Hays. "Offshore drilling safer, but small spills routine." Houston Chronicle. July 28, 2008: "offshore operators continue to spill thousands of barrels of oil, fuel and chemicals into federal waters each year, government records show. 'This is not a zero-risk proposition,' said John Rogers Smith, an associate professor of petroleum engineering at Louisiana State University. [...] Offshore operators have had 40 spills greater than 1,000 barrels since 1964, including 13 in the last 10 years, according to data from the U.S. Minerals Management Service, which oversees exploration and production in federal waters. [...] Despite the industry's technological improvements and safety planning, offshore operators have struggled to cope with the hurricanes that blow through the Gulf of Mexico. Seven of the 13 recent larger spills were hurricane related."
  • New technology will never eliminate offshore oil leaks/spills Contrary to the claims of the oil companies new technology has not slowed the pace of major oil spills. Of the 40 offshore oil rig spills exceeding 42,000 gallons since 1964, 13 have occurred within the last 10 years. More than a quarter of all major spills of the last 44 years, have occurred recently. From 1998 through 2007, offshore producers released an average of 6,555 barrels of oil a year, according to the Minerals Management Service. That was 64 percent more than the annual average during the previous 10-year period and these figures do not include the latest spills in the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana or Australia. This despite the new technology that has been implemented.
  • Transporting offshore oil to shores by ship has environmental costs. These large ships release significant pollution into the oceans, and carry some risk of hitting the shore, and causing a spill.
  • Transporting offshore oil by pipeline carries environmental risks. Pipelines from oil rigs to the shore can leak and even burst, releasing very large quantities of oil into the Oceans and onto coastlines.


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Natural disasters: Can offshore oil withstand natural disasters like hurricanes?

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Pro


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Con

  • Offshore oil rigs are vulnerable to storms "Offshore Drilling is a Dirty Business." Sierra Club. Opposing Views.com: "Offshore drilling operations are particularly vulnerable to storms. The Coast Guard estimates that during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, roughly 9 million gallons of oil were spilled. And the pipelines, development, and infrastructure that come with drilling scar beaches, disrupt marine life and undermine coastal tourism and fishing economies."


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Production: Will offshore drilling significantly contribute to oil production?

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Yes

  • Offshore drilling is final frontier of oil A USA Today article published on June 28, 2008, titled "Deepwater oil fields are a final frontier," notes, "By 2015, Chevron expects deepwater wells to account for one-quarter of offshore oil production vs. 9% today." The US must recognize this potential, and tap into it by lifting its ban on offshore drilling.[7]


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No

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Economics: What are the economics of offshore oil drilling?

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Yes


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No

  • US offshore drilling threatens vibrant fishing industry Frances Beinecke is president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "More Drilling, More Risk." New York Times: "Here’s how we utilize our oceans today: In the U.S. alone, commercial fishing generates more than $103 billion in sales. Ocean-related tourism and recreation are responsible for more than 2 million jobs. In 2000, the U.S. ocean economy created two and a half times the economic output of the farm sector. [...] This economic vitality depends upon clean, healthy seas. Despite technological advances, drilling off our coasts still poses grave risks, including accidental and hurricane-related oil spills. The Exxon Valdez spill stretched over 600 miles of Alaskan coastline — a stretch that would cover the eastern coastline from South Carolina to the tip of Florida. That’s a lot of beaches and fishing communities devastated."
  • Allowing offshore drilling is all about oil company profits Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Environment Committee said in July 2008, "This proposal is something you'd expect from an oil company CEO, not the president of the United States. The president is taking special-interest government to a new level and threatening our thriving coastal economy."[8]
  • Offshore oil distracts from longer-term renewables industry. A Center for American Progress study has found that money that goes into the oil sector instead of the clean energy economy means a net loss of 14 jobs per million dollars.[9]
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Foreign dependence: Would offshore drilling reduce US foreign dependencies?

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Yes

  • Wrong to out-source offshore drilling to foreign coasts Peter Maass, a fellow at the Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, on New York Times Room for Debate, March 31st, 2010: "As a matter of global justice, why should America exclude its coastlines while coastlines all over the world are drilled for oil that goes into American gas tanks? Banning oil companies from operating in our waters while encouraging them to do so in other people’s waters — there’s a whiff of hypocrisy to that, a sort of outsourcing of oil pollution."[10]


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No

  • Offshore drilling discourages investments in ending oil dependence. Barack Obama said, "And when I am President, I will keep the moratorium in place and prevent oil companies from drilling off Florida’s coasts. That’s how we can protect our coasts and still make the investments that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and bring down gas prices for good."


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Aesthetics: Are drilling rigs aesthetically tolerable?

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Yes

  • Deepsea oil rigs are out of the view of coastal populations. Not all offshore oil rigs are visible from coastlines. Many are too far to see, and so do not represent an eyesore for residents, tourists, beach-goers or anyone else.
  • Some people appreciate the site of offshore oil rigs While some contend that oil rigs are ugly to look at from the coast, this is not necessarily the case for everyone. Many like the imaginative stimulation it provides, as it forces one to contemplate a rig drilling thousands of feet to a reservoir below and to contemplate the energy demands of modern society. This need not be a painful "eye-sore", and can often be quite pleasant.


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No


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Natural gas: Does offshore drilling improve natural gas production?

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Yes


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No

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State rights: Is it wrong to give states the right to decide?

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Yes


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No

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Public opinion: Where does the public stand on this issue?

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Yes

  • The majority of Americans support offshore drilling. A Rasmussen poll found that 67% of voters nationwide support offshore drilling. In Florida, a poll released on June 30 showed that 59% of Floridians supported offshore drilling.[12]


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No

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Pro/con resources

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Yes


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No

See also

External links


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