As you likely know, in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy President Obama placed a halt on proposed oil exploration off the Virginia coast, among other places. While some shortsighted elected officials in Washington cheered the news, the actual producers of society were not as pleased. One example is Jack Gerard, President and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute:
“We understand the concerns many people have about offshore drilling in the wake of this incident, and the frustration many feel toward oil companies. But this issue is much larger than the oil industry, since access to affordable energy impacts every sector of our economy, every state in our nation and every American family. Further, thousands of products – from toothpaste to iPods, cell phones to computers, and vitamins to vegetables – use oil and natural gas as a feedstock in the manufacturing process.
An extended moratorium on safely producing our oil and natural gas resources from the Gulf of Mexico would create a moratorium on economic growth and job creation – especially in the Gulf States whose people and economies have already been most affected by the oil spill – by undercutting our nation’s access to affordable, reliable, domestic sources of oil and natural gas.
Deepwater development is a key component of domestic energy security. In 2007, deepwater provided 70 percent of the oil and 36 percent of the natural gas from overall federal Gulf of Mexico production. The 20 most prolific producing blocks in the Gulf are located in deepwater.
Additional moves to curtail domestic production by postponing exploration and development off the coasts of Alaska and Virginia, as well as areas in the Gulf, have the potential to significantly erode our energy and economic security.
Decisions that impact the industry’s ability to produce the oil and natural gas this country needs in every sector of our economy and in every household in this country will affect the lives of every citizen, every day. We will encourage the administration and Congress to reconsider any decisions that would place previously available lease areas off limits, and to ensure that there is a process and a timeline for revisiting decisions that impact our energy and economic future.” (All emphasis in original.)
There’s no question that what happened to the Deepwater Horizon was unprecedented (not to mention tragic, as the 11 people who perished in the explosion seem to have become but collateral damage to the overall cause of killing the energy industry) and will be catastrophic for some time to the Gulf region. But on balance, the region has been helped more than hurt by the oil and natural gas industry for decades, and thousands of rigs have and continue to work safely despite the onset of hurricanes and shutdowns for routine maintenance for years. There’s 3,500 rigs out there in the Gulf.
In my view, this ban is akin to not rebuilding the city of Salisbury after the Great Fire of 1886 or abandoning the space program after the Challenger disaster. In both instances, we took a short pause to learn from the mistakes but redoubled our efforts for improvement. We didn’t simply throw in the towel and persuade ourselves that it can’t be done.
Yet, because the environmentalists want to preserve their precious ocean view and push drilling 50 miles or more offshore, the vast majority of the areas they allow oil exploration within will have these same issues of deepwater drilling. Two-thirds of the area off Virginia where Lease Sale 220 was to occur has ocean depths of 5,000 feet or more, similar to the Deepwater Horizon’s wellhead. (But they don’t complain as much about windmills which would be much closer to shore and tower close to 150 feet over the waterline as well – never mind their real threat to bird life.)
If President Obama and his minions use the Deepwater Horizon incident for a complete stoppage of oil exploration, not only would gasoline suddenly become more expensive but thousands of workers would be placed on the unemployment line. There’s no way we have nearly enough “green” jobs online for these specialized workers to take, but no one feels sorry for those future unemployed – especially in comparison to the sympathy being drummed up for the watermen along the Gulf coast. Certainly this is a tough row to hoe for those who make their living harvesting shrimp, but in many respects they are having the sort of year a farmer does when the skies don’t open up and pour rain on the crops.
One has to wonder what the true motivation is behind the reaction to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and ponder what other leaders would do in such a situation. If offshore drilling is such a bad deal, then perhaps it’s time to look at other methods of getting oil and natural gas like taking advantage of oil shale out west or even the natural gas from the nearby Marcellus formation which crosses the western edge of our very state. Streamline the processes for getting that done instead of putting up roadblocks.
Perhaps the most bitter irony about a Gulf drilling moratorium (should one occur) is that it won’t stop other players like Mexico or Cuba from exploring in their waters. In fact, they may exploit our hesitation to increase their efforts and they’re truly not going to care about the risk of environmental damage to nearly the extent we take care to prevent it.
Until April 20, the American oil industry in the Gulf had a stellar record of safety. Let’s allow them to get back on the horse and do what’s best for our economy.