Offshore Drilling; a Disaster Not Waiting to Happen

Abstract

Offshore drilling has recently become a topic of controversy with one side calling for a moratorium on drilling and the other demanding for more oil wells to be drilled. Since the early 1900’s, oil has been a vital part to the U.S. economy. It is this dependence on oil which has pressured the U.S. to drill in its own waters in search of this natural resource. This has led to numerous environmental issues as the carelessness of the oil companies has in turn polluted the landscape. The most prevalent of these being the oil spill by British Petroleum in the Gulf of Mexico. Companies may claim that their drilling techniques have evolved throughout the years, but they still cannot contain 100% of the oil they extract. There must be an end put to offshore drilling before the environment has been completely trashed by thoughtless oil companies.


Offshore Drilling

The recent catastrophe of the British Petroleum oil spill has brought to the nation’s attention the consequences of not following correct procedures as well as the risks of drilling for oil. As oil is the world’s main source of energy and fuel, this spill has caused great debate on the topic of offshore drilling with respect to its necessity and endangerment to the environment. Although offshore drilling has existed for over a century, it is economically and environmentally undesirable, therefore leaving little reason to continue this practice.

To watch the progression of the oil spill from space, check out the video below [9].


History of Offshore Drilling

The beginnings of offshore drilling can be traced back to 1887 in Summerland, California. A drilling rig was built on a 300 foot pier by local H.L. Williams. Shortly thereafter, drilling rigs were on piers all over the West Coast extending up to 1,200 feet into the Pacific Ocean.

Perfecting the Art of Drilling

By 1910, oil had become the primary resource of the United States following the invention of the gas-powered automobile. An unprecedented demand for oil resulted in numerous improvements to make oil retrieval more efficient and profitable. One of the most significant improvements regarding oil retrieval was the implementation of the diamond drill in 1919. The drill could bore through any surface since diamond is the hardest material in the world. Another significant improvement was the development of the “Christmas tree” control system to gauge the flow of oil. The system comprised of multiple valves and was nicknamed the “Christmas tree” because it looked similar to a decorated tree [1]. More advanced drilling control instrumentation was developed in 1925. In 1926 modern seismology was developed, making the search for oil a science.

More Oil, More Problems

The oil industry transformed during the 1940’s as the demand for oil and gas skyrocketed. The government no longer controlled the price of crude oil and the states began to argue over the ownership of underwater property. The search for offshore oil wells also encountered challenges including offshore communication, underwater exploration, and predicting the weather as well as tides. All of these challenges made the search for offshore oil extremely challenging and dangerous.

The Beginning of Modern Offshore Drilling

The complications regarding offshore drilling did not impede its progress. The first fixed oil platform was built in 1947 by a company called Kerr-McGee. This platform was stationed 11 miles off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. By 1949, there were 11 total oil fields as well as 44 exploratory wells based out of the Gulf of Mexico. Offshore drilling became so popular that its rise was portrayed in the movie “Thunder Bay” produced Universal Pictures in 1953. In the movie, an ex-Navy engineer fights opposition from the fishing community in Louisiana to construct an oil platform.

Government Intervention

The United States government passed several acts during the 1950’s to gain control of the oil industry. In 1953, the U.S. Submerged Lands Act was passed to give coastal states the right to offshore lands within their boundaries up to three miles from the coastline. This three mile area of submerged land was defined as the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The OCS Lands Act of 1953 approved Federal jurisdiction over the OCS and authorized the government to lease the shelf for mineral development to the highest bidder. As a result of government intervention, oil production became the largest source of revenue for the United States after income taxes in the 1950s.

Increased Drilling Causes Legislative Reform

In the 1960’s the amount of oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico increased to 800, raising the value of the Gulf of Mexico to $16 billion. This platform increase was due to scientific improvements in offshore drilling. There was a better understanding of oceanic behavior that was used to design more efficient oil platforms. Many of these new and improved oil platforms featured robotic transportation called remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). In 1960, Shell Oil Company released the first ROV “Eureka” that was a self-positioning drillship capable of withstanding 40-mph winds and 20-foot waves [3].

The Santa Barbara Oil Spill of 1969 forced Congress to pass several acts to expedite research on ways to manage future oil spills. One of these acts was the National Environmental Policy Act that required an evaluation of the environmental impact of all major federal actions to be considered prior to executing the action. The state was granted the power to review federal action affecting the OCS by the Coastal Zone Management Act. Congress also passed the Clean Water Act in 1977 to regulate the discharge of toxic and nontoxic pollutants into surface waters.

Additional legislative acts were passed during the 1980’s. The Federal Oil & Gas Royalty Management Act was passed in 1982 requiring future oil and gas facilities to be built while protecting the environment and conserving federal resources. During the same year, the Minerals Management Service was established to manage mineral resources in an environmentally sound and safe manner while collecting and distributing mineral revenues in a timely manner. Later in 1983, President Reagan signed Proclamation 5030 recognizing the submerged land 200 miles off the United States coastline as the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, thus claiming all of its rights.

Significant Developments in Offshore Drilling

New technology propelled the oil industry’s development over the years. Significant developments in offshore drilling include horizontal oil wells, taller oil structures, deeper drilling capabilities, and the use of seismic imaging to map out the ocean floor. Horizontal drilling is not strictly horizontal, but drilling more at an acute angle instead of straight down. The first offshore horizontal well was drilled in the North Sea by Unocal Corporation in 1982. A few years later, Shell Oil Company set up the world’s tallest standing structure during that time, an oil platform nicknamed “Bullwinkle,” that is 1,736 feet high. Bullwinkle was only 386 feet about sea level because the remaining 1,350 feet was underwater [3]. In 1996, Statoil deployed the world’s largest platform, its Troll A platform in the North Sea. Troll A platform stands in 1,000 feet of water, 500 feet about sea level, and is visible from space. Drilling depth records are consistently increasing, and are currently held by the Shell Oil platform, Perdido, 200 miles off the coast of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico at 8,000 feet as of March 31, 2010 [10].

The sheer size and depths of these rigs have grown exponentially since they were created. With it has also grown the potential for disaster. So much of the government policies and interventions listed above are necessary to keep up standard regulations. Else, safety for workers and the environment would be traded in order to increase profit margins. Even with much policing, companies still cut corners and the results are devastating.


The Oil Drilling Process

Locating Oil

Locating oil is usually the job of geologists, hired by oil companies or private firms. Being familiar with the types of rock oil is trapped under, geologists can locate possible oil entrapments. Modern geologists take advantage of a variety of technologies including satellite imagery, gravity meters, sniffers, and seismology.

Satellite Imagery

Satellite imagery allows geologists to examine surface rocks that may contain oil beneath them. Sandstone and limestone are the common forms of oil entrapment, but terrain and rock formations may indicate oil.

Gravity Meters

Gravity meters can detect minute changes in the Earth’s gravitational field, which may indicate the presence of oil. Magnetometers are also used to measure the Earth’s magnetic field instead to also indicate the presence of oil.

Sniffers

Sniffers detect the smell of hydrocarbons, molecules formed by chains of hydrogen and carbon, using small electronic noses. Hydrocarbons are a high source of energy that is found in many products derived from crude oil such as gasoline and diesel fuel.

Seismology

Seismology is the common form of locating oil under the surface of water. It involves sending sock waves to hidden rock layers and interpreting the waves that are returned to a trail of vibration detectors. They are called “hydrophones” over the water and “seismometers,” the same as used to detect earthquakes, over the land.

Once oil is located, the location is marked by GPS coordinates on the ground or by buoys in the water. When the oil company or individual is ready to harvest the oil, a hole must be dug for the drilling rig to obtain oil.

Drilling the Hole

Once a suitable location has been found that is suspected to contain oil, a surface hole must be drilled. “Five basic steps are involved in this process:

1. Place drill bit, collar and drill pipe in the hole
2. Attach the kelly, an attachment that allows the bit to turn, and turntable, then begin drilling
3. As the drilling progresses, circulate mud through the pope and out of the bit to float the rock to the surface
4. Add new sections of drill pipes to expand the pipe as the hole gets deeper
5. When the needed preset drilling depth is reached, the collar and bit can be removed”

A cement casing is lowered into the initial hole to prevent it from collapsing. Once strength tests are performed on the cement casing, drilling continues to the final depth. These tests include “well logging,” which involves lowering electrical and gas sensors into the hole to take measurements, “drill-stem testing,” lowering a pressure sensing device into the well to reveal whether reservoir rock has been reached, and “core samples,” taking samples of rock to observe characteristics of the reservoir rock [6].

Once the final depth is reached and testing is complete, a perforating gun, with explosives, is lowered into the well to create holes in the well for oil to flow through. Once oil is flowing, tubing is lowered to provide a conduit for the oil. This tubing is then surrounded by a “packer” which expands to form a tight seal around the tubing, forcing the oil to flow through the tubing. In order to get the oil finally flowing, acid, for limestone reservoirs, or a special fluid called “proppants,” for sandstone reservoirs, is pumped into the tubing and well to dissolve the rock, causing oil to flow into the well. Unfortunately there is no way to complete this process without disturbing the inhabitants and landscape of the ocean floor.

Once the hole is dug and oil is able to flow out, the drilling rig equipment is delivered to the site and assembled over the hole. However, the potential for a leak in the seal always exists. There is really no way for the government to monitor small leaks in these pipes so it is up to the oil companies to report them. This is a risky move since companies know they will be heavily fined for oil spills, and the profits lost from neglecting a "small" leak are insignificant.

The Oil Rig

Over Land

The oil rig positioned over a land based oil well consists of a power system, mechanical system, and circulatory system. The power system, a diesel engine, provides the power required to pump the oil out of the well. The mechanical system includes a hoisting system to lift heavy loads and rotating equipment to drill the hole. The circulatory system pumps the “drilling mud” to lift rock cuttings from the drill bit to the surface.

Offshore

Several types of offshore drilling rigs exist to support various conditions and costs. Rigs may be fixed to the ocean floor, float on the surface, or consist of an artificial island. The rigs are designed to provide housing for workers and provide the machinery needed to drill the wells. The main difference between over land and offshore oil rigs is how the rig is fixed to the well. Over land the rig is directly built on top of the well whereas in offshore rigs, the rig is either fixed or floated above the well. This has a tendency to make them less stable and more dangerous since the tides are always changing [6].


Environmental and Economical Concerns

As the debate involving offshore drilling continues, people must take a look at the consequences of drilling new wells and taping new resources. Will the benefits outweigh the risks involved? The two key points at the forefront of this debate are the environmental concerns versus the economical gain. Is America willing to trade pollution for more oil, and will larger supplies of oil really mean cheaper gas prices?

How Safe is the Environment

The environmental concerns which stem from offshore drilling are extensive. During the process itself, as oil is pumped out of the ocean floor it brings other harmful substances along with it. These include mercury and lead which are both poisonous, and benzene which is a carcinogen. Even if small concentrations of these chemicals escape, they are introduced to the marine wildlife, contaminating what they come into contact with. Not only is this harmful for the fish, but since many people enjoy seafood, consumers could also be exposed to toxins when they eat polluted fish. What may seem like an insignificant leak or spill miles away from civilization has the potential to work its way up the food chain and have a deadly impact.

In addition to accidents and human error, we must consider natural phenomena which occur in the popular regions for drilling. Due to its sheer size, a single hurricane has the potential to disrupt a considerable number of oil rigs. Two recent hurricanes, Rita and Katrina, toppled 115 oil rigs spilling oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Although the amounts were claimed to be “insignificant”, to what extent do we want this to continue? The environment was undoubtedly affected by this “insignificant” spill regardless of what the media published. True, we can’t control hurricanes, but we can control what we put in their path [4].

Another environmental impact and point of failure which many people don’t realize is the need to transport the oil which has been pumped out of the well. This calls for miles of pipeline and introduces a new risk to the environment. Before the oil is even sent through the pipe, the environment has already been disrupted. As the lines come in from sea, particularly the Gulf of Mexico, they pass through beaches and marshlands. The construction process alone can ruin the habitats for many species of animals and destroy the fragile ecosystem. It is estimated that in Louisiana alone, 10,000 miles of canals have been dug in order to lay oil and gas pipelines. Now consider what could happen is one of these pipes failed. A loose flange or corroded pipe has the potential to spew oil onto our shores, and with thousands of miles of pipe to contend with, there is plenty of room for error. On June 12, 2010 a leak was discovered on a Chevron pipeline in Salt Lake City. Fortunately it was quickly contained, but not before it had polluted a local park. This further emphasizes the point that even with modern technology and constant monitoring; mechanical failure is always a risk [2].

Economical Considerations

In the past 10 years the price of gasoline has been on the rise. This is driven by the rising price for a single barrel of oil. One may be tempted to think that by increasing the supply of oil, through the expansion of offshore drilling, that the price of gasoline will drop. While this may be true, the real question is whether prices will drop significantly enough to impact the consumer. To determine the answer we must first look at how much oil could be produced from new oil rigs in the United States coastal waters. The US Department of Energy estimates that further offshore drilling would yield 18 billion barrels of oil, spread out over a decade, before the wells were pumped dry. In the year 2006 the world consumed 43 billion barrels of oil [8]. Also, if the US were to grant permits to drill new wells, the planning and construction process would take 5-10 years, meaning it would be a long time before any oil was flowing out of the wells. Drilling these wells would require additional oil for transporting the supplies and personnel to the proper locations. Looking at these statistics, it is clear that offshore drilling would have a negligible effect on the overall production numbers and that the average consumer would see no benefit from this. Forecasters estimate that at a maximum, the price of gasoline would fall by a few pennies because the U.S. does not produce enough oil to significantly impact the world market. The real benefits would only go as far as the oil companies, who would seize the extra profits from selling larger quantities of oil [7].


BP Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

The disaster, which is now known as the BP Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill, began on April 20, 2010. At around 11:00 p.m., news broke that an explosion occurred on British Petroleum’s (BP) Deepwater Horizon oil rig, located 52 miles southeast of the Louisiana port of Venice. Eleven workers were reported missing. Two days later, April 22, the fire was extinguished and the oil rig sank [10].

Flow Rate

Since the sinking of the rig, oil continuously flows into the Gulf of Mexico. BP made early estimates of the flow rate at 1,000 barrels per day. Many believe the company’s early estimates were reduced to intentionally downplay the severity of the spill. Current estimates of oil spewing into the Gulf are roughly 60,000 barrels per day. That is approximately 2.5 million gallons of oil every day. BP has managed to capture 15,000 barrels a day at its peak, leaving 45,000 barrels escaping into the Gulf. Each new estimate follows the patterns of being considerably higher than the previous.

Spill Area

Spread of the oil depends on the weather conditions, such as storms and currents. Cold front winds caused the initial dispersal in late April. An estimate on April 30 placed the area of the spill at 3,850 square miles. As time goes on, the spill continues to spread. It has now reached Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. The Loop Current, which flows clockwise through the Gulf of Mexico and into the Gulf Stream, is a huge threat for further distribution. Because of this strong deep ocean current, it could carry the oil up the east coast of the United States as far north as North and South Carolina.

Environmental Impacts

The effects of the spill on natural habitats are continuously growing as the oil spreads. The areas that the Deepwater Horizon oil is covering are mainly wetlands, which could hold toxins for years. The marshes of southern Louisiana act as sponges for the oil to be absorbed, and are now soaked with dark oil. Residents of the area refer to the oil covered marshes as “chocolate mousse.” These areas, which once served as nurseries for baby shrimp, grounds for blue craps, and wave barriers, are now useless habitats. It is feared that Louisiana’s crab, oyster, and shrimp industry could be devastated by the spill, causing major economic problems for the area.

Petroleum toxicity initially harms marine life, and later shoreline ecosystems. Oil covers wildlife’s coats, impairing the natural chemistry used for insulation and buoyancy. This is especially detrimental to the various bird species along the coast, and also those that migrate to the region for spawning. Digesting the oil poisons digestive tracts, resulting in mortality. Oil floats on the ocean’s surface present problems for deep-sea marine life. Photosynthesis becomes limited due to the reduction in light penetration. Respiration by oil consuming microbes further increases the oxygen depletion. Low dissolved oxygen levels cause marine life to suffocate and die.

The timing of the spill intensifies its detrimental environmental effects. Animals all along the Gulf Coast are either reproducing or preparing to do so. Sensitive young animals, such as shore birds and sea turtles, will not be able to handle the toxins present [11].

The Gulf of Mexico has huge fish and shellfish populations. 98% of these species harvested depend on estuaries, which are areas where freshwater from rivers and streams mix with seawater. Water quality of these estuaries relies on the surrounding wetlands. If the wetlands do not remain healthy, these fish and shellfish populations could experience severe die offs.

Containment and Removal

Containment booms were put into pace shortly after the spill began. These were used for blocking the oil from marshes, mangroves, and other sensitive areas. Nearly 200,000 feet of containment booms were deployed. Unfortunately, high winds and rough waves proved them ineffective in early May. Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell later argued that the state had the right to build barrier islands by dredging sand. These would function to keep the oil from reaching the shorelines. On June 16, the Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company began assembling sand berms off the coast of Louisiana.

There have been three approaches for removal of the oil: burning, filtering, and collecting. Controlled burns proved to be unsuccessful due to poor conditions. Recent efforts made by BP have been more successful. On June 21, 654,000 gallons of usable oil were recovered by using a containment cap. They have also ordered machines which separate oil from water and can remove 2,000 barrels of oil per day [5].

After looking at the above information it should be clear that from an environmental standpoint, the risks of offshore drilling far outweigh the benefits. We have little to gain, but far more to lose, as has been shown with the BP oil spill. Also, economically, continuing to increase offshore drilling will hardly affect the price of gasoline. There is simply not enough oil to be claimed from offshore drilling to affect the market. Therefore, sacrificing the environment so that a handful of companies can profit is not a fair trade off and leaves offshore drilling to be an unnecessary evil in our country.


Bibliography

[1] "About NOIA." NOIA. National Ocean Industries Association, Web. 24 Jun 2010. <http://www.noia.org/website/article.asp?id=123>.

[2] Alberty, Erin. "Residents to Chevron: Clean up the Mess." Utah Local News - Salt Lake City News, Sports, Entertainment, Business - The Salt Lake Tribune. 14 June 2010. Web. 19 June 2010. <http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/home/49751650-73/oil-spill-chevron-creek.html.csp99>.

[3] Charpentier, Will. "The History of Offshore Drilling." eHow. N.p., 16 Jun 2009. Web. 25 Jun 2010. <http://www.ehow.com/about_5096071_history-offshore-drilling.html>.

[4] Connors, Jill. "Offshore Drilling: Is Energy Worth the Ecological Disaster of Oil Spills?"
TreeHugger. 18 Feb. 2009. Web. 19 June 2010. <http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/02/offshore-drilling-oil-false-hope.php>.

[5] "Dispersants in Spill Response." BP, 4 May 2010. Web. 28 June 2010. <http://www.bp.com>.

[6] Freundenrich, Craig. “How Oil Drilling Works.” HowStuffWorks. 29 June 2010. <http://science.howstuffworks.com/oil-drilling.htm>.

[7] Hoffman, Andrew J., and Thomas P. Lyon. "The Simple Economics of Offshore Drilling « Erb Perspective." Erb Perspective. Cambridge University Press, Nov. 2004. Web. 19 June 2010. <http://erbsustainability.wordpress.com/2008/10/31/the-simple-economics-of-offshore-drilling-by-andrew-j-hoffman-thomas-p-lyon/>.

[8] Jervis, Rick, William Welch, and Richard Wolf. "Worth the Risk? Debate on Offshore Drilling Heats up - USATODAY.com." USA Today. 13 July 2008. Web. 19 June 2010. <http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/energy/2008-07-13-offshore-drilling_N.htm>.

[9] "NASA Satellites View Growing Gulf Oil Spill." YouTube. Web. 30 Jul 2010. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCWW5xt3Hc8>.

[10] Richard, Michael Graham. "BP Gulf Oil Spill Cheat Sheet: A Timeline of Unfortunate Events." 27 June 2010. <http://www.treehugger.com>.

[11] "Scientists Watch for Environmental Effects of Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill." 1 May 2010. Web. 28 June 2010. <http://www.washingtonpost.com>.

[12] "Shell starts production at Perdido." Shell, 31 Mar 2010. Web. 25 Jun 2010. <http://www.shell.com/home/content/media/news_and_library/press_releases2010perdido_31032010.html>.


Ryan Grant

Many people are not aware of the dangers from actually having to clean up the oil spills. BP has been trying to use a harmful chemical called Corexit to help clean up their mess. Corexit helps break up the clumps in the water and makes it easier to disperse. People exposed to this chemical in the past have suffered many health problems and a loss in average life expectancy. After speaking first hand with someone in Mississippi cleaning up the spill, it is evident that the chemical has had numerous negative consequences on the community. People that are visiting the beaches and living on the coast are experiencing health problems as well as the wildlife. Not only is it important to protect the wildlife and people in the surrounding area, but it should also be a priority to protect the people that are lending a hand to clean it up.

References:
[1] O'Dowd, Robert. "Corexit Sprayed by BP Tops 1 Million Gallons." 10 June 2010. Web. 2 July 2010. <http://www.veteranstoday.com/2010/06/10/corexit-sprayed-by-bp-tops-1-million-gallons/>.


Josh Krolewski

Offshore drilling should be performed along the United States coastline so that the United States will not be as dependent on other nations to satisfy their oil demands. In addition, it is important to be for the United States to have their own supply of oil to prevent possible world conflicts over this black gold. Today, the entire world relies heavily on oil. This brings power to nations that supply the entire world with oil. Relying too heavily on other nations for your oil supply could bring the collapse of your nation if your supply cuts off. Overall, it is important to be self sufficient instead of reliant on others. Even though there are significant hazardous environmental effects that are attributed to offshore drilling, it still has to be done. I believe there needs to be more regulations and laws overseeing offshore drilling to help eliminate and prevent disasters such as BP. Also, there needs to be new methods for dealing with “worse case” scenarios like BP is facing. As we all know, BP has hardly done anything effective to seal up the leak or contain the spillage. There needs to be more preventative measures and better disaster response teams for all scenarios that an offshore drilling platform can experience. All in all, even though offshore drilling is risky and endangers the environment it has to be done in order to fulfill the demands of oil. However, eventually oil will not be the world’s primary energy source and offshore drilling should be the first type of oil extraction that should be abandoned.
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Nolan Ecock

I believe, as is stated in the article, "oil has been a vital part to the U.S. economy". I also agree that there is a significant "dependence on oil" as scientists develop other sources of energy. These are two major reasons that provide support for the offshore drilling. I thought the history of drilling was interesting and the research on the environmental impact of the construction of oil pipe lines was informative, however I did not like your closing stance stating, "we have little to gain, but far more to lose". British Petroleum's recent incident in the Gulf of Mexico is a devastating event and supports the article's argument. The oil leak is creating various environmental problems and economic problems for the fishing industry. However, I believe we have much to gain economically and politically from our offshore drilling. By drilling our own wells, we gain independence from foreign suppliers. If we did not have these wells, we would not have the competitive gas prices that we do. I believe that until we find an alternative source of energy that is efficient, we must continue to drill offshore. In addition, this offshore drilling must have regulations that are more strict and keep companies from cutting corners as stated in the article.

Kasey Agee

Firstly, this is a very well written article in my opinion. The group has included more than enough information to satisfy most of their arguments. The history of oil drilling was helpful in relating to the rest of the article and it was properly located at the beginning of the article. I do have to disagree on the argument that offshore drilling should be put to an end in the U.S., however. The oil industry provides thousands of jobs for American workers and is a huge source of income to the country. To a lesser extent, drilling on American shores does provide us some petroleum products. There are certainly risks involved in the process, but with adequate laws and enforcement, risks would be minimized. I believe there should be stricter regulations requiring oil companies to have several backup plans, not just one or two, in the event of a spill. I believe this is part of the issue in the gulf oil spill today. As stated in the article, there is no way to assure that oil will never leak out. This being said, I think we should assume some amount of risk in order to keep out people employed and our businesses happy here.


Nathan Cornwell

I like the argument that is presented in this article but I don't feel that offshore drilling should be completely stopped immediately. This would result in loss of many jobs for Americans and in our economic condition, we just can't afford that. Also, I feel that many people are assuming that because one rig exploded that every rig is now a danger, which is not the case at all. An article states that U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman said,"Gulf drilling accounts for 31 percent of total domestic oil production and 11 percent of domestic natural gas production, and an estimated 150,000 jobs are directly related to offshore operations." Tim Kerner, mayor of the fishing town of Lafitte, La., cheered the ruling. "I love it. I think it's great for the jobs here and the people who depend on them," he said. (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100622/ap_on_bi_ge/us_gulf_oil_spill)


Brad Rieland

Oil drilling in the gulf plays a vital role in keeping the United States economy functioning. Although there is the great possibility of causing major environmental impacts, as we see today, reducing drilling or stopping offshore drilling is just not an option. We already rely heavily on the Middle East as it is, for the majority of our crude oil. We cannot depend on these foreign countries to provide most or all of our energy needs. However, I do believe that significant changes need to be made in the oil drilling process. Oil companies are so concerned with extracting the oil from the ground that they neglect the “what if” scenarios. The companies should look at the way NASA operates, always preparing for something to go wrong, so that when it does they have a procedure to follow to correct the problem. Had this been the case when drilling in the gulf began, many of the oil spills could have been prevented and the environmental impacts would have been far less severe.


Mary Mullen Boteler
Oil drilling has become a very controversial issue, especially now with the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. As a fisheries science major, I am devastated by this event. BP is attempting to clean the spill by using shrimp boats to make a sort of corral so they can light the oil on fire. Not only are the fires set harmful to the air, they are killing many helpless animals in the water. Sea birds are unable to see due to the large clouds of smoke. Sea turtles are being burned alive. In the past few weeks there has been a lawsuit filed against BP to stop the fires, because so many sea creatures have been harmed by these cleanup methods. BP is now being forced to step back and research better ways to clean up the oil. They are now also required to have wildlife biologists and other specialists who are able to make sure no animals are harmed.


Kyle Waters
Offshore drilling is an extremely controversial topic, and it seems appropriate timing to have a wiki article on this matter. Overall, the article is pretty well written. It is a little biased in its information, but given the recent events, it is a well deserved criticism. It is a fact that offshore drilling is a dangerous and risky undertaking, not just to those who actually work the rigs themselves, but to the environment. However if we were to get rid of offshore drilling, we would be eliminating thousands of jobs that many people survive on. Not only that, we would be strengthening our dependence on foreign oil. Over the last forty years (and longer probably), each politician in power has made it a staple of their Presidency to "end our dependence on foreign oil". But the truth of the matter is that this may never happen until we simply run out of oil. Our lifestyles as Americans and world citizens is what provides the motivation for oil companies to undertake such risky affairs such as offshore drilling. Just like drilling in ANWAR in Alaska, oil companies will always do whatever it deems necessary to get the product that will make them money. Although each one of us cries out in mercy each time we see a negative effect on our environment from oil, and search to blame the oil industry for their bad deeds, the blame only lies with us. As long as we live a lifestyle dependent on oil (and our blatant misuse of it), there will always be drilling in areas where their shouldn't be. Sadly, this may not be the worst oil spill we ever see in our lifetimes.

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