Obama expands US offshore drilling

The passage of health care legislation in the United States has prompted many questions on whether the Obama administration will now do anything about climate change. The latest indication is not a promising one. They have decided to:

end a longstanding moratorium on oil exploration along the East Coast from the northern tip of Delaware to the central coast of Florida, covering 167 million acres of ocean.

Under the plan, the coastline from New Jersey northward would remain closed to all oil and gas activity. So would the Pacific Coast, from Mexico to the Canadian border.

It is easy enough to see how domestic politics and concern about fossil fuel imports could drive such a decision. That being said, this is another example of the heroin junkie approach to energy policy – when some veins get withered from overuse, start injecting into others rather than working to break the addiction.

The United States and the world would almost certainly be better off if Americans had the foresight to leave these fuels underground while moving aggressively to an economy based on clean and renewable forms of energy.

[Update: 2 May 2010] See also: The cultural significance of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

9 thoughts on “Obama expands US offshore drilling

  1. .

    Breaking: Obama will open large sections of Southeast and Alaskan coasts to offshore drilling

    by Jonathan Hiskes
    30 Mar 2010 9:11 PM

    President Obama will open large swaths of the Atlantic, Gulf, and Alaskan coasts to offshore oil and natural gas drilling in a stunning concession to fossil-fuel companies, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, and others are reporting.

    In the official announcement Wednesday morning, Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will announce an end to a longstanding moratorium on oil drilling along the East Coast from Delaware to the central coast of Florida, say unnamed officials.

    The Arctic Ocean north of Alaska will be opened too, while the Bristol Bay in southwestern Alaska would be protected—the sole new protection. New areas of the southeast Gulf Coast would also be opened, despite bipartisan opposition from political leaders in Florida and Alabama. The Times has a map of all of this, and you need to see it to comprehend the size of the affected area.

  2. .

    “The most important thing to understand about President Obama’s announcement on offshore drilling is that it’s mostly for show. Its intended effects are political — corralling more Senate votes for a climate bill and defusing anticipated voter anger over gas price spikes. Even on those grounds, however, it’s unlikely to succeed.”

    Mr Roberts goes on to point out that the oil from these areas won’t amount to much in the scheme of things; certainly, it will be too little to have much of an effect on American oil imports or on global oil prices (or domestic petrol prices). Accordingly, it won’t much blunt criticisms of the administration this summer, should petrol prices rise as anticipated. And as Mr Roberts says, a bargaining chip isn’t much of a bargaining chip if it’s played pre-emptively.

    These criticisms only make sense if you assume that the president and his staff aren’t very smart. It would make sense to hold this chip in reserve if you could expect to get something meaningful for it, but as Mr Roberts himself argues elsewhere, the Republicans have found an effective strategy in blanket opposition to everything. If you can’t expect to get anything for it, then it’s not much of a bargaining chip. Mr Roberts is correct that this won’t stop Republicans from complaining that he should do more on drilling, but it’s much more difficult to rile up audiences by saying the president has opened an insufficient amount of territory to drilling than by saying he refuses to allow any new drilling.

  3. .

    Burning oil rig sinks, setting stage for big spill
    By KEVIN McGILL and HOLBROOK MOHR Associated Press Writers © 2010 The Associated Press
    April 22, 2010, 4:52PM

    NEW ORLEANS — A deepwater oil platform that burned for more than a day after a massive explosion sank into the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday, creating the potential for a major spill as it underscored the slim chances that the 11 workers still missing survived.

    The sinking of the Deepwater Horizon, which burned violently until the gulf itself extinguished the fire, could unleash more than 300,000 of gallons of crude into the water every day. The environmental hazards would be greatest if the spill were to reach the Louisiana coast, some 50 miles away.

    Crews searched by air and water for the missing workers, hoping they had managed to reach a lifeboat, but one relative said family members have been told it’s unlikely any of the missing survived Tuesday night’s blast. More than 100 workers escaped the explosion and fire; four were critically injured.

    Carolyn Kemp of Monterey, La., said her grandson, Roy Wyatt Kemp, 27, was among the missing. She said he would have been on the drilling platform when it exploded.

  4. .

    Oil spill threatens to sink Obama’s energy plan

    Political damage will be hard to contain, not least because the slick could shatter the President’s shaky compromise on offshore drilling

    Konrad Yakabuski

    Washington — From Monday’s Globe and Mail Published on Sunday, May. 02, 2010 11:25PM EDT Last updated on Sunday, May. 02, 2010 11:38PM EDT

    Just after he unveiled a controversial plan to end a moratorium on offshore oil drilling, President Barack Obama discounted criticism that allowing more development off American shores would invite catastrophe.

    “Oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills,” Mr. Obama insisted on April 2, two days after he announced he would allow drilling in the Atlantic Ocean from Virginia to Florida and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. “They are technologically very advanced. Even during Katrina, the spills didn’t come from the oil rigs; they came from the refineries on shore.”

    Barely a month after that fateful utterance, the “massive and potentially unprecedented environmental disaster” the President described Sunday on a visit to the Louisiana coast has left him with a series of political challenges that could make managing the aftermath of the 2005 hurricane look straightforward.

  5. .

    BP’s Oil Rig Disaster May Bring an End to Support for New Offshore Exploration

    Posted by Robert Rapier on Thursday, April 29, 2010

    Under normal circumstances, I would be all over the story of last week’s BP oil rig disaster. By now, you all know that BP suffered an explosion and a fire in the Gulf of Mexico in which lives were lost and an unprecedented leak a mile below the surface of the ocean is occurring. Because of pressing deadlines (which after this week should be dealt with) I have barely kept up with any news at all. But as I watched the news trickle in over this, I couldn’t help but think the implications will be very far-reaching.

    There are a number of angles in this story. It highlights the fact that the oil industry can be very dangerous, and accidents happen that can have serious consequences to health and the environment. We unfortunately have accidents in the oil industry every year. Helicopters crash ferrying workers to and from rigs. People die during routine maintenance for a variety of reasons – almost all of which were avoidable. But I believe the implications of this tragedy are going to be felt for a very long time.

    Momentum was building for opening up new areas to offshore exploration. By all accounts, the U.S. does have a fair amount of oil offshore (although not nearly enough to make the U.S. energy independent), as well as in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). As our oil supplies deplete and prices continue to climb, support for drilling offshore was almost certainly going to increase. Further, my personal belief is that we are going to have a significant shortfall of oil ten years from now, and any fields that are being developed now could take some amount of pressure off of those shortfalls.

  6. .

    “Then there is the question of expanding offshore drilling. The White House had shown itself willing to countenance more offshore drilling as a way of getting support from Republicans for energy and climate legislation it wants. The proposal is in some ways symbolic. Technically recoverable reserves in the Gulf of Mexico stand at around 41 billion barrels, about a quarter of them to be found in deepwater fields such as the one that the Deepwater Horizon was exploring. The amount of technically recoverable oil off the non-Gulf coasts of the lower 48 states is estimated as just 18 billion barrels, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), a division of the Department of Energy. Drilling off these coasts would account for just 7% of domestic production by 2030 and have an “insignificant” impact on prices, says the EIA.

  7. .

    “BP drilled the well. It did so knowing that its robots couldn’t handle a blowout and its people couldn’t get there. If a surgeon did that—if he opened a hole he couldn’t reach to stop the hemorrhage—he’d lose his license.

    Of all the lessons we can learn from the BP fiasco, the simplest, and the first we should apply to offshore drilling laws, is this: Don’t open any holes you can’t close. If the well site is too deep for humans to reach, drill a simultaneous relief well so you can plug a blowout promptly. If a relief well is too expensive, don’t drill at all. Or you can keep robots on hand to shut down leaks. But they’ll have to be better robots than the ones we’re now watching.”

  8. .

    US to issue order for new Gulf oil drilling ban

    S Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has said he will issue an order for a new moratorium on deep water oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico after a court blocked an earlier ban.

    A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that the six-month moratorium put in place in the wake of April’s massive oil spill was too broad.

    But suspending drilling “was and is the right decision”, Mr Salazar said.

    The White House had already said it would challenge the judge’s ruling.

    The judge said the lengthy ban was “invalid” and could not be justified, as the negative impact on local businesses was simply too great.

    “I will issue a new order in the coming days that eliminates any doubt that a moratorium is needed, appropriate, and within our authorities,” Mr Salazar said in a statement.

  9. .

    Deepwater Horizon, one year later
    The shores of recovery
    Much remains to be done, but signs of revival are everywhere

    Apr 20th 2011 | GRAND ISLE, LOUISIANA | from the print edition

    THE hand-scrawled signs advertise houses for sale, boats for sale, garage sales. There are fresh strawberries, fresh eggs, fresh shrimp and crayfish, either fresh or boiled. Other families are selling heifers, chicks and rabbits. These are the traditional products of the small towns in south Louisiana, sold along narrow roads that wend their way through land so low it seems to sag into the water. But there is something new on offer to workers totting up their recent losses: signs are popping up saying “Spill Claims Denied?”

    It has been a year since the blowout at Deepwater Horizon, an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico some 50 miles from south-east Louisiana. Eleven workers were killed and the platform burned for two days before it sank to the sea floor, 5,000 feet below. Oil gushed from the well for 87 days. Workers at the rig tried to contain it, while responders scrambled to corral it, burn it or disperse it. By the time the well was capped, on July 15th, the government estimates that nearly 5m barrels of oil had escaped, making the disaster the largest accidental offshore oil spill in history. Vast tracts of fisheries were closed. People who drew their livings from the waters, by fishing or tourism, feared devastation.

    A year on, it is too early for a full account of the long-term impact. The Natural Resource Damage Assessment, a process mandated for oil spills, is still in its injury-assessment and restoration-planning phase. Detailed research into what happened and what it means awaits the full flowering of the Gulf Research Initiative, independently managed but to be paid for by BP to the tune of $500m over ten years. So far $40m of this has been dispensed, and requests for proposals on how to spend a fair chunk of the rest may be announced as soon as the end of April.

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