Oil Spill Threatens to Derail Support for Offshore Drilling Plan

An oil spill brought on by the collapse of an offshore drilling platform is now in its fourth day, as an estimated 42,000 gallons of oil continue to pour into the Gulf of Mexico every 24 hours. Though initially thought to be contained, the spill now covers more than 1,800 square miles, and some reports indicate that as much as 100 times more crude could spill into the sea if the well itself were to fail. For perspective, the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prudhoe Bay covered just 1,300 square miles but released more than 10 million gallons of oil into bay, a figure that dwarfs this latest spill by comparison.

As of Sunday, deep sea robots had been deployed in the hopes of sealing off the well by mid-week, but much environmental damage is believed to have already been done and the threat of even more catastrophic harm still looms. A Coast Guard spokesperson said that an initial estimate of the cleanup period is between 45 and 90 days. Officials believe that they still have a few more days before the slow-moving slick begins to hit the shore.

The environmental disaster comes at an inopportune time for offshore drilling advocates, who scored a major victory just weeks ago when the Obama administration decided to open up 167 million acres of ocean to drilling. Environmental advocates expressed outrage over last month’s announcement, though its unlikely that drilling in those areas would begin for at least ten years. Now, the fallout over this latest spill in the Gulf of Mexico threatens to derail those plans.

Even if the offshore drilling ban is lifted, the increased production would be unlikely to effect oil prices, which are determined by on the international market and generally unresponsive to small increases in output. Even generous estimates limit the potential output of offshore discoveries in the United States to less than 1 percent of daily global production. Once the environmental damages of this latest spill are accessed, the debate over offshore drilling could enter a new chapter and the administration might even be forced to re-access its position.

Moreover, the environmental impact of yet another major oil spill—especially if it reaches shore—provides more powerful evidence of our need to reduce our need for petroleum to power our cars and trucks.

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  • scolas

    Drill baby drill. Drill here, drill now.
    Is oil drilling is environmentally safe these days? You betcha!

  • cjcold

    There has never been an oil operation that hasn’t had an “accident”. After over 20 years, much of the oil in Prince William Sound is still there hiding a few inches down. Still leaching and causing environmental damage. When will people learn?

  • Eric

    I have to admit, I was starting to wonder if we should add some drilling, but this spill is a reminder as to why that is a such a bad idea. If solar or wind project get damaged they just send out a technician. If an oil drilling operation is damaged people die and the environment is badly damaged. It’s worth paying extra to avoid the latter situation. This has also strengthened my resolve to swith one of our cars over to all electric propulsion.

  • Samie

    Stupidity breeds more stupidity

    The percentages of actual oil produced by this offshore drilling is laughable yet politicians, oil companies, and talking points try to distort the insignificance of this new energy source into something meaningful.

    Second point of stupidity most think that all oil produced in the U.S. gets refined and passed on to the American consumer, not true as sometimes it is traded on a global market and shipped to other countries.

    An idiotic political commission will investigate the wrong-doings and delay findings long enough so the American Public forgets about this or there will be a simple slap-on the wrist and finger pointing/tough talk to BP in front of cameras while in the backroom deals are brokered to make the plan go forward. We are seeing this same political show with Goldman Sachs and committees in Congress yet no real meaningful regulations will come out of any of this. Believing tough talk leads to rational action is the next form of stupidity that voters and the media eat up.

    Next point regulators don’t regulate. We see this everywhere as money not ethics or enforcing common statues dictates how companies get fined or coming up with new worthless regulations that do nothing to prevent more accidents. Often if regulations are meaningful they are simply tossed aside by lobbying (eg. in this case with BP/American Petroleum Institute against the Interior Department)

    The last point of stupidity is solid regulations that curve unethical behavior has a price to it. We would see this with tougher regulations in the coal, petroleum, banking ect… industries these regulations have economic costs related to them. Reforming worker safety standards, protecting investors, or consumers may mean higher prices to the consumer but I argue smarter more stable long-term growth could occur from this. If politicians and consumers don’t want to risk higher prices or reductions in our economy for the sake of only short-term interests and gain, that restricts any possibility for change and we continue the cycle of stupidity.

    Sorry for being pessimistic but sometimes I wonder who safeguards our democracy from abuses of power when every politician is afraid to bit the hand that feeds them or risk telling voters what really needs to be done. Too bad third parties in the U.S. are only for the fringe as I see only politicians not leaders in this country and they are slowly dismantling what our founding fathers fought for. Hopefully the pendulum will swing back to more commonsense and rational thinking someday in the near future.

  • Fact-checker

    FYI, the Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in Prince William Sound, Alaska, not in Prudhoe Bay. They are on opposite sides of the state.

  • J. Biden


  • Journey Home by Paul Burke

    You all better get mean and loud or that 42,000 gallons a day spilled is coming to your state – they drill off your coast, cut regulatory corners as much as possible, hire cheap labor and expect tax payers to pick up the bill when they spill the oil. Plus the money they make comes from a resource off your coast and goes into banks in TEXAS. They don’t give a damn about your tourist industry, your quality of life, the health of your fishing industry or if your food chain has been decimated and contaminated.

    They are carpet baggers who pull out of their home port on their huge gas guzzling yachts and sail luxuriously to the Caribbean or South Pacific – the last places on earth they haven’t totally destroyed. Don’t turn your State over to the vultures raping our land.

    Paul Burke
    Author-Journey Home

  • veek

    Yukk! Who demands and uses all that oil, anyway?

    Surely no one is blaming us consumers, are they? :-O

  • Tom

    This disaster is sad but the laws of averages are playing out. Lets see I remember clearly the efforts of President Carter to start a green revolution. That was what around 30 years ago? Maybe this and the 2nd world wide economic depression created by conservatives will cause so much horrible suffering people will finaly wake up and put these insane people out of power. Yeah right LOL. Just drink your koolaid and consume crap you don’t need with money you don’t have.

  • Fred Linn

    Natural gas can not be spilled into the ocean or any other water. It just bubbles up and blows away.

    Natural gas can not be strip mined.

    Since it is already a gas, contaminants are easily removed from natural gas before it is used—-unlike coal and petroleum. Natural gas causes no pollution when used—-it can even be used to cook on indoors, and millions of people do.

    Any internal combustion engine can run on natural gas. We’ve been doing it for over 90 years.

    It costs about 1/2 the amount to drive the same distance with natural gas that it does using petroleum.

    Natural gas is abundant, with more reserves than coal, and we can easily make methane(natural gas) from any type of organic material—-it is both a fossil fuel, AND a renewable fuel.

  • Anye Darden

    i agree with yah joe biden lol wut do yuh think about the deepwater horizon oil soill