The recent explosion and collapse of the Deepwater Horizon oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico was horrendous. There is no question that steps should be taken to see that any correctable errors made don't happen again. But, from the point of view of the economy, national security and even environmental quality, halting new oil and gas development because of this one isolated incident would be an even worse disaster, says H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis.
We need the oil and natural gas off of the U.S. coasts, and offshore drilling is historically the least likely to cause oil spills, says Burnett:
- Over the next 20 years, U.S. oil consumption is expected to grow by one-third, even with the passage of climate change legislation and increased use of renewable fuels.
- Natural gas consumption will grow even more.
Unfortunately, the United States remains dependent on foreign nations for a majority of our oil needs. Many of these countries are either politically unstable or have governments that are hostile to U.S. interests, says Burnett:
- The United States has large deposits of oil offshore; the Minerals Management Service estimates that the U.S. outer continental shelf (OCS) contains more than 46 billion barrels of oil, more than double the current U.S. reserve, and more than 419 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
- As much as half of this bounty lies in OCS areas that until recently fell under both congressional and presidential development bans.
In addition, the size and number of oil spills from offshore oil rigs have declined substantially over the past three decades. Prior to the Horizon's destruction, the last substantial spill from an offshore rig was in 1969, says Burnett.
Of all the sources of petroleum released into the ocean, including natural seeps of oil, offshore platforms put less oil into the ocean than any other, explains Burnett:
- Since 1990, less than one-one thousandth of 1 percent of the oil produced in U.S. state or federal waters has spilled.
- Furthermore, when tankers leak, run aground or founder and sink, they tend to do so in port or near shore, resulting in more severe environmental damage.
Source: H. Sterling Burnett, "Don't Let Deepwater Deep-Six Offshore Drilling," AOL News, May 3, 2010.
For more on Energy Issues:http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/?Article_Category=22