Should the Government Expand Off Shore Drilling in the U.S.? The crude oil industry has become prominent since mid 19th century. Ever since the Industrial Revolution, the development of drilling methods has brought oil into a drastically larger extent of mass production. Petroleum is one of the important extracted compositions of crude oil in the U.S. Until today, it is globally used mainly as fuels in transportation. Other uses include heating homes, powering industry, and providing raw material for plastic manufacturing. The great importance of oil to the country has led to the exploitation of its resources in the past century.
Not only exploiting land resources, the government is also beginning to exploit resources under the sea. Off shore drilling is the method of extracting crude oil from the seabed. It has been a controversial issue in the U.S. of whether or not off shore drilling should be expanded. In this essay, I am comparing and contrasting the reasons why some people are supportive of off shore drilling in the U.S., and why some people are in opposition to it. I will discuss three major aspects upon this issue; the three aspects are national security, economy and environment.
The first reason why some people support off shore drilling is that they believe that off shore drilling will not harm the environment due to the vast improvement of technology. The biggest environmental issue that is often associated with off shore drilling is oil spills. People believe that as time is progressing, rapid advancement in technology will make it possible to conduct off shore drilling at the safest way in order not to harm the environment. Based on statistics by http://www.itopf.com, oil spill cases have declined over the past few decades, which prove that technology has become better.
In line with the advancement of technology, a complete recovery of past oil spills have been proven to be attainable. An example of such cases is the success story of the recovery of Alaska’s Prince William Sound, which was struck with oil spills at 1989. Moreover, people believe that the cause of oil spills is not due to off shore drilling, but mainly due to natural seeps and petroleum transportations. A study proves that urban runoff and treated sewage dump deposits 12 times more petroleum into the sea than petroleum from offshore drilling.
A study at Lousiana State University has also been conducted to prove that off shore drilling is good for marine life. It is believed that oil production platforms cause improvements in marine life. The study suggests that there are 50 more times of marine life around an oil production platform than in the surrounding mud bottoms of the sea in Lousiana. It is believed that there is a correlation between the explosions of marine life with the building of oil platforms.
However, in opposition to this, some people believe that off shore drilling in the U.S. do pose serious environmental risks. They believe that technology advancement reduces the risks of oil spills but do not a hundred percent guarantee its nonoccurrence in the future. Once an oil explosion occurs, the damage will be extremely destructive to the environment and it will reach a point of no turning back. According to “Environmental and Commercial Perspectives” by Ted Danson, “approximately 120 million gallons of oil end up in the world’s oceans every year from oil platforms, marine transportations, vessel discharges, and accidents.” Many cases of oil spills had happened in the U.S. One of the greatest was the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, which caused the death of thousands of local marine creatures. Over 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 250 bald eagles, up to 22 killer whales, and billions of salmon and herring eggs were killed. Oil damages organs of marine organisms and the long-term effects may cause impairments of reproduction of these creatures, which then may lead to extinction of some of the species.
Moreover, impacts of oil spills on the environment are long term and are extremely difficult to recover. This is because the thick layer of oil tends to spread very quickly under the influence of wind, waves and currents. The Exxon Valdez oil spills spread approximately up to 1300 miles of the shoreline. Even with the latest technology, the rate of removing the oil from the sea is much slower compared to the rate of the spreading of oil. It is very rare to have more than 15% of the total spill being recovered. Oil spills occurring in regions of extreme climate, such as Alaska, are even exceedingly difficult to recover. It is almost impossible to soak up heavy crude oil trapped in waters covered with icebergs and sea ice. Thus, the impact will be much long lasting and at worst, irreversible.
Despite the improvement in technology, off shore drilling is still highly risky because even the finest technology may fail. Once it fails, the cost to the environment is tremendous. The operation of the rig is also associated with the production of toxic wastes and many other long lasting forms of pollution. The drilling muds contain mercury, lead and cadmium that may accumulate inside the bodies of marine organisms. In addition, some traces of this pollution may be found in seafood that people consume, therefore, creates serious health consequences for them. Next, another reason why some people support off shore drilling is because they believe that it will ensure the national security of the country. The United States is very dependent on foreign oil to meet their immense oil demands.
In 2010, based on the statistics provided by U.S. Department of Energy, 58.1 percent of total oil consumption in the U.S. is imported, and the rest is domestically supplied. Sixty six percent of global oil reserves are in the hands of Middle Eastern regimes such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran. Oil reserves in the U.S. only account for two percent of the total reserves worldwide, yet the country is ranked the highest in the world in terms of oil demands. The U.S. reliance on antagonistic countries in the Middle East for oil, unfortunately, poses threats towards the national security of the U.S. The U.S. is sending $500 billion every year to oil producing countries for oil imports. The trade does not only involve in the transfer of extensive amount of money from importers to exporters, but also power. Middle East countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, which are the greatest oil exporters, are now with all the power and money.
Reliance on some of the Middle East countries for oil indirectly forces the U.S. to be involved in the political conflicts happening in there, and reduces the U.S. ability to keep the peace between conflicting countries in that area. Also, the U.S. has always been entangled in political and religious issues with Islamic countries of the Middle East. These expose the U.S. to threats of terrorism. One of the related events was the devastating 9/11 terrorist attack. Whether or not it is a matter of coincidence, most terrorists that have been threatening the U.S. originate from the Middle East. The U.S., paying billions of dollars for oil to these countries, indirectly is funding their investment in arms and therefore supporting terrorist organizations.
Furthermore, the U.S. army is very dependent on oil to power and maintain its defense machines and transportations. This further threatens the national security of the U.S. because even the country’s defense is now in the hands of the countries that have the likelihood to attack it. Increasing off shore drilling in the U.S. means increasing domestic supply of energy. This is believed to be a way for the U.S. to be independent from foreign oil, hence, ensuring its national security.
However, in contrary to this position, some people believe that off shore drilling will not lead to the country’s energy independence. Citing the U.S. government data, the country may have 49 billion barrels of oil in undeveloped reserves that are currently open for drilling. Another 19 billion is predicted to be available in sites where drilling is presently prohibited. Even if the U.S. succeeded to extract all of its possible resources, experts predicted that this would merely increase the U.S. oil production by 1-4 percent. This means that the U.S. will still rely on imported oil even if the country’s resources are completely exploited. In addition, reliance upon oil as a source of energy itself is not sustainable. Oil is believed to reach its peak production very soon. With all of the known reserves worldwide and at the present global rate of consumption, oil is predicted to run out in 40 years. Some people think that the solution for the U.S. to be energy independent is to stop relying on oil and start investing in alternative fuels.
Finally, the last reason why some people support off shore drilling in the U.S. is that increasing domestic supply of oil will ensure the stability and improve the economy of the country. The U.S. dependence on foreign oil, not only threatens the country’s national security, but also threatens the country’s economic stability. Countries of the Middle East are very hostile and unstable. We should take an example of the US-Iran clash. The U.S., which has the power to stop Iran from pursuing power plants for the sake of peace in the Middle East, is forced to abandon the plans of investing oil in Iran as a threat to Iran’s economy. This leads to the collision between the U.S. and Iran. As a reprisal, Iran threatens to attack oil shipping in the Persian Gulf and disrupt oil delivery from the gulf to the U.S. Disruption of oil delivery will cause a devastating effect to the U.S economy.
Energy independence from troubled Middle East countries is a way to promote a stable economy in the U.S. and some people believe that offshore drilling is a way to reach this goal. In line with economy, offshore drilling is also very profitable for the U.S. and it is believed that it can affect the price of gasoline worldwide. Based on statistics provided by www.api.org, by the year 2035, off shore drilling is estimated to contribute up to $23.5 billion per year to the U.S. economy. Kevin A. Hasett, the director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, stated, “by increasing offshore exploration and drilling, the United States would be encouraging oil-producing nations to put more oil in the market now, thereby lowering prices on the world wide market.” Gasoline price is the key to economy.
If gasoline price goes down, prices of goods throughout the country will also decrease. Consumer sentiment will increase, as people will tend to buy more goods. This will increase the government’s revenue, which in turn improves the country’s economy. Furthermore, off shore drilling also provides jobs for Americans and prevents the loss of jobs that are already available. High cost of energy in the U.S. causes many companies to relocate their plants outside of the country. This causes the loss of jobs of many Americans who are already working for these companies. On the other hand, as well as the off shore drilling plant itself provide jobs, the reduction of oil prices will also attract companies to invest in the U.S. and hence provides more jobs for Americans.
However, in opposition to this position, some people believe that off shore drilling will not improve the economy in the U.S. As mentioned previously, even the complete exploitation of all the reserves in the U.S will only increase the U.S. oil production by 1-4 percent. Also, oil prices are largely driven by worldwide supply and demand. Price will only lower if either one of them increases. Even if the supply is increasing, recent statistics show that world oil demand is also increasing very rapidly. Hence, some people believe that off shore drilling in the U.S. would not significantly affect worldwide oil price.
In addition, how much oil can actually be extracted is not yet guaranteed. Exploration and rig construction costs a lot of money and time. Even if off shore drilling will be conducted anytime soon, it will not immediately lower oil price. According to EIA, any measurable changes of price will only be visible until 2030.
Despite the increasing of jobs available due to off shore drilling, we should also consider the jobs that are lost and the economic impact to the U.S. when oil spills occur. Oil spills do not only severely damage the environment, but also cause negative impacts on tourism and fishing industries. Oil spills kill thousands of fish and destroy beautiful beaches that attract tourists. The Exxon Valdez oil spills cost more than $300 million of economic loss to more than 30000 people whose lives depend on commercial fishing. Also, the oil spills that hit the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 cost a loss of $60 billion in tourism industry.
Furthermore, we should also consider the cost of recovery of oil spills. Despite the profits that the country makes on offshore drilling, the cost of recovery when an oil explosion occurs is much greater. The U.S. spent $20 billion fund in response to the spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The company British Protocol is responsible to fund $56 billion dollars in fines, cleanup costs and settlements. Overall, some people see that expanding offshore drilling is putting the country’s economy at risk instead of improving it.
Expanding off shore drilling in the U.S. is a very controversial topic. The government should take into consideration of both opposing sides before making decisions whether or not to expand off shore drilling in the U.S. by weighing issues regarding national security, environment and economy. They should seek a sustainable long-term solution in order to meet the energy needs of the country in the present and in the future.