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Monday, June 30, 2008

Offshore Oil and the Environment

The big reason that most members of Congress cite for opposing offshore energy exploration is the environment. They bring up a spill that occurred nearly forty years ago in California, and of course, the nearly 20-year-old Exxon Valdez accident in Alaska.

But as the experiences with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and the improvements made in tankers show, technology, safety and protections have improved dramatically. This is nicely reported in a June 30 cover story in Investor’s Business Daily.

The article opened:

When Hurricanes Katrina and Rita ripped through the Gulf of Mexico in 2005, they tore into the Gulf fleet and crippled or destroyed 113 production platforms and 18 drilling rigs. Wave-tossed rigs dragged moorings across the seafloor and ripped up hundreds of miles of pipelines.

But the actual subsea wells tied to the wrecked platforms suffered no significant leaks. The biggest spills were from onshore storage and a barge accident after the storms.

"Not only did we not have any significant environmental spills associated with wells from those two hurricanes," said Tim Sampson, manager of exploration and production with the American Petroleum Institute. "But we also had no accidents or injuries associated with the evacuation of all the offshore personnel."

Despite fears that new offshore drilling risks an environmental disaster, the U.S. industry has had a strong record for decades.

The entire article is well worth reading, as it does a solid job at putting things in perspective.

The U.S. desperately needs to open up offshore areas and federal lands to energy exploration, and forty-year-old arguments from radical environmentalists that hold no water should not guide policymaking.

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