A few weeks ago we witnessed the phony end to the moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
By any reasonable measurement, the moratorium remains in place. Oil companies still have to wait to get approval for whether their rigs meet a long list of new regulations before they can resume drilling, with the Secretary of the Interior saying there are more new regulations to come.
Even the head of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said it would be weeks, if not months, before new permits will be issued.
The fact of the matter is, after failing to initially move quickly to stop the blowout, the government has overreacted to the BP disaster.
Rather than helping the oil industry get its act together so that it can begin drilling in the Gulf again, the government is throwing obstacles in the industry’s path, which hinders its ability to resume drilling.
As a nation, we need the oil from the Gulf. Oil we don’t produce in America, and its outer continental shelf, will have to be bought from other countries. Buying foreign oil hurts our balance of payments and is bad for our economy. Not drilling for oil also kills jobs.
So what has been the result of the BP disaster?
Birds, turtles and fish have been killed; there is no question about that. But, has the worst oil spill in history permanently damaged huge swaths of the environment and killed millions of birds and animals?
Here is data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife consolidated collection report as of October 7, 2010.
A total of 8,181 birds were collected, of which 3,827 had no visible signs of oil.
A total of 1,130 sea turtles were collected, of which 387 had no visible signs of oil.
A total of 106 mammals, including Dolphins, were collected, of which 97 had no visible signs of oil.
While it’s distressing to see any wildlife hurt, the BP oil spill was not Armageddon. In fact, it pales in comparison to the Valdez spill where there were over 400,000 dead birds.
Of course, there was other damage, such as to the wetlands, though reports have indicated damage to the wetlands was minimal.
With people swarming over the Gulf trying to find something wrong, there will, no doubt, be some scary reports in the future. Hopefully, the media, or some group, will objectively evaluate these future reports to separate the wheat from the chaff.
One potential problem is people trying to get as much money as possible from BP’s $20 billion clean-up fund. BP should pay what’s right, but payment shouldn’t be based on “creative formulas” as Assistant Secretary Strickland has suggested.
Interestingly, nature has been cleaning up from oil leakage in the Gulf for thousands of years. An archeological report indicated that the Karankawa Indians were using tar in their pottery-making in pre-Columbian times.
A researcher, at the Ocean Sciences meeting in 2000, estimated that 500,000 barrels of oil seep into the Gulf of Mexico every year. The national Academy of Science, in its report in 2002, estimated that 60% of oil in maritime waters around the United States came from seepage.
The phony moratorium on drilling is hurting the United States.
Reuters reported that four deep water rigs have been or are being moved from the Gulf of Mexico to other countries, including Egypt, Nigeria and the Republic of Congo.
The shallow water industry estimates that 70% of its fleet in the Gulf will soon be idle. Rowan Companies Inc. announced that two of its jack-up rigs will be moved from the Gulf before year’s end.
The BP Deep Horizon accident that killed eleven workers was a disaster, but we need to keep the environmental consequences in perspective, and resume drilling for oil as quickly as possible.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife report is available at:
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