One year after oil spill, are we safer?


William O’Keefe CEO, the Marshall Institute

In the year following the BP disaster, energy policies pushed by President Obama and his allies in Congress have done more harm than good — putting the United States at greater risk from potential oil-related problems.

The moratorium first imposed by the Interior Department early last summer caused American companies to send many of our idled drilling rigs equipped with the best technology to offshore oil fields abroad (and with them went substantial investment that would have created jobs and economic benefits here). Six months later, the administration’s reversal on plans to open portions of the Atlantic Coast to exploration further stalled domestic energy development.

Its current push to adopt “Use It to Lose It” legislation would lead to underdevelopment of promising fields. Such a policy would likely strip companies of the time to properly conduct necessary technical and geophysical tests before committing hundreds of millions of dollars to exploration.

Collectively, these anti-oil agenda items hamper our domestic oil and gas industry at the expense of our economic and energy future.

Meanwhile, Cuba is inviting foreign firms — which operate under less stringent safety and environmental standards — to begin drilling this summer within 100 miles of our country’s coastline in waters deeper than the Macondo well.

The state-owned oil companies in queue to operate in the Gulf of Mexico — including Russia’s Gazprom, Malaysia’s Petronas, and Venezuela’s Pdvsa — have little, if any, experience drilling deepwater wells. The U.S. embargo of Cuba will keep highly qualified U.S. companies from competing for these opportunities, while the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s slow walk of domestic permits keeps our firms idled at home too. And Cuba — the government responsible for overseeing the safe execution of these highly technical, high-stakes projects — is the same country that announced its first high-speed Internet cable just a few weeks ago.

These events seem at odds with our nation’s best interests and also conflict with Obama’s recognition that “given our energy needs, in order to sustain economic growth, produce jobs and keep our businesses competitive, we’re going to need to harness traditional sources of fuel.”

Gulf Coast residents would likely sleep better at night knowing Chevron, not China, was bidding for projects off their shores. It’s no wonder. America’s oil and gas sector has long served as the “gold standard” in international exploration and production. However, the administration’s relentless attacks on Big Oil could also discourage the best and brightest minds of America’s youth from pursuing petroleum-related science and engineering degrees and thereby hinder future technology breakthroughs.

Consider the case of Three Mile Island. Following the political backlash to the 1979 partial meltdown of one of Pennsylvania’s nuclear plants — which caused panic but no injuries — the U.S. saw a substantial drop in nuclear engineering bachelor’s degrees. Some nuclear engineering programs shut down altogether.

Due to these kinds of unintended consequences, sweeping berates and penalization of an entire industry does little to advance the objectives of improved safety and advances in prevention and cleanup technology. As such, safety advances in the industry have taken place in spite of rather than thanks to the Obama administration’s response to the Gulf spill.

The plain and simple fact is that the world is going to rely on oil products for transportation for decades to come. We can either produce more here or import more from foreign producers while cursing the growth in imports. And the former option gives us directly control over safety.

( Original Article )

Posted on April 15, 2011, in China, Cuba, Gulf of Mexico, Natural Gas, Oil & Gas - offshore, Regulation and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on One year after oil spill, are we safer?.

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