Emotions are running high as an oil slick washes over the Gulf Coast’s fragile ecosystem, threatening fisheries, shrimp farmers and perhaps even Florida’s tourism industry. Thousands could see their livelihoods ruined. A cleanup could take years ...
But whatever the magnitude of the spill at the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana, it is unlikely to seriously impede offshore drilling in the Gulf. The country needs the oil — and the jobs.
Much has changed since 1969. The nation’s demand for oil has surged, rising more than 35 percent over the past four decades, while domestic production has declined by a third. Oil imports have doubled, and the United States now buys more than 12 million barrels of oil a day from other countries, about two-thirds of its needs.
The politics have also changed. Republicans want to boost domestic oil production to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil. High on the Democratic agenda is reducing carbon emissions that cause global warming. To bridge the gap, the White House has backed a compromise that would expand domestic offshore exploration in exchange for Republican support for its climate policy.
There is another reason why offshore drilling is likely to continue. Most of the big new discoveries lie deep beneath the world’s oceans, including in the Gulf of Mexico. For the oil companies, these reserves are worth hundreds of billions of dollars and represent the industry’s future.
Since the 1980s, the Gulf has turned into a vast laboratory for the industry to test and showcase its most sophisticated technology — rivaling, the industry says, anything used for space exploration. This is where oil companies found ways to drill in ever-deeper water, where they developed bigger platforms to pump even more oil, where they pioneered the use of unmanned submarines and elaborate underwater systems straight out of a science fiction novel.
Some of the newest floating rigs can drill in more than 10,000 feet of water. They can stay in the same position for weeks, even as they sustain 40-foot waves, thanks to satellite positioning systems and tiny propellers below the hull. Hundreds of miles away, engineers sitting in control rooms in Houston monitor the drilling in real time.
All this has helped to turn the Gulf of Mexico into the fastest growing source of oil in the United States. The Gulf accounts for a third of the nation’s domestic supplies, or 1.7 million barrels a day, mostly from the deepwater region.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
From the most surprising of places, NYT, "The Spill vs. a Need to Drill." And you know, this stuff just kills the radical leftists who are openly rejoicing at the Gulf spill. Soon we'll be hearing calls for "a million Deepwater Horizons":