Saturday, 4 September 2010
Deepwater Oil Drilling
The explosion of a deepwater oil drilling rig run by BP, and the ensuing oil spill that devastated the Gulf of Mexico, offer clear proof that deepwater oil drilling is an inherently dangerous practice with potentially disastrous consequences.
On April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon, an exploratory drilling rig located in the Gulf of Mexico about 40 miles off the Louisiana coast, exploded.
The blast, caused by a sudden surge of natural gas that somehow ignited, killed 11 workers aboard the rig. Two days later, the rig sank into the water, causing severe damage to a pipeline that extended from the rig through 5,000 feet of water and 13,000 feet of seafloor sediment, to a natural oil reservoir within the Earth's crust. Immediately, oil began gushing from the damaged pipes into the surrounding waters at a tremendous rate—up to 100,000 barrels a day causing untold harm to the environment. Oil continued to pour out for at least three months after the blast. "This is an ecological disaster," wrote Rolling Stone journalist Tim Dickinson.
Shortly after the BP disaster occurred, the administration of President Obama (D) issued a six-month moratorium on new deepwater drilling projects and on production at 33 existing deepwater sites.
All the oil spilling into the gulf has had an immensely negative impact on the environment. Scientists estimate that thousands of animals—including fish, birds, turtles and dolphins—have been killed as a result of the disaster. Roughly one-third of the gulf was declared off-limits to commercial fishing and shrimping, and there are fears that the toxicity of the oil has degraded the waters there permanently. On land, viscous blobs of oil known as tar balls began washing ashore in certain places.
Deepwater drilling is an inherently dangerous activity, and should be banned permanently.
The irrationality of deepwater drilling, writes Slate's William Saletan, is summed up by the fact that the wells are drilled so deep that humans must rely on remote-controlled robots to maintain them.
The BP oil disaster has caused widespread anger throughout the U.S. What are your own personal reactions to the oil spill?