Offshore Drilling
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Science and Technology

Offshore Drilling

Energy independence or environmental hazard?

WHAT IT IS

  • Offshore drilling is a mechanical process to explore and extract fossil fuels below the seabed. [WBUR]

  • 40 million acres are currently available for development along the outer continental shelf (OCS) of the U.S. [How Stuff Works]

  • The Trump administration has proposed opening about 90% of the U.S. coast to offshore drilling. [NBC News]

  • Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, said the drilling plan is part of "a new path for energy dominance in America." [The New York Times]
  • President Trump's proposal would undo the Obama administrations' ban on additional offshore drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic ocean. [The New York Times]

CURRENT U.S. OFFSHORE DRILLING SITES

Gulf of Mexico

Currently 175 sites. The Gulf of Mexico produces about 25% of the nation's oil and 14% of the nation's natural gas.

 

Includes Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

 

Alaska

Currently, 5 sites [Statista].

 

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will begin selling offshore leases in 2019. [Arctic Today]

West Coast

Currently 43 sites. [The Los Angeles Times]

 

Includes Oregon, Washington, and California.

East Coast

Currently, 56 sites that are not producing an oil or gas. Exploration has been blocked for over 30 years. [The New York Times]

 

Includes all U.S. OCS in the Atlantic Ocean.

WHY IT MATTERS

 

Understanding the issue is critical as the Trump administration wants to weaken or remove offshore drilling rules [Popular Science] established by the Bush and Obama administration. [The New York Times] Is this a big deal or not?

DRILL BABY DRILL

Made in the USA 

The Independent Petroleum Association of America believes that adding additional offshore drilling sites would increase America's independence from buying foreign oil. This can be viewed as an issue of national security. [US News]

 

National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) stated offshore drilling provides "freedom and opportunity to ensure that we have a supply regardless of what happens around the rest of the world."

 

 

More jobs

The American Petroleum Institute says the plan could generate $70 billion a year to the economy, and 840,000 new jobs. [The Los Angeles Times]

 

 

Safety measures

"There are dozens of ways we've improved safety over the last five years" -Geoff Morell, BP.

 

For example, "car-size robots" now carry tools that can seal a well within 45 seconds. Additional measures include additional worker training, 24/7 onshore monitoring, and various levels of backup equipment. [NatGeo]

 

SAVE OUR WATERS

Environmental disaster

The drilling poses a massive risk to the ocean ecosystem. Not only does the drill disrupt the ocean floor, the potential for an oil spill is high. The 2010 BP spill has caused pollution in: [The Washington Post]

  • 90% of pelican eggs contain petroleum more than 1,000 miles away from the spill.
  • Dolphins in Louisiana have 8% higher mortality rates; reproduction has dropped 63%.

 

Fishing and tourism

Coastal businesses on the east and west coast are aligning to fight the proposal. [Protecting the Atlantic Coast] 

 

After the BP spill, the fishing industry lost $247 million; the tourism industry on the Gulf lost $22.7 billion. [NatGeo]

 

 

Minimal impact

According to the Energy Information Association, the amount of oil expected would not be enough to significantly lower the price of gas in the U.S. [Clean Energy]

 

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that if all the U.S. oceans were open for drilling, the price of gas would only decrease by 3 cents per gallon. [US Oceana]

WHERE WE ARE NOW

  • Two separate bills are proposed in Congress that are designed to ease environmental restrictions on oil exploration. [NBC News]

  • The Trump administration is proposing to remove many of the safety measures put in place after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. [The Wall Street Journal]

  • According to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, the changes will save companies at least $288 million over 10 years.

  • Both Republican and Democratic governors have expressed concerns and/or opposition to the proposed expansion. [Oceana]
  • Zinke made a statement that Florida would be exempt from new offshore drilling. [NBC News] Other states are vying for the same ruling.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

  • The world currently produces 82.5 million barrels of oil each day. The proposed expansion would add only 0.2 million barrels. [EIA] 

  • Click to see more infographics about offshore potential, published by NOIA.

  • Click to interact with a map of grassroots opposition to the drilling plan.

  • Is this a fight between oil and gas jobs vs. fishing and tourism jobs?

  • The 2010 BP oil spill cost about $62 billion to clean up. [USA TodayWho pays for the costly cleanup?

Key Vocabulary