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Published:December 20th, 2011 10:44 EST
An Offshore Oil Drilling Dilemma: A Thorn in The US Side?

An Offshore Oil Drilling Dilemma: A Thorn in The US Side?

By Vincent Gonzalez

The debate over offshore oil and gas drilling has long been a thorn in the United States side. With man`s voracious appetite for energy this is a debate that will no doubt go on well into the future, with unforeseen forces conspiring against us. What is at the center of this debate is energy. With the worlds` growing population, the consumption of energy is looking only to increase.

Mechanisms put into place by governments to safeguard offshore oil production have done little to mitigate the problem, with countless spills on record to prove it. Governments worldwide need to recognize the harms that offshore drilling presents to nature. Often time enough these concerns are answered by half-baked solutions, with profit being the leading motivator.   

Oil has become a major part of people`s lives. Oil is used to offer fuel for automobiles, tractors, aircrafts and ships. Petroleum products are the basic materials used for the manufacture of synthetic fibers for clothing, and in plastics, fertilizers, soaps, and a whole host of other things. Due to this demand, companies are constantly searching for more oil deposits. From ancient to present times oil has been and continues to be a major part of everyone`s life.

The effects on the marine environment are a very controversial subject. The oil companies believe that the pollution is mainly from natural oil seepage. However, environmentalists believe that extra contamination to the marine waters through offshore drilling is very dangerous. Barge collisions, explosions, leaks, spills, and pipeline corrosion are all key factors in the harmful effects of oil drilling.

I believe it is true that offshore drilling can be very contaminating to the oceans environment, however when closely monitored these negative effects can be minimized. Since we know that one day our oil supply will diminish, we need to start focusing our concern about future ways to maintain energy.    

Beyond environmental concerns, the central debate focuses on where to drill for more oil. Unlike conventional oil drilling, offshore drilling proves to be difficult, especially when it comes to installation, due largely in part because of the remoteness and harshness of the environment. Many things can go wrong in an operation like this.

Offshore manned facilities also present logistics and human resources challenges; with the workers on board acting like a small community to undergo the pressure of their labor. Oil industries have to be conscious. It has to be for its very survival. While technology improvements, such as automatic shutoff valves on the seabed floor and mechanical devices that can prevent blowouts caused by uncontrolled buildups of pressure, have lessened the occurrence of oil spills in the last 40 years, spills still occur.

Although the technology has improved over the decades, oil drilling is a dirty business that still leads to oil spills due to failed equipment, abnormal weather and human error. Whether the advancement of technology and environmental management are able to mitigate all potential risks, offshore drilling is a much more complex set of problems and assumptions that vary based on the long-term and short-term analysis and research that exists.

The reality of the situation is that man`s appetite for energy is not likely to ebb any time soon. With an ever-growing population the demand for energy is only looking to increase. In order to meet this demand countries worldwide need to examine all sources of energy with awareness towards nature. They need to recognize all risks involved and devise fundamental polices that they all can agree on.

Politics shouldn`t be the motivating factor, our species survival should. Surely offshore drilling has a much smaller influence on the ocean than other forms of human behavior like dredging and fishing, and only adds about two percent to overall oceanic pollution. Whether the risk is too high or not depends on perspective. Nations need to come together in a true effort to try to come up with ways for future energy security. By developing new sources of energy and improving upon the current systems we have in place now, countries can benefit largely, particularly economically wise. In order for this to come to fruition all countries must be willing to cooperate to achieve a mutual goal for its citizens.

No more of this personal gain reasoning that most politicians exercise. By allowing for more allotment of technology, all the inhabitants of this world can live together in relative peace, without the threat of energy depletion and without the threat of our potential, but almost inevitable demise.    

Fraught with many tensions that stem from long-standing jurisdictional, legal, economic, and environmental positions, the conflict over offshore oil and gas development is likely to continue for years to come.

Risk assessment, both environmentally and economically play a major role in how the debate is being outlined. The risk of going ahead with plans for offshore development seem clear in terms of the environment and social impact, with some benefits accruing to industry, governments, and possibly local economies to a smaller or greater extent depending on hiring practices and growth in the service sector of their economies. Though, offshore drilling has effects on the environment and human beings, some countries still support the practice as it has some advantages.

For some, the revenue to be generated will likely always outweigh the environmental risk. The idea of promoting economic benefits in exchange for some environmental risk is clear in the sentiment expressed by industry and others who come down on the side of proponents for offshore development.

The only question that remains now is regarding the matter of when and how it can be accomplished, and if the reserves actually do exist in lucrative quantities for our efforts.