Wednesday March 1, 2006

Let's drill the Gulf

The US Senate is debating drilling for oil and natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico, off the western coast of Florida. “Off the coast,” meaning 100 miles or more off the coast. Florida’s senators, along with legion tourism-industry representatives, are fighting the measure. Their reason? Oil rigs are a threat to Florida’s coastline, our coastline is a prime draw for tourists, and tourism is our most important industry. Thus do we try to protect ourselves from the same rules the rest of the nation plays by.

Let’s be honest with each other. Our president has said (and the rest of us have known for decades) that we’re in an energy crisis. Energy independence is a pie in the sky. Nonetheless, we need to do whatever we can towards that independence while we figure out the switchgrass. Removing several sites from the running does the exact opposite, and it places an unfair burden on the states where drilling already exists.

The “impact on tourism” argument is total hogwash. A six foot guy standing on a beach can see about 15 miles out; anything farther off the coast then that may as well be on Pluto. The drilling under consideration, though, stops 100 miles off the coast. And the currents in the Gulf are such that, if there were a spill, the oil would not be carried to our shores. Which misses the point that we need to make the stations safe and hold oil companies responsible when there are problems. Keep in mind that in Texas, bathers swim in the ocean in plain view of oil rigs.

The simple reality is that we live in an animal-eating, forest-clearing, oil-drilling society. We need to do what we can to mend our ways, but in the meantime we need to accept the realities of the situation, and deal with squarely. In other words, fuel from those rigs fuels your stupid SUV, bud. Unless your plug-in Prius is getting 180 mpg, stop fighting the inevitable.

[Image is from NIST, a source of somewhat relevant information.]

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  1. Manola B    Thu Mar 2, 01:38 AM #  

    All good points, but I wonder if this would increase oil tanker traffic? A spill en route to refineries could be devastating to the environment.


  2. alesh    Thu Mar 2, 07:49 AM #  

    An oil spill anywhere in the world would be devastating to the enviroment. It’s a fact of life, and nothing about Florida’s beach is so precious that it needs to be protected from the remote possibility of that event over and above any other beach in the world.

    Remember that the last major oil spill, the Exxon Valdez, was as a result of the capitain being drunk.

  3. Rebecca Carter    Thu Mar 2, 09:45 AM #  

    I’m not sure what I think about all of this.

    As for the oil, I’m certainly no expert. I’d hope that since everyone in the world knows that we’re in an energy crisis that they would adjust their behavior somehow. But that doesn’t seem like it’s happening fast enough, or with a significant number of people.

    As for where to put the rigs, Alesh, your point is very matter-of-fact…oil spills and other problems – if they happen, it’s bad, no matter where. True. But when you think about it realistically, wouldn’t you rather fight that it happened somewhere else?

    It sounds horrible as if you’re wishing something bad on other people and other places, but isn’t that what most people want? To push something negative somewhere else? Maybe if it gets pushed around long enough a different, better solution will arise?

  4. Manola B    Thu Mar 2, 12:55 PM #  

    Damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

    Drunk captains, weather and mechanical failures … “spills” happen. (Remember the Prestige spill that practically wiped-out Galicia’s fishing economy.)

    What I find a very bitter orange to swallow is not so much the fact of oil drilling as the concern of tourism over environment.

    Even if oil ends up on the shores of some other tourism destination in the Gulf or the Caribbean, that’s poor international stewardship of the environment. That being said, crap could wash up on our own shores, if it floats up the Gulf Stream.

    As is, I wonder how many tankers swing by the Straits?

    All I can say is … next time I see an SUV while driving my humble Toyota, I think I’ll shoot it a silent birdie and hope that our reps find a fair compromise.

    Peace out!


  5. alesh    Thu Mar 2, 04:06 PM #  

    It sounds horrible as if you’re wishing something bad on other people and other places, but isn’t that what most people want? To push something negative somewhere else?

    Yes, Rebecca, it’s what most people do. It’s the selfish, wild-animal instinct in us. I’m arguing for the rational, fair way.

    As for alternatives, I agree that we are not doing enough (although we’re increasingly moving in the right direction). Hybrids, and alternative fuels need to be persued enthusiastically, as does personal conservation. The latter, in particular, is often underappreciated relative to the technological solutions.

    In the meantime, we need to deal with the reality that we’re going to be an oil-dependent society for at least a few more decades, though, and act accordingly. To do otherwise is wishful thinking.

    No need for secret birdies, Manola. I have a policy of flagrant rudeness to SUV drivers – I cut them off, and make a point of not letting them in front of me. You wanna drive a big stupid truck? Then get behind me.

  6. Steve Klotz    Thu Mar 2, 04:15 PM #  

    Stop right there. You’re on the road to hell. And getting poor mileage, too!

    Citing the “need for energy independence” as the reason for drilling in the Gulf is out of the same playbook as invading Iraq to protect us from world terrorism. It’s disingenuous, misguided ideology that uses shock and awe to exploit fear and ignorance in the service of the cynical, greedy, powerful elements running this country straight to hell.

    Flex your Google. Scores of studies show how (e.g.) increasing fuel efficiency by 3 mpg in every vehicle on American roads would reduce demand by more product than could be drilled out of the Gulf in a decade. The focus needs to change to reducing demand, not increasing supply. Had we addressed alternative fuels, fuel efficiency, and relevant lifestyle factors 20 years ago the first time gas lines formed, we wouldn’t be where we are today. But when you’re addicted to oil and at the mercy of oil-ogarchs in the board rooms, halls of government, and now the White House, you make the wrong decisions again and again. Like drilling in the Gulf.

    Here and here are just a few comments on the impact on the environment we could anticipate from Gulf drilling, and follow the links for many more. There are also horror stories detailing how the oil companies lie their asses off about impact, where they intend to drill, and limits on the amount of shit they’ll stir up. Open your eyes: it’s all about money, nothing else, and they will do their best to silence any opposition to their acquisition of more.

    Drilling in the Gulf just puts off the overdue and inevitable. It’s the M.O. of George Dubious Bush, Deadeye Dick Cheney, and their 21st century gang of oily assholes, whose whole approach to energy conservation is of a piece with wiping their asses with the Bill of Rights in the name of homeland security. I ain’t buying. Don’t silence my words to protect your security, and don’t shit on my shoreline to service your SUV.

    PS Barney T. Bishop, author of the article to which my colleague Alesh proudly links, pooh-poohing the dangers of Gulf drilling, is a registered lobbyist for the Associated Industries of Florida. On matters pertaining to oil, he deserves all the credibility of an apple-bearing snake, minus the charm.

  7. John    Thu Mar 2, 04:46 PM #  

    I like the way you’re mixing up Alesh. You’re poking the bear- actually it seems the bear is in hibernation. (Here is SF we reserve our indignation for the Bearded One.) Still, would have expected a ton of replies like Steve’s. Mmph. And not to be an asshole (which everyone says just before proving they are) but I’m SOOOO disappointed in Rebecca’s reply. She seems to well-meaning and sincere to really tee off on her (YET). J/K I’m crazy bizzy so nothing from Miamista though I got a lot that I want to say (suprise).

  8. John    Thu Mar 2, 07:41 PM #  

    There is a missing “it” in the first sentence. Hope most of you got that. Yep (fingers tap in procrastination. Back to work…

  9. Tanya Hyde    Thu Mar 2, 09:08 PM #  

    Anybody remember the tar balls all over Haulover Beach: residue from oil tankers’ illegal dumping? City used to put kerosene out for people to clean their feet. Nice. But that’s your goddam oil industry, a flthy business even when done “right.” Drilling would spell the end of the coastline. Anybody screws up MY beach and MY suntan regimen I will personally hunt them down and kill them. Capiche?

  10. Jonathan    Sat Mar 4, 09:58 PM #  

    Better to drill in the Gulf (and Alaska) than be more dependent on Saudi Arabia, Iran & similar countries, no? We might build more nuke plants while we’re at it.

    BTW, when cars become more efficient people drive more. That’s what’s happened since the ‘70s.

  11. John    Sat Mar 4, 11:40 PM #  

    ”...more efficient we drive more”- where is the evidence? Sure the population grew, women entered the workforce at a higher rate and with the usual poor urban planning/gov’t incentivized sprawl people have longer commutes. But I’m not sure about that efficiency =’s more optional driving assertion. Love your photos though.

  12. Jonathan    Sun Mar 5, 04:57 PM #  

    Thanks for the kind words, John. It could be that I am wrong about increased fuel-efficiency as a factor in increased driving since the ‘70s. Googling around did not immediately lead to evidence for my assertion. However, I don’t see why people wouldn’t drive more as automative efficiency increased and hence costs per mile decreased. At the very least I think there’s no reason to assume that increases in fuel efficiency lead to proportional decreases in fuel consumption.

  13. michael    Fri Mar 17, 06:57 AM #  

    Well unfortunately you cannot reduce the demand. The reason it is so expensive is because the demand in the last five years now is coming from the two most populated countries in the world, China and India and not the gulf war, though if you read you will know that that is the reason, too much demand not enough turn around time. Sure there could be oil for another 1000 years, but the demand has increased drastically and the US along with Europe are no longer considered the prime consumers, as they once were before.