Let’s take an honest look at the most notable advantages and disadvantages of offshore drilling.
It has long been a pop culture given that virtually any fossil fuel industry is unequivocally bad, especially in environmental terms. We cannot overlook what happened with the Deepwater Horizon incident, but if we step out of the black & white circles of rhetoric that define so many hot-button topics, there is an awful lot of “grey” where useful and indeed pertinent information just waits to be rediscovered and accepted. In this article we will look further into the truths about offshore drilling. It may surprise you to learn some of the benefits of offshore drilling.
The U.S. still consumes more than it produces. By expanding offshore drilling, the reliance on imported oil would diminish and consumer prices would be lower. In a report by Quest Offshore Resources, the nation’s GDP is expected to increase by $23 billion per year by 2035. In addition, the States along the eastern seaboard and the Gulf would see immense economic benefits.
Roughly 80% of offshore resources in the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico are off limits to offshore drilling. It is estimated that these untapped areas could hold 10-20 billion barrels of oil. That is equivalent to 30 years’ worth of current imports from Saudi Arabia.
This is probably the most explosive (pun intended) information that most people do not know: offshore drilling actually lowers the amount of oil released into the ocean.
Natural oil seepage is the number one source of oil pollution in North America. This phenomenon is actually how oil and natural gas exploration and acquisition began in many parts of the world. How else would we know where to extract the oil without the help of sophisticated equipment?
According to the National Research Council, natural oil and gas seepage is by far the largest source of marine pollution. Off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, it is estimated that 10,000 gallons of oil are spilled into the ocean every single day. By extracting the oil and gas that naturally seeps from the ocean floor, offshore drilling operations can actually reduce the amount of petroleum and hydrocarbons released into the marine environment.
Another environmental benefit of offshore drilling are the artificial reefs that are created. Oil rig platforms act as fantastic artificial reefs. With natural reefs on the decline, they provide a habitat for all kinds of marine life. Because they are large and complex, the oil rig structures provide a stable environment, especially for benthic life (sponges). This means that the descending legs of an oil platform can actually help create marine life instead of just attracting it. As explained in a New York Times article, they are in fact better than estuaries or coral reefs in some ways.
The most obvious and indeed most likely negatives associated with offshore drilling are environmental. With more operations in existence, there are more processing plants required and like any industrial infrastructure that means more carbon emissions, or “pollution”. The largest arguable concern though are the risks for accidents at sea that negatively affect the environment. Whether that is a leak at a rig site or an overturned oil tanker, the effects are indisputably negative. The two most famous examples are the BP oil spill of 2010 and the Exxon Valdez wreck of 1989.