Gulf Oil Spill Impacts Washington

Posted on May 11, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

When an explosion destroyed the billion-dollar oil rig Deepwater Horizon, thousands of gallons of oil began spreading across the Gulf of Mexico eventually reaching the Louisiana coast and its fragile wetlands and economically significant fisheries.

The U.S. Coast Guard said the giant oil slick was growing at a rate of 5,000 barrels of oil per day, as authorities worked to put in place a giant dome-like device to cap it temporarily while a more permanent fix was sought. In the meantime, the oil shut down some Gulf fishing and, if it continues to spread, could hit the Florida coast where tourism is king.

But the impacts of the disaster also have spread far beyond the Gulf’s waters to Washington; where Congress has summoned British oil giant BP, which operates the rig with other companies, for a little chat. Environmental groups have held up pictures of oil soaked sea birds and vowed to push even harder to stop offshore drilling. And that new energy and climate change legislation the administration had been angling for has been complicated at the minimum.

With an oil spill so large it can be seen from space fouling a critical international waterway, it would seem a no brainer to demand an end to offshore drilling. But with America’s thirst for oil hardly in decline, it’s not a simple thing to cut off drilling. Banning drilling in the Gulf of Mexico alone would cut America’s domestic oil production by one-third.

Do we really want to stop that production, which would mean handing even more money to foreign oil producers, like Iran, Russia, Venezuela and others?

Before the spill, the administration had been willing to accept new offshore exploration as part of an energy and climate change bill. That could change. The outcry from opponents already has caused the governors of Florida and California to withdraw their backing for offshore drilling projects.

Some lawmakers, like Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), want to raise the limit on the amount of third party damages the responsible companies could face from $75 million to $10 billion. This makes sense as a means of prodding the oil industry toward enhanced environmental and safety standards.

As damaging as this latest disaster has been — it did, after all, claim 11 lives even before the environmental toll began to mount — it could lead to tougher regulations, more informed safety standards and better industry practices. And it could bring a new spotlight on America’s reliance on foreign oil and spur new efforts toward conservation, to the benefit both of the environment and the economy.

Congress is right to increase its oversight of offshore drilling and to put new safeguards and tough new standards and penalties into law. At the same time, though, it would be a sad irony if an environmental disaster led Congress to abandon climate change and energy legislation. And it would be an even bigger mistake if the Deepwater Horizon disaster were to lead to a blanket ban on new offshore oil exploration.

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7 Responses to “Gulf Oil Spill Impacts Washington”

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Caren, This Oil spill make a great case for a return to Nuclear Energy and an a national investment in Fussion Technology. We need Presidential Leadership on this which will take courage. America is the best place in the world for the safe development of that technology and the Navy has proved that they can manage it well. Pete

Pete – Nuclear simply does not solve the oil problem. I have no problems with nuclear and heck if France can manage it so can we. Nonetheless, if environmentalists almost successfully blocked the first off shore wind farm, can you imagine what they will do with nuclear? More importantly, it does nothing to solve our oil problem — chiefly used for transporation — and new nuclear plants will still take twenty years to plan and build. Beyond that only one or two utilities in our country can even handle the capital requirements for nuclear plants. On the subject of oil for transportation, most analysts, including the EIA, think that it would take 25 years to change over the US auto industry to hybrids; in fact, some feel that it is more within reach to double the efficiency of the combustion engine. While we should always explore improving drilling technology and safety systems, to imagine that we can or even morally should close down off shore drilling is a complete folly. At least here, we can beat up on BP and clean up our birds. What are we doing for the Nigerian people and their ecosystems? Even if I can afford a hybrid in the next five years, I will still need to buy gas. I prefer that gas come from a place that is well-monitored and protected. In forty years, this is only our second major drilling spill.

Excellent newsletter….best

John Graham

Hi Caren,

Very interesting newsletter.

Keep ’em coming.

…Sherry Roberts…

Thank you very much.

Charles O’shea

Thank you Caren!!!

Amy Siskind

Caren; I do not need the WSJ. You are better. Thanks. Best! B

Betty Southard Murphy, Esq.
Baker Hostetler, LLP

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