By Asish Samson
The Trump administration on Thursday unveiled its plan to expand offshore drilling on the US Continental shelf significantly. This move would lift the decades long ban on the California and Maine continental shelves. US Interior secretary Ryan Zinke unveiled the plan and spoke to the media in a conference call. He also announced that this move would help the USA become the “ Strongest energy superpower.” This five-year draft plan is the most expansive ever proposed in decades.
With this move US President Donald Trump would fulfil his promise of boosting energy and natural gas production made during his campaign. This would open doors for auctioning of the offshore drilling sites. As with any Trump administration decision, it has met with fierce backlash from Democrats, Media, coastal lawmakers and Environmental organisations and activists.
Offshore drilling involves the extractions of natural gas from the sea bed using large metallic drill and extractions pipes. First the sites in which significant amount of extractable oil is present also called as “ Wells” are detected using magnetic or seismic surveys. Once the oil is detected an exploratory drill is installed to explore the viability and then a production drill is attached to the sea bed to extract the oil to the surface platform.
Most of the negativity to offshore drilling is due to the accidental spillage of the oil and it’s supposedly “ negative” impact on the marine ecosystem in which it is carried out. But if one looks into the issue objectively and without an open mind, it appears that offshore drilling actually helps the USA and its citizens most of all.
Why it helps :
Energy independence: This move would drastically reduce the US reliance on foreign countries like Saudi Arabia for oil drastically. One estimate puts that the current expansion of offshore drilling would supply the US with almost 30 years worth of current imports from Saudi Arabia! This self-reliance for oil would only help the US.
Jobs and Economy : Needless to say, this move would create a huge boost for job creation and the economy ( which are already improving day by day). A study by Quest offshore resources predicted that about 200,000 new jobs would be created by this move. This would also generate $3.5 Trillion in revenue in the next 30 years. The national GDP would increase by $23 billion per year by 2035. It also would reduce consumer prices.
Reduces Pollution : Yes, you read that right. The number one cause of marine pollution is oil seepage, not spillage. According to the National Research Council, the Oil seepage and Natural gas leakage from the sea bed is the largest cause of marine pollution in North America. About 10,000 gallons of oil are released into the Ocean off the coast of California and Santa Barbara alone every single day! About 3 million cubic feet of natural gas is released each day from the coast of California. This has been confirmed by several university studies. SOS California which stands for Stop Oil Seeps, an environmental group actually advocates for Offshore drilling to reduce pollution. Offshore drilling actually reduces pollution by extracting the oil to the surface and thereby reducing pollution through seepage or leakage. It also reduces the amount of petroleum and hydrocarbons released into the marine environment.
Another added benefit of offshore drilling is the creation artificial reefs for marine flora and fauna. As previously covered in a New York Times article, These drilling rigs and platform provide an excellent artificial reefs and habitats for a large variety of marine organisms. In some ways, these artificial reefs are better than estuaries or coral reefs.
All said and done, the droves of people jumping into the band wagon and opposing it should realise that they are protesting against all these benefits including guaranteed reductions in pollution against an uncertain accidental spillage.