Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

After BP oil spill, is it time to abandon offshore drilling?

Filling in for my colleague Ezra Klein, Mother Jones’s Kate Sheppard condemns President Obama’s continuing commitment to domestic offshore oil and gas drilling. She argues that offshore drilling won’t appreciably enhance America’s energy security, because there’s just not enough oil under U.S. waters to make a large dent in imports. So why bother?

But refusing to drill here doesn’t mean that offshore drilling doesn’t happen. It just happens elsewhere, where oversight is perhaps even more lax and from which crude must be transported in vulnerable oil tankers. Nigeria, for one, has seen a major oil spill every year since 1969, according to the New America Foundation’s Lisa Margonelli. The net effect of closing down American offshore drilling, observes The Economist’s Lexington columnist, is probably even more pollution. It’s arrogant of Americans to continue to consume vast amounts of oil while refusing to take on any of the inevitable environmental risk, instead exporting that risk to countries ruled by regimes that care rather less about the environment.

Perhaps anticipating this objection, Sheppard argues that America can do a lot more to reduce oil consumption and, therefore, imports by promoting efficiency. True. But we’d still be consuming and importing huge amounts of oil, making that point irrelevant. Indeed, a recent study from Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs estimates that aggressive CAFE standards, tax credits for the purchase of fuel-sipping cars and even a reasonable carbon price would do little to U.S. net oil imports for the transportation sector and light-duty vehicle miles traveled compared to a baseline scenario. Adding a much higher gas tax on top of a carbon price -- which I favor -- would make a much larger dent. But even if the government did all of these things -- a truly optimistic policy scenario -- America would still import over 6 million barrels of oil a day for transportation in 2030.

Don’t get me wrong -- I hate that we have to extract, transport, refine and burn this nasty stuff, every step of the way exposing the environment to perhaps catastrophic danger. But we can’t wish this addiction away. We will probably have to deal with it for decades. What the BP spill teaches us is that oil companies and regulators became complacent about deep-water offshore drilling after decades without a major spill off American shores, and that oversight must be reformed -- dramatically. It also tells us that the sooner Congress passes a real, comprehensive energy bill that begins to wean America off carbon, the better.

By Stephen Stromberg  | May 25, 2010; 6:48 PM ET
Categories:  Stromberg  | Tags:  Stephen Stromberg  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Is Obama's foreign policy 'enemy-centric'?
Next: GOP: Gimmicky Old Party


After BP oil spill, is it time to abandon offshore drilling?
After an airplane crashes is it time to abandon air travel?
After 9/11 is it time to abandon construction of tall buildings in New York City?
After electing Obama is it time to abandon the notion that he is competent? You bet it is.

Posted by: LETFREEDOMRING2 | May 25, 2010 11:25 PM | Report abuse

Unless that fat azz Mother Jones can be hauled around in a rickshaw...

While only 10% of our consumption comes from under U.S. production - it's still 10%.

Kiss it, Mutha.

Posted by: joesmithdefend | May 25, 2010 11:51 PM | Report abuse

Sure give up off shore drilling.

Give up oil. Let the rest of the world have oil and use only the energy from unmarried virgins at bicycle generators.

Then look at our balance of payment numbers.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | May 26, 2010 6:14 AM | Report abuse

I watched a senator on CSPAN last night who said the Minerals Management Service refused to release papers on test that the agency should have did on the "blowout preventer" in the case of the largest oil spill in history in the gulf of Mexico indicating (1) they did not do any testing, or (2) they did test and the blowout preventer failed the test. In either case, the refusal of the agency to release the papers indicates guilt. Other reports of employees watching porn, being on drugs while working and accepting bribes and gifts from BP and other oil companies offer compelling evidence that this agency, MMS, should be totally eliminated.

Posted by: avatar666 | May 26, 2010 8:44 AM | Report abuse

A reality check from the EIA a part of DOE

America produces 5.5 million barrels per day and imports 9.8 million barrels per day. About 35% is domestic production, not 10%.

We can not shut down our domestic production.

Posted by: harmony2 | May 26, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

America does not receive any Alaska oil in our own country. Why is that? Alaska has oil reserves that equals Saudi Arabia.

I think there was too much HANKY PANKY going on with the crew of the Horizon and possible mind control used on those who made important decisions and ignored harmful discoveries. But then again I am always inclined to take a conspiratorial view of major disasters like this one.

Posted by: JONAHandtheFISH | May 26, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

What? It's past time. We need a massive initiative to replace oil with energy that doesn't cause ecocide. We need a government run by something other than Big Oil, Big Bannks and Big Insurance. China is investing billions in solar and the infrastructure to deliver its energy. Americans will be spending billions trying to salvage what is left of the southern half of the country (forget the is lost) Sure! Double down on this lunacy, Republicans...cause this policy of Drill, Baby, Drill thingy has been working out so well for us.

Posted by: blosmurph | May 26, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Thats like abandoning your car if you run out of gas. your reasoning don't compute.

Posted by: ctharwick | May 26, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company