Oil drilling back to normal in the Gulf

Nearly two years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill off the U.S. Gulf Coast, there is more oil drilling than before.  Back then, there were 25 oil rigs off the Gulf Coast; now there are 40 rigs.  BP has five oil rigs in operation, as many as before, and is scheduled to have eight rigs in operation by next year.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was blamed on negligence by BP and by the Minerals Management Service, the responsible U.S. regulatory agency.  The Obama administration has replaced it with a new agency, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement.

The manager of the new agency said it lacks the resources, personnel, training, technology, enforcement tools, regulations and training needed to assure there will be no repetition of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.  The New York Times reported that the budget of the bureau and its predecessor have been basically flat since 1982, despite the huge growth of drilling activity in the past 30 years.

Mitt Romney, the front-runner for the Republican nomination for President, said existing regulations are too burdensome and should be relaxed.  Meanwhile the oil companies are expanding their drilling to the coasts of Mexico and Cuba, which are outside the jurisdiction of U.S. regulation.

A few weeks before the Deepwater Horizon disaster, President Obama said increased offshore oil drilling on the U.S. Continental Shelf was part of his long-range energy plan.   It would seem that plan is back on track.

We Americans should not be in such a hurry to use up our domestic energy resources.  The faster we pump out the oil now, the less will be available for future generations.  The oil will not go away if the U.S. government calls a halt until better methods of drilling can be adopted.

But I admit this kind of thinking is not politically feasible.  We are not going to tolerate the temporary shutdown of a major industry while unemployment is above 8 percent, nor a halt to oil drilling when gasoline prices are approaching $4 a gallon (although increased oil drilling would have only a minor and delayed effect on prices at the pump).

Click on Deepwater Drilling Returns to Gulf and Grows As Blast Fades for a report by the New York Times.

Click on Is the US Gulf oil spill issue truly settled? for an Al Jazeera panel discussion of BP’s legal liability and proposed settlement.

Click on National Geographic Educator Resources Oil Spills Map for a National Geographic map of oil drilling across the Gulf of Mexico.

Click on Offshore Drilling and Exploration News for continuing coverage and updates from the New York Times.

Click on The Gumbo Chronicles for the effect of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on oysters, shrimp and crabs on the Gulf Coast.  [Added 3/16/12]

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