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What’s gas for the Gulf is oil for the ANWR

Posted by Richard on June 28, 2006

The Washington Post has editorialized in favor of a bill to relax the federal ban on offshore drilling, due to come to a vote on Thursday:

FOR THE PAST quarter of a century, the federal government has banned oil and gas drilling in most U.S. coastal waters. Efforts to relax the ban have been repelled on environmental grounds, but it is time to revisit this policy. Canada and Norway, two countries that care about the environment, have allowed offshore drilling for years and do not regret it. Offshore oil rigs in the western Gulf of Mexico, one of the exceptions to the ban imposed by Congress, endured Hurricane Katrina without spills. The industry’s safety record is impressive, and it’s even possible that the drilling ban increases the danger of oil spills in coastal waters: Less local drilling means more incoming traffic from oil tankers, which by some reckonings are riskier. Although balancing energy needs with the environment is always hard, the prohibition on offshore extraction cannot be justified. 

Wow, that’s so eminently sensible, reasonable, and grounded in reality — I can’t believe it’s a WaPo opinion on an environmental issue!

Is it too soon — or pushing our luck — to ask the WaPo to reconsider their opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? After all, the same arguments apply: The industry’s safety record is impressive. Other arctic drilling hasn’t harmed the environment. The caribou have thrived around the North Shore oil fields and pipeline. If it’s time to allow more offshore drilling, then it’s time to allow more drilling in Alaska, too.

Well, I won’t hold my breath waiting for the WaPo to endorse drilling in ANWR.

In fact, news reports from California and Florida, two states where offshore drilling is a hot-button issue, suggest that even this modest relaxation of the ban faces tough sledding. Environmental groups and MoveOn.org have been organizing demonstrations and mobilizing opposition nationwide. In California, Gov. Schwarzenegger opposed the bill. Florida’s Sen. Ben Nelson vowed to filibuster if the bill makes it to the Senate, and his Republican counterpart, Sen. Mel Martinez may join him in the effort.

Are Sens. Nelson and Martinez, and the many Florida congressmen who are also opposed, just posturing and pandering, or do they really not know that drilling in the Gulf is going to continue regardless of what happens to this bill? Cuba is contracting with China, Canada, and anyone else they can find to expand drilling in their waters:

Leonard Gropper, a retiree who makes occasional boating excursions to Cuba from his homes in Fort Lauderdale and Marathon, said he was amazed to see rigs dotting the island’s north coast.

"They’ve got new wells coming in all over the place, pumping away," Gropper said. "People have been worried about drilling over in the Gulf, but I saw all kinds of wells with Chinese writing on them just south of the Keys. If there is a spill, it will flow into the Gulf Stream and go all the way up the East Coast."

Mexico’s state-owned Pemex already has lots of offshore wells in the western Gulf, and it’s expanding into deeper and deeper waters:

Mexican President Vicente Fox announced the discovery of a potentially world-class oil discovery in the deep waters about 60 miles off the coast of Veracruz. The Noxal 1 well was drilled by the Diamond Offshore semisubmersible Ocean Worker, which went on location at the end of November 2005. The well was drilled in approximately 3,000 feet of water to a depth of over 13,000 feet.

Pemex has announced that it will spend US$37.5 billion over the next 20 years to develop the 18 billion barrel Chicontepec reservoir in southern Veracruz. The field currently produces only 26,000 bpd. but Pemex hopes to raise that to 1 million bpd within 8 to 10 years.

Call me chauvinistic, but I suspect that Chinese drilling operations are more environmentally risky than American drilling operations. Why aren’t MoveOn.org, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Environmental Defense Fund organizing opposition to offshore drilling by Cuba and Mexico? Why aren’t they holding rallies and protests in Mexico City and Havana?

Oh, wait — I just remembered why they aren’t holding protests in Havana. It’s the friggin’ police state, not Bush’s Amerika!
 

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