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Profit and politics:the offshore drilling debate - Research Paper Example

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The history of offshore drilling is one of technological advancement and innovation tailored to the interests of overwhelming (many would say excessive) domestic demand for oil…
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Profit and politics:the offshore drilling debate
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Download file to see previous pages The history of offshore drilling is one of technological advancement and innovation tailored to the interests of overwhelming (many would say excessive) domestic demand for oil. From its beginnings in the waters off Santa Barbara, California, in 1896, offshore drilling for oil reserves has traced a precipitous arc that reflects America’s exponential rise in oil consumption dating from the early years of the 20th century. This is uniquely illustrative of a nation transforming from a primarily agricultural economy to a highly mechanized, production-based system. The extension of oil drilling operations further and further into the waters off the West Coast and, most notably, into the Gulf of Mexico, has coincided with the economic boom that catapulted America into the forefront of world affairs. But the story of offshore drilling and the political debate that has always attended its growth is much more than an economic epic – it’s also a textbook example of the interplay and conflict between government and the environment. This volatile issue continues to highlight discussion at the federal level and in affected states such as Louisiana, Texas, Alaska and California. The same technological know-how that has enabled America’s large oil producers to find new ways of extracting oil from beneath the oceans holds vast promise for the development of new energy sources. New discoveries in the fields of solar, wind and electrical power have Name 2 diversified the way many Americans think of energy, yet much pioneering work remains to be done in these areas before they are ready to relieve the oil industry of its traditionally heavy burden. With oil still the most effective means of meeting the nation’s energy demands, the debate over the technological, economic and environmental ramifications of offshore drilling is certain to remain an important one in the political arena for many years to come. As such, all parties involved in the debate must find ways to compromise and accommodate opposing viewpoints if the nation’s future energy challenges are to be met. Benefits Offshore drilling, particularly the deep water operations, are very expensive propositions. Some of the newer deep water rigs cost upwards of $4 billion and, with new safeguards arising from the 2010 BP catastrophe, they are likely to become more costly still (“A Brief History of Offshore Oil Drilling,” 13). Yet thanks to the industry’s commitment to offshore drilling, it is strong enough to easily cover such expenses. “Investments in offshore drilling have contributed to the reversal of a long-term drop in U.S. oil production. Total U.S. oil production recorded year-on-year growth in 2009 for the first time since 1991, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration has projected additional increases in the coming years” (Ibid, 13). The windfall for the U.S. government has also been considerable, with leasing agreements producing as much as $18 billion a year since the onset of large-scale drilling operations in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. In 2005, the Energy Policy Act established the “Coastal Impact Assistance Fund,” which provided for the disbursement of $250 million to states for the Name 3 development and protection of coastal areas and wetlands that are affected by offshore drilling. Alabama, Alaska, California, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas have shared this important federal source of revenue. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife, 1). In spite of the horrific financial and human costs of the 2010 explosion and spill, a federally appointed commission determined that the nation derives substantial benefits from offshore drilling, which provides a significant portion of America’s domestic energy supply. Offshore wells are responsible for one-third of all U.S. oil production and have helped offset declines in oil production in other parts of the country in recent decades (National Commission on BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, 294). It has ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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