Gulf Disaster: More Than Just An Environmental Catastrophe?

by Micah J. Loudermilk & Jason A. Lyon, Assistants to Energy Chair, Dr. Richard Andres

This morning, Congress hauled in executives from the oil industry to answer questions about both BP’s response to the Gulf crisis and companies’ existing mechanisms and capabilities for combating oil spills. While the bulk of the hearing focused on existing response plans, Lamar McKay, president of BP America, noted in his prepared remarks that:

“America’s economy, security and standard of living today significantly depend upon domestic oil and gas production. Reducing our energy production, absent a concurrent reduction in consumption, would shift additional jobs and dollars offshore and place millions of additional barrels per day into tanker ships that must traverse the world’s oceans.”

While certainly not trying to downplay the magnitude of the spill, its catastrophic environmental effects, or the blundering of BP in resolving it, Mr. McKay’s words should not go unheeded. President Obama and Congress, reacting to the cries of angry Americans, have cracked down on the oil industry and placed a moratorium on all new drilling leases. While these actions are understandable, keeping in mind the above quote, it raises the important question – is the U.S. at risk of allowing the Gulf of Mexico oil spill to unduly affect the future of offshore drilling and domestic energy production?

The rhetoric out of government officials has placed a heavy emphasis on energy independence and security – of which domestic production is a key component. While prudent reforms are clearly in order, at stake is not simply the ecosystem of the Gulf coast, but also the livelihoods of thousands of Americans and potentially the security of the nation.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Gulf Disaster: More Than Just An Environmental Catastrophe?

  1. Kimberley

    This is well presented. Indeed, we have a tension between energy needs of the US and keeping those needs “in-house” and over-reacting to the Gulf tragedy by banning all off-shore drilling. While it is probably too much to ask right now, given the heat of public opinion – a “balanced” approach is the only way we can solve the tension. Balance between more stringent regulations regarding offshore drilling, and balance regarding our use of oil and gas domestically. You pose a thought provoking quote from BP. Perhaps just more rhetoric? The jobs and livelihoods of those living in the Gulf depend more on fishing and shrimping that drilling; and is shipping oil and gas in tankers safer or riskier? One can only hope that these questions keep getting posed in order to raise the awareness of all concerned – decisionmakers, as well as the general public.

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