Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Drill, Baby, Drill

The Oil Spill has been called Obama's Katrina, and I've already touched on why that is and isn't a valid argument.  Who gets blame and how this potentially hurts Obama has been the big theme of the spill, but what conservatives need to be worried about is how this is killing "Drill, Baby, Drill.".  A year ago the argument was a winner, hands down.  Only the Greens and rabid leftists opposed it.  A few weeks into the oil spill, however, and we're below water.

Does anyone else find that ridiculous?  There are several large reasons for why this was a preventable disaster.

A good place to start would be with the location of the leak.  As Charles Krauthammer asks, why are we drilling in 5,000 feet of water?

Here’s my question: Why are we drilling in 5,000 feet of water in the first place?

Many reasons, but this one goes unmentioned: Environmental chic has driven us out there. As production from the shallower Gulf of Mexico wells declines, we go deep (1,000 feet and more) and ultra deep (5,000 feet and more), in part because environmentalists have succeeded in rendering the Pacific and nearly all the Atlantic coast off-limits to oil production.

And of course, in the safest of all places, on land, we’ve had a 30-year ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

We shouldn't be drilling in such deep waters to begin with, but because environmentalists are doing what they do, we end up drilling in places that just aren't safe.  The picture below does a fantastic job of showing just how much of the US coast is unavailable for drilling.

On this same note we have to wonder why we're drilling at depths that prevent us from plugging the leak.  Wouldn't it of made sense to open up shallower waters elsewhere, and ban drilling at certain depths until we have the means to quickly and efficiently stop leaks?  Call me crazy but it seems far more harmful to the environment to stop safe drilling, but allow the more risky drilling, especially when your "efficient method" to stopping the leak is dumping mud on it.

Which brings me to the next point:  Regulation.

The idea of a conservative talking about regulating is something may seem hypocritical, so before we continue I want to point out that (most) conservatives don't advocate removing all regulations.  We simply believe that there is too much regulation in some areas, and that too much regulation strangles economies.  But some regulations are just common sense, and some limited government oversight can be a good thing.  Safety regulations for things like explosions or blowout leaks are generally things that fall into that good category.  The problem isn't that those regulations aren't in place - they are -the problem is that BP was exempt from those rules:

Petrochemical giant BP didn't file a plan to specifically handle a major oil spill from an uncontrolled blowout at its Deepwater Horizon project because the federal agency that regulates offshore rigs changed its rules two years ago to exempt certain projects in the central Gulf region, according to an Associated Press review of official records.

The Minerals Management Service, an arm of the Interior Department known for its cozy relationship with major oil companies, says it issued the rule relief because some of the industrywide mandates weren't practical for all of the exploratory and production projects operating in the Gulf region.

The blowout rule, the fact that it was lifted in April 2008 for rigs that didn't fit at least one of five conditions, and confusion about whether the BP Deepwater Horizon project was covered by the regulation, caught the attention of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

The Deep Horizon was an expensive rig, and the article says it was the "most advanced in the world.".  So do alarms go for anyone else when a supposedly super advanced rig has the worst possible scenario possible after every single safety feature fails, and after it's been granted exemption from regulations intended to prevent that disaster?  Somebody was cutting corners here, and someone else failed to find out that said corners were missing.  This wasn't a disaster and warning against offshore drilling, this was a disaster and warning against corruption and stupidity.

At the end of the day I just never understood the Oil Spill = Offshore Drilling is Bad reaction.  Yes, I'm fully aware of what's happening and what it will do to people's livelihoods as well as the environment.  I understand the devastation and the threat, but I also recognize that this disaster was entirely preventable, and that the benefits of offshore drilling outweigh the costs.  There will always be problems and complications when you're doing something, regardless of how positive that thing is.  This shouldn't deter us from doing that.

Besides what is the alternative, exactly?  Do people actually think this helps?  We can stop offshore drilling and purchase our oil from other countries, but how do you think Brazil, Mexico, and other nations get their oil?  Do you think their safety regulations come close to ours?  If offshore drilling is so dangerous that we risk completely destroying the oceans and ourselves with it, does it matter who does it?  Or is it only American oil rigs that explode, despite our higher safety standards?

The Deepwater Horizon was a terrible thing, but we shouldn't create another terrible scenario by attacking drilling in America.  Before we all start getting hysterical we need to take a step back and look at this for what it really was - a preventable disaster caused by a mixture of corruption and greed - and remind ourselves that we have the power to make offshore drilling safe, where other nations won't.  We also have to remind ourselves that the planet is a durable thing, and with our help it will recover.

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