Monday, May 24, 2010

Center's Opposition To Expanded Offshore Was Justified

The uncontrollable oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is THE example of why the Center historically opposed expanded offshore oil and gas drilling proposals. Although we did not anticipate such an unprecedented and uncontrollable spill, we concluded long ago that the risk to our beaches and ocean ecosystems was just too great. Now we are not pure from a traditional environmental perspective because our opposition to expanded offshore oil and gas drilling is balanced by our support for coal, oil shale and tar sands to liquids. America is the Saudi Arabia of coal and we can convert it to transportation fuel. We figure to use it all before even considering expanding offshore exploration and production. If we assume expanded plug-in fuel cell hybrid electric vehicles, that could extend coal/shale/tar sands production and consumption for hundreds of years.

We had no clue that the USA was so unprepared to stop a deep water oil spill. The federal government, including we assume our Defense Department, has left mitigation to BP, probably because they supposedly have the expertise to stop the spill. But over one month has gone by and millions of gallons of crude oil have already spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. We just hope that BP can cap the well very soon. BP is planning a "top kill" that would cap the well by pumping heavy drilling fluid into it.

Moreover, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is assessing the ecological effect of the hundreds of thousands of gallons of chemicals (Nalco Corexit Technology) that BP has sprayed into the Gulf to break up the oil so far. EPA and BP are in a standoff over whether to continue using the same chemical dispersant. BP has been spraying unprecedented quantities of Corexit 9500, which the EPA approved for use on oil spills although EPA tests show it is more toxic to certain sea life than some other dispersants the agency has also approved. BP has been spraying the chemicals on the Gulf's surface and at the well on the sea floor. The stragety has never been tried before at these depths, but was approved by EPA on May 15. Last Thursday, the EPA changed course and told BP to switch to less-toxic dispersants by Sunday night. But, according to a letter from BP that the EPA released over the weekend, the oil company wants to keep using Corexit. BP says alternatives raise other environmental questions and are not available in sufficient volume for this spill. Knowledge of dispersants' environmental effect is limited. (WSJ, 5/24/10)

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