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Page added on December 26, 2013

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Drill here? Maybe. Drill now? That’s impossible

Public Policy

Southern political leaders and the oil industry want to find out if there’s enough oil and natural gas off the Atlantic coast to justify drilling for it.

That’s a reasonable request that should be part of the country’s energy plan.

What’s not reasonable is some politicians’ leap to the conclusion that offshore oil and gas will add immeasurably to southern states’ economies, creating thousands of new jobs and scores of new onshore businesses. Nobody knows enough about what’s under the Atlantic Ocean floor to make such an assertion.

Gov. Pat McCrory has long supported an “all of the above” energy strategy and has backed both drilling and wind farms off the North Carolina coast. The governor is vice chairman of the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition, an eight-state group pressing Washington to open up more of the sea floor for oil and gas exploration.

There are plenty of “drill here, drill now” advocates in the General Assembly and they are in McCrory’s corner – some of them well ahead of the governor, urging an irresponsible gold rush for a resource that may be real or may be illusory.

The truth is, we may drill here, but we won’t drill now. We can’t. If it happens at all, it may be several years before the oil industry gets approval to conduct the seismic testing that will reveal more conclusively whether there is enough petroleum out there to justify the billions of dollars in investment to extract it.

It’s not just a matter of putting drilling platforms out in the Atlantic. There needs to be a network of undersea pipelines to send the oil and gas to shore, and then facilities along the coast to receive and refine the products. It will take a decade or two after drilling is approved before all that infrastructure is in place.

Meanwhile, not everyone is in favor of drilling. The Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico is still very much on regulators’ and environmentalists’ minds. It should be on the mind of anyone who wants to insure the future of our coastal tourism and fisheries industries. No offshore energy exploration should begin until safety issues are fully addressed – if indeed that is even possible.

Despite the pressure from the oil industry and politicians, there is no urgency here. In the past decade, America’s energy fortunes have taken a sharp turn for the better – and away from the vise grip of OPEC. Domestic supplies of oil and natural gas are plentiful, thanks to new technology, and this country is on the verge of becoming a net exporter of gas.

There is no need to rush. And there is every reason to get it right, before the first drill bit hits the ocean floor.

FayObserver



5 Comments on "Drill here? Maybe. Drill now? That’s impossible"

  1. rockman on Thu, 26th Dec 2013 3:31 pm 

    Not that I think there’s a great deal of potential off the east coast but this piece shoots itself in the foot. After clearly explaining why it would take decades+ to bring about significant production it says:”There is no need to rush.” Can’t have it both ways.

    As far as having to deal with the environmental risk that’s obviously a factor. But rather self-serving: after tossing out the Macondo disaster for an emotional crutch they apparently are very willing to let the Gulf Coast suffer all the same risk potential as long as those resources continue to flow to east coast consumers. It would have been less disingenuous if they had called for banning all offshore drilling and at least not given the appearance of NIMBY.

  2. Bob Inget on Thu, 26th Dec 2013 7:22 pm 

    Ninety Miles South of Key West, Cuba has been trying for years with at least four different foreign oil companies to find oil with exactly zero results.

  3. Dave Thompson on Thu, 26th Dec 2013 7:29 pm 

    Another perfect example of peak oil and what the industry is planning on doing in the furthest reaches of the, “whats left of the low hanging fruit” paradigm.

  4. Makati1 on Fri, 27th Dec 2013 12:51 am 

    try drilling a few wells of the coast of the Hampton s and see what happens. NIMBY is alive and well in America.

  5. rockman on Fri, 27th Dec 2013 1:06 pm 

    Makati – So true…but not so much so in Texas. Obviously no big surprise that most folks here don’t have a problem with offshore drilling. But we also don’t have a problem with the sight of wind turbines given that Texas has the capacity of the #2 and #3 states combined. And offshore wind: while the northern coastal states have continually sued the fed govt to prevent development of those leases Texas built the first offshore wind pilot project some time ago. It’s also on the verge of a major build out of offshore wind. And it isn’t like the fed govt is pushing us around: Texas has authority over those waters, not the US govt, unlike the northern states where the feds have the control. Thus the states with no public control over those waters have been stymied offshore alt development. But the state, where the locals do control the issue, does support those alt efforts. Rather odd, eh?

    And all this alt development from the largest oil/NG producing state which is “in the pocket of the oil industry”. Doesn’t quite match, eh? LOL.

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