Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

AFRICA NEWS

A landslide victory for the 'invisible candidate' in Algeria's Presidential polls

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 18 April 2014

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 18 April 2014 (part 2)

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Presidential adviser resigns over "shoe-shine scandal"

Read more

#THE 51%

Breaking stereotypes

Read more

#TECH 24

Galaxy S5 v. HTC One (M8): Which is the right one for you?

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

New PM Manuel Valls outlines priorities

Read more

FASHION

Jean-Marc Loubier, bags and shoes.

Read more

ENCORE!

Hip-hop musician Beat Assailant on mixing the sounds of the city

Read more

  • French journalist tells of release from captivity in Syria

    Read more

  • South Korea ferry captain defends decision to delay evacuation

    Read more

  • Scores killed in South Sudan cattle raid

    Read more

  • PSG clinch fourth League Cup title after beating Lyon

    Read more

  • Le Pen’s National Front fail to woo Britain’s Eurosceptics

    Read more

  • In pictures: French kite festival takes flight

    Read more

  • VIDEO: Anti-Semitic leaflets in Eastern Ukraine condemned

    Read more

  • In pictures: Good Friday celebrated across the globe

    Read more

  • Bouteflika, the ghost president

    Read more

  • Does Valls’ upcoming Vatican trip violate French secularism?

    Read more

  • Ukraine separatists say ‘not bound’ by Geneva deal

    Read more

  • Abel Ferrara’s hotly awaited DSK film to premiere on web

    Read more

  • Obama signs bill to block controversial Iran diplomat from UN post

    Read more

  • Ukraine: ‘One bloody incident could scupper Geneva deal’

    Read more

  • Astronomers discover Earth-like planet that could support life

    Read more

  • Indian election: Votes for sale

    Read more

  • World honours Garcia Marquez’s magical literary legacy

    Read more

  • In pictures: Iranian woman pardons son’s killer at the gallows

    Read more

  • Algeria's ailing Bouteflika clinches fourth term amid fraud claims

    Read more

  • Top Hollande adviser resigns over conflict of interest accusation

    Read more

  • West African Ebola outbreak caused by new strain of virus

    Read more

Americas

After the spill, what lies in store for America’s offshore oil?

©

Text by Perrine MOUTERDE

Latest update : 2010-05-04

In March, US President Barack Obama announced a new wave of offshore oil exploration. But in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, do the planners of America’s future energy security need to go back to the drawing board?

The explosion on drilling platform Deepwater Horizon and the resulting oil spill has reignited the debate in the USA on future offshore oil exploration.

On Monday, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has up until now been strongly in favour of deep-sea drilling, said: “"I see on TV the birds drenched in oil, the fishermen out of work, the massive oil slick [in the Gulf of Mexico] destroying our previous ecosystem. That will not happen in California."
 
On Friday, four US lawmakers demanded that US President Barack Obama reconsider his policy of encouraging future domestic oil drilling, urging him instead to ramp up development of offshore wind farms instead.
 
One of the four, New Jersey Representative Rush Holt, a former physics professor, said: "Fossil fuels are just not sustainable over the long run for all sorts of reason.”
 
"The wind resources are really quite large and over time are much larger than oil resources," he said, adding that offshore wind power could supply "more than half of the electricity needs of the eastern United States. Fossil fuels are dirty and dangerous."
 
New zones of exploration
 
At the end of March, Obama said that he wanted to open up new zones for offshore oil exploration off the coast of Virginia and in the Gulf of Mexico, a decision that would put an end to a moratorium in place since the early 1980s.
 
Immediately after the April 22 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil platform, Obama ordered a freeze on new projects (even though the lifting of the moratorium would not have taken place until 2012 and after an inspection of existing oil platforms).
 
Nevertheless, he repeated last Friday that the exploitation of domestic oil resources would play a crucial role in a future USA energy strategy which should be approached “responsibly”.
 
The USA is the biggest global consumer of oil, using 20% of the world’s output. And despite its ambitions to increase its energy self-sufficiency, 60% of the oil that the country uses is imported.
 
Offshore drilling represents around a third of the country’s domestic production.
 
Deeper and deeper
 
But environmentalists are increasingly concerned about the methods of offshore oil extraction. Oil companies have been drilling in shallow waters for some 60 years, but it is now increasingly common to drill at depths of more than two kilometres below the ocean surface.
 
At the site of the Deepwater Horizon spill, BP is attempting to place a metal funnel over the source of the leak, 1,500 metres below the surface, to ease the cleanup operation. This has never been attempted at such depths.
 
Yet supporters of deep-sea drilling are keen to point out that significant technical progress has been made by the industry.
 
According to the US National Research Council, deep-sea oil exploration is responsible for only 2% of the pollution found in the waters off the North American coasts, the remainder being made up of natural and industrial leakage.
 
‘Drill, baby drill’
 
When Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, some 100 oil platforms were destroyed by violent seas, with minimal environmental impact.
 
“Despite its tragic consequences, the Deepwater Horizon accident doesn’t fundamentally change the strong safety record of offshore drilling in recent years,” writes Samuel Thernstrom, a resident fellow and the co-director of the Geoengineering Project at the American Enterprise Institute, in the New York Times. “But the political context for the administration’s policy is more fluid.”
 
Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, famous for her “Drill, baby drill” campaign slogan at the 2008 Republican Convention, has not budged from her support of continued offshore exploration, as she explains in a Facebook posting titled “Domestic Drilling: Why We Can Still Believe”.
 
She writes: “We still believe in responsible development, which includes drilling to extract energy sources, because we know that there is an inherent link between energy and security, energy and prosperity, and energy and freedom.”

 

Date created : 2010-05-04

  • OIL SPILL

    Armada of small boats volunteer to help the cleanup

    Read more

  • USA

    Oil slick spreads as BP steps up containment efforts

    Read more

  • OIL SPILL

    Gulf Coast fishermen plead for help

    Read more

Comments

COMMENT(S)