Whether you believe it is money or love that makes the world go round, it is for certain that many call upon oil in their day-to-day lives. The United States uses just under 19 million barrels of petroleum products produced from oil per day, which is somewhere to the tune of 798,000,000 gallons. Oil is supplied domestically and internationally, some from the drilling of oil on land and some from the excavation of oil from deepwater drilling sites. Deepwater oil drilling sites have been around for quite some time and are a controversial debate.
However, the risks involved in offshore oil exploration and production far outweigh any possible rewards that can be gained from it. Offshore oil drilling isn’t economically viable, it is harmful to the environment, and it is not a sustainable solution. The one thing all industrialized countries have in common is the demand of crude oil. Crude is oil is fossil fuel meaning that over time the remains of organisms from plants and insects were covered with soil and then converted to hydrocarbons through heat and pressure over hundreds of thousands of years. Today crude oil has an array of uses: fuel for transportation, fuel for generating electricity and heating, asphalt and road oil, and chemicals used in everyday products.
The excavation of oil offshore involves exploring for an oil reserve, tapping into it, determining if the oil is worth drilling and if it is the harvesting begins. When an oil tanker spills, it releases crude oil and many other toxic chemicals like drilling mud into the ocean. When the Exxon-Valdez tanker spilled in 1989, it let loose approximately eleven million gallons of crude oil (think of an Olympic sized swimming pool filled up 18 times).
A drop in the bucket compared to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010 that released over 200 million gallons of crude oil. That leaves the question how much area could an oil spill contaminate? To give you a perspective, one gallon of oil creates an oil slick eight acres in size. Additionally there are 640 acres in one square mile. When the Deepwater Horizon Rig exploded, 210,000,000 gallons of oil were leaked into the Gulf of Mexico, which is about 600,000 square miles in size.
That comes out to 2,625,000 square miles of water contaminated; over four times the size of the Gulf of Mexico. These facts also do not factor in the contamination from the toxic oil dispersants used in hopes of cleanup or the depletion of oxygen in the water caused by the oil-eating bacteria. Let’s take a closer look into what can be gained from offshore oil drilling. Unfortunately, oil is a byproduct that the whole world requires. If a country can produce more oil than they consume they will not only have energy independence, but will also have a larger say politically when dealing with other nations based on the sheer fact they have something that everybody needs, regardless if they share the same political interests of a nation.
This can lead to unfavorable price rises in oil and the dependency for oil from foreign countries. In the article Point: The US Should Permit & Expand Offshore Drilling by Tracey DiLascio she notes that when the price of oil rises the operating costs of many businesses rise which in turn is passed on to the consumer. The lack of domestic oil production can also threaten national security (Smith, 2). The United States uses approximately 25% of the Earth’s oil and only produces 10% (Walter, 3), the oil that we do import comes from unstable countries that we are not only supporting economically but politically also by giving them leverage.
While we can all agree that it would be nice to have more control in cost of oil, it is easier said than done. If more offshore oil drilling sites were permitted, the amount of oil produced would still be insignificant to what the whole world produces and consumes. At the current rate the United States consumes oil the addition of two million barrels a day over a five to six year span would still not be enough to cover our own asses, we would still rely on foreign oil greatly. Offshore oil exploration and production is not an economically wise decision. Drilling for oil is a dangerous game to be playing for the title of an energy independent nation and a few cents cheaper at the pump.
While both of those sound like wonderful luxuries to have, it could cost billions in the form of damaged coastal communities when an oil spill occurs. Despite offers paid out to Alaskan businesses from Exxon in the spill of 1989, some businesses never recovered and vanished. To this day the U.S. Department of Justice and State of Alaska still await millions of dollars in claims from Exxon for environmental damages and the clean up of lingering oil. Disasters such Exxon-Valdez and the BP oil spillcome out of the pocket of local business, wiping tourism businesses and fishing industries off the map.
The physical clean up of shorelines of the area may be a short-lived solution to the oil spill however repercussions such as the public’s perception of the area will last a lot longer. Environmental harm to the marine environment from offshore oil exploration and production is irreversible. When an oil spill occurs the effects on marine wildlife are noted immediately, sea birds covered in oil lose the ability to fly, lose their insulation, among many others of their natural protections. Not only the birds themselves but also their food supply becomes poisoned which may be shared by other marine mammals (Rose, 4). Fish become poisoned or die off from exposure to the hydrocarbons.
The furthest reaching immediate impact that can be seen is the destruction of marine habitats and breeding grounds such as estuaries. All species of the marine environment are at risk when oil spills including dolphins, sea turtles, and other saltwater invertebrates. Although no oil can be seen on the surface it is far from gone, oil has been found on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico and the oil that has been washed up on shore will likely remain hidden for many years to come. It is difficult to examine the long-term effects of oil spills until many years have passed, which makes it an environmentally challenging task to create and implement restoration plans for the future for a better change.
The environmental impacts have proven to be detrimental to not only animals but also their habitats as a result of offshore spills. Furthermore, the continued use of offshore drilling for crude oil promotes and suggests a sustainable future for oil which is not the case. As much as we as Americans hate to admit it, oil does not have a future in regards to powering the country. There is not benefit I can see taking an environmental risk (small or large) to gain minimal economic outcome.
The same investment from an oil rig can stretch a lot further in energy production all while doing a favor to the environment for cheaper with so many green technologies on the horizon. The outdated and unsustainable method of offshore oil exploration and production has proved to provide more harm to the environment all while being less then economically effective. With the declination and death of marine ecosystems, the destruction of small and local businesses is something you may want to take into account when deciding if offshore drilling is the right step for the future. The need for oil is something that is going to be around for years to come, it is up to you to feed it or fight it.
Auerbach, Michael P. “Offshore Oil Drilling: An Overview.” Points Of View: Offshore Oil Drilling (2014): 1. Points of View Reference Center. Web. 10 Nov. 2014. DiLascio, Tracey M. “Point: The US Should Permit & Expand Offshore Drilling.” Points Of View: Offshore Oil Drilling (2014): 2. Points of View Reference Center. Web. 9 Nov. 2014. Plumer, Bradford. “Morning-After Drill.” New Republic 241.12 (2010): 8-10. Academic Search Premier. Web. 11 Nov. 2014.
Rose, Mary Annette. “The Environmental Impacts Of Offshore Oil Drilling.” Technology Teacher 68.5 (2009): 27-32. Academic Search Premier. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. Smith, Pamela Ann. “The Lessons Of The BP Oil Spill.” Middle East 413 (2010): 26. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. Walter, Andrew. “Counterpoint: Offshore Oil Drilling Is Not The Answer.” Points Of View: Offshore Oil Drilling (2014): 3. Points of View Reference Center. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.