Oil Sh%& Happens: Is It Worth It?

by Bill Chameides | May 3rd, 2010
posted by Erica Rowell (Editor)

Permalink | 6 comments

In 2008 pundit George Will couldn’t think of any rational reason for opposing offshore drilling. (See quotation and video below.)

As the deepwater oil spill arrives on the Gulf Coast, just some quotes to consider …


On Offshore Oil Drilling

“It’s absolutely worth it.”

Garret Graves, head of the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities, as quoted in USA Today, July 2008


“Offshore drilling is the safest way to go. Those guys don’t spill oil.”

Roland Guidry, oil-spill coordinator for Louisiana, as quoted in USA Today, July 2008


“As for offshore drilling, it’s safe enough these days that not even Hurricanes Katrina and Rita could cause significant spillage from the battered rigs off the coasts of New Orleans and Houston.”

—U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who campaigned for president in 2008 on a “drill, baby drill” platform, on Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes, June 2008


“A well thought-out [offshore] drilling strategy that was carefully circumscribed to avoid significant environmental damage.”

—U.S. President Barack Obama, speaking to the Palm Beach Post as candidate Obama of his willingness to compromise, August 2008

“People are against [expanded on- and offshore drilling] because I believe on the left in this country what they want is a manufactured scarcity so that government can have the rationale to ration, which gives the government what the left wants, an ever more minute supervision of our daily choices.”

—Pundit Will, on Hannity & Colmes in response to an Investor’s Business Daily report that concluded America’s untapped oil reserves would be bigger than those from all Mideast countries combined, June 2008

“All [areas of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans that have been off limits to drilling] should be available for exploration and production without buffer zones, since these areas can be developed in an environmentally safe manner with a minimal impact on coastal communities.”

 —American Petroleum Institute brochure [pdf], 2009


“Many fail to fully appreciate the tremendous strides our industry has made towards reducing our environmental footprint and improving safety and reliability of our operations. We have shown the ability to drill with precision and with minimal disruption to the environment. … It is time the public debate on access in this country move forward.”

 —Rex Tillerson, Exxon Mobil CEO, February 2007


“We are all reminded of the need to be ever vigilant in the area of safety and environmental protection as a result of this tragic incident.”

 —Rex Tillerson, Exxon Mobil CEO, in response to the BP-Deepwater Horizon incident, April 2010


And Now Consider This …

On Exxon Valdez Decades Later

“In some areas, Exxon Valdez oil still remains and is toxic. Some injured species have yet to recover to pre-spill levels. … This long-term damage was not expected at the time of the spill. … [T]he picture of recovery is more complicated than was first appreciated.”

—Alaska Deputy Attorney General Craig Tillery, writing in the 2009 Status Report [PDF -16 MB] on the Exxon Valdez oil spill, which U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) called in June 2009 the “worst environmental disaster in U.S. history”; 2009


On Opening Up Drilling Off Alaska’s Coast

“This is progress.”

—Sen. Lisa Murkowski on the Interior Department’s decision to green-light Shell Oil’s exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea, a move that opens the door for production in a new Arctic region, December 2009

filed under: faculty, oceans, oil, policy, politics
and: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


All comments are moderated and limited to 275 words. Your e-mail address is never displayed. Read our Comment Guidelines for more details.

  1. Karen
    May 7, 2010

    Why not open up decade capped drills on US soil the US Government is paying people millions each year to sit on?

  2. Greg Noyes
    May 6, 2010

    If I want to lose weight, I have to eat less and exercise more. If I want to improve the deficit I have to tax more and spend less. If I want to lessen the national carbon footprint, I have to conserve more and put alternative sources online faster. In other words, I have to forgo my immediate gratification for some long term good. I am just a [metaphorical] child, taking advantage of the situation until the adults show up. In a better world, these would be our elected officials. Since they have [largely] abdicated their responsibilities, I am left waiting for someone [some group] to fill the vacuum.

  3. Ken Towe
    May 4, 2010

    President Carter (July 15, 1979): “I am tonight setting a clear goal for the energy policy of the United States. Beginning this moment, this Nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977—never. From now on, every new addition to our demand for energy will be met from our own production and our own conservation. The generation-long growth in our dependence on foreign oil will be stopped dead in its tracks right now and then reversed as we move through the 1980’s, for I am tonight setting the further goal of cutting our dependence on foreign oil by one-half by the end of the next decade—a saving of over 4 1/2 million barrels of imported oil per day.” Twenty years gone by. What has happened? U.S. Dependency on Foreign Oil… Nixon – 36.1% Ford – 37.1% Carter – 40.5% Reagan – 43.6% Bush – 47.2% Clinton – 49.8% Bush – 65.5% Obama – 66.2%

    • Jim
      May 4, 2010

      Any new drilling will take at least 10 years before it can make any difference in the amount of foreign oil used. From what I’ve read, even if you open up new areas to drilling, it won’t make much difference in the amount of foreign oil used, it’s just not enough to make a big dent. Conservation is the most effective means of reducing our dependence. The oil industry is such that some of the oil produced here is sold to foreign countries, so even if we open up drilling there is no guarantee it will be used domestically.

      • Ken Towe
        May 5, 2010

        Jim… 1979 was THIRTY years ago. We should have been doing something at home. We are a country (a world economy) that moves from place to place on oil. In the near term our economy has to maintain its oil supply from someplace. When I left Duke there were less than 3 billion of us on the planet and CO2 was ~300 ppm. Today we are approaching 7 billion and CO2 is approaching 400 ppm. With the number of “feet” increasing annually a lowering of carbon footprints (conservation) is admirable but unlikely to make a “big dent”…a meaningful difference overall. Just the added heat from our collective “heat island” effects (irrespective of energy source) is rising. It is not a happy thought to look ahead. Walk baby, walk? But in North Carolina (and in Durham) where the average temperature is about equal to that of the planet it has not risen in 115 years. Keep driving?

        • Jim
          May 5, 2010

          The problem is our whole culture centers around the automobile. Until this changes efforts at conservation are almost meaningless. The problem with this, of course, is that it is so ingrained that it could take generations to change. There are many possible ways to tackle this, higher fuel taxes, more investement in mass transit, more centralized/urban growth, incentives for telecommuting, etc. None of it is easy, but eventually will probably be necessary since on the one hand we have limited resources, limited environment on this earth, and on the other hand we have more and more people all wanting their fair share. The longer we wait to change, the harder it will hit us in the future. Of course there is little political will for any of these changes, so it will probably hit us pretty hard down the road.

©2015 Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University | Box 90328 | Durham, NC 27708
how to contact us > | login to the site > | site disclaimers >

footer nav stuff