Saturday, May 22, 2010

Drill! Drill! Drill!

Ah, the things we learn from a disaster. Estimates vary as to exactly how much oil BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig is pumping into the Gulf of Mexico. Initially, BP said none, then a thousand barrels a day, which the federal government then bumped up to 5,000 a day.

BP won’t allow any scientists to actually inspect the site, the Gulf having become BP’s proprietary body of water. However, scientists did get hold of a film clip of the spewing oil and estimated that at one time upwards of 70,000 barrels of oil a day was pouring into the Gulf.

Michael Klare has written extensively on oil, and he brings up a little noticed point about the Gulf disaster. The assumption has been that BP was sending its drill 13,500 feet beneath the surface of the Gulf in a frantic effort to decrease our dependence on foreign oil. After all, why be dependent on all those Mideast countries when we’ve got good old American crude just waiting for us below the Gulf. “Drill, drill, drill,” as Sarah is fond of saying and get that oil to the nearest gas station so America can keep driving as she always has.

This was not the case, according to Klare. He tells us, “There, is, however, some indication that the company was in an unseemly rush to complete the cementing of the Mississippi Canyon 252 well—a procedure that would cap it until the company was ready to undertake commercial extraction of the oil stored below. It could then have moved the rig rented from Transocean Ltd., at $500,000 per day, to another prospective drill site in search of yet more oil.” (Emphasis mine.)

As always, it gets down to the bottom line. Klare goes on to explain:

The major energy firms have their own compelling reasons for a growing involvement in the exploitation of extreme energy options. Each year, to prevent the value of their share from falling, these companies must replace the oil extracted from their existing reservoirs with new reserves.

The easy stuff is pretty much tied up by state-owned oil, which means that domestic companies like BP must go into for some high-risk drilling if they are to keep their balance sheet intact.

Though, speaking of a “domestic” oil company is a bit of a misnomer. The oil market is an international market, and any oil company, domestic or foreign, will sell oil to whoever offers the best price. So that oil pouring into the Gulf could have very well been used to power industrial plants in China or automobiles in India.

As it stands now, that oil’s not going anyplace except the Gulf Coast.


Anonymous said...

This point about how "dependence on foreign oil" is NOT reduced by domestic drilling needs to be made far and wide. Just today my Congressman wrote me repeating this ideologeme.

Case Wagenvoord said...

Of course, if our leaders admitted this, offshore drilling might lose its appeal.

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