Story of the Week: U.S. Offshore Drilling – Roll Back of Ban (Part I)

Happy new year, folks!  I had a great time celebrating Christmas and New Year’s with family and friends up in MN and hope you had a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday.

Today I am starting a new weekly post that will highlight a “Story of the Week” from the news (anything is game).  I will try to add some context that goes beyond the headline and discuss my take, while choosing stories that could have been missed in our day-to-day dizzying nonstop news cycle.  This week, the focus is: Offshore Drilling.

CNN Headline: Trump admin intends to roll back ban on offshore drilling
Politico Headline: Trump aims to open California, Florida, Atlantic waters for oil drilling
Fox News Headline: Trump administration dramatically expands offshore drilling

Historical Context: On December 20, 2016, then-President Obama invoked a 1953 law blocking new offshore drilling in areas of the Atlantic Ocean and Arctic Ocean.  By “indefinitely” blocking drilling in those areas, Obama handed environmentalists and politicians on both sides of the aisle, a victory.  From a political standpoint, states such as Florida depend heavily on coastal tourism and support restrictions on offshore drilling; the risk of an accident such as Deepwater Horizon occurring offshore could be detrimental to local economies.  An interesting side note: the 1953 law that President Obama invoked in the last days of his presidency does not include a provision that allows later presidents to reverse his action (making a reversal challenging… as thought a year ago anyway).

The Story:  On Thursday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, announced that drilling bans would be rolled-back.  He noted that drilling opportunities were already identified that could raise $15B in new federal lease revenue.  Zinke announced the 5-year plan stating, “certainly states and local communities have a voice” in this process and that this policy will strengthen America’s energy independence.

Connecting Another Story – USA Today (12/28/17): President Trump to roll back Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling regulations.

Here’s the regulatory relief that is possible, per the publication:

“…changes include easing rules that require the streaming of real-time data of oil production operations to facilities onshore, which allows regulators to see what is going on.”

“Another rule that would be removed requires third-party inspectors of equipment, such as the blowout preventer…”

“Another example includes alterations to the “well-control rule,” one of the signature regulations that was implemented by the Obama administration after years of review following BP’s oil spill. The well-control rule required the use of certain safety equipment and operations intended to reduce the risk of another disaster.”

Mike’s Take:  I would like to start with a question: “What?”

This news is incredibly frustrating.  Not only are regulations that make oil drilling safer being rolled back, but so are protections on wide areas of our coastal waters as drilling is expanded.  All of this in the name of “energy independence”.  Certainly, I understand the economic fundamentals of supply and demand, and the need for a balanced national energy policy that embraces both renewable and fossil fuels, in the short term.  What is missing from this administration and these decisions is that “balance” and a focus on reducing our fossil fuel dependence.  Expanding renewable energy would lead to permanent energy independence over time (and of course a cleaner environment, too).  Talk about an investment in our future!

Sure, you can try as hard as you want to drill the earth bare of every natural resource, but there is only so much digging you can do.  To what end and at what cost?  I am shaking my head in disbelief.

Note: Because I wanted to focus on these two stories in the news, I deliberately (only) scratched the surface on the larger topics of global warming and environmental protection.