Current Energy Path Economically Unsustainable
In the latest indication rational thinking has turned upside down post-BP spill, former CEO Tony Hayward now counts among one of the 25 finalists for TIME magazine’s 2010 Person of the Year. Though, as TIME always says, the selection of the person of the year is not necessarily an accolade. It is significant why Hayward is even mentioned: the April 20th catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. The well was eventually capped with apparently little long-term environmental impact. However, what has happened since then is likely to be a far bigger disaster.
Responding to the leak of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, President Barack Obama issued an across the board moratorium on deepwater drilling. The Department of the Interior instituted their own de facto moratorium by halting the permitting process for shallow water operations, effectively shutting down domestic energy production in the Gulf. Five months and 20,000 jobs later, the president lifted his moratorium, only to have deepwater drilling fall under the Interior Department’s permitting freeze, continuing the bizarre ban.
Now, the White House has flip-flopped on their previous plans to open up portions of the Atlantic Coast and Eastern Gulf to offshore drilling. This decision will deny the country thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity. And why is all this destruction necessary?
Anti-drilling factions and renewable energy lobbyists have teamed up to portray the incident in the Gulf as an inevitable occurrence in a dangerous endeavor. Somehow oil production is bound to cause catastrophes. The facts, however, tell another story. Over 14,000 deepsea wells have been successfully drilled by companies that closely adhere to industry best practices. Deepwater operations support 50,000 US jobs and funnel billions in royalties, fees, and taxes to federal, state, and local governments annually.
One cannot impose summary punishment, because of the lapses of one company. In sharp contrast to other firms, BP has left a trail of destruction across U.S. in the last half decade. Since 2007, the company has earned 96% of all egregious, willful safety violations — meaning they knowingly failed to create a safe environment. In 2005, the repeated failures to address an ongoing overflow problem led to a refinery explosion in Texas City, Texas which killed 15 employees. In 2006, a pipe was neglected to the point of corrosion, and slowly spilled over 212,000 gallons of crude oil into Prudhoe Bay, Alaska out of a hole no bigger than a quarter.
One group visual tracks these and other fatal mishaps in an impactful timeline:
Click to enlarge
This picture may be worth more than a 1,000 words if it helps combat erroneous assumptions about the rest of the oil industry’s safety record and the deleterious policies justified by unfounded beliefs that all the petroleum industry is like BP.