FLVS Marine Science Assignment – 7.03 Honors Resources in the Abyss

Offshore Drilling is Destroying Our Oceans. Why Aren’t We Stopping it?   


All over the world, oil companies like Shell, Exxon, British Petroleum, and many others are pumping oil out of the earth’s crust, using offshore oil platforms in our oceans. There are approximately 241 platforms or rigs in U.S. waters alone as of 2015, and thousands more worldwide. Offshore oil drilling is a practice that is used all over the world, to extract oil from the earth for global consumption. However, all this drilling, pumping, refining, and shipping of oil affects our marine ecosystems. Offshore drilling is dangerous for our planet’s delicate marine estuaries, and the marine environment as a whole. When we put the pros and cons of offshore drilling to the test, the cons far outweighed the pros.

Proponents of offshore drilling cite several reasons to justify drilling offshore. They say it provides us with an avenue of “self-reliance” or independence from the Middle Eastern oil monopoly. Another justification for offshore drilling is that offshore drilling “creates many jobs for people, who will then spend more money from their wages in the local community. . . ” Lastly, offshore drilling supposedly makes gas prices go down by adding extra oil to the world oil supply.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, Presidential and Congressional actions sanctioning drilling in areas previously closed to oil and gas drilling, “would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production … before 2030.” Furthermore, the U.S. DOE goes on to say that, “Because oil prices are determined on the international market … any impact on average wellhead prices is expected to be insignificant.” These statements indicate that offshore drilling will not lower energy costs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, or create millions of new jobs. We must act now to become less dependent on oil, and instead increase our supply of renewable and sustainable energy sources, with a lesser impact on the marine environment.

There are several important facts that prove that offshore oil drilling is hazardous for our marine environment. First of all the harsh offshore environments pose many engineering challenges to offshore drilling equipment, insuring that weak points in the equipment going from the ocean’s surface to the ocean floor are inevitable. In the case that a spill does occur, hundreds of miles of coastline estuaries, beaches and ocean are then left directly in harm’s way. For example during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita there were 125 spills from platforms, rigs, and pipelines on the ocean’s Outer Continental Shelf, releasing almost 685,000 gallons of petroleum products. Including the land-based infrastructure that supports offshore drilling, the damage from these two hurricanes totaled 595 spills releasing millions of gallons of oil. In addition to environmental damage from oil spills, the routine operations associated with offshore drilling produce many toxic wastes and other forms of pollution. For example, each drill well generates tens of thousands of gallons of waste in the form of drilling muds (materials used to lubricate drill bits and maintain pressure) and cuttings. An average oil and gas exploration well spews roughly 50 tons of nitrogen oxides, 13 tons of carbon monoxide, 6 tons of sulfur oxides, and 5 tons of volatile organic chemicals.

Consequently offshore drilling has proven to be detrimental to our marine environments all over the world. First and foremost, the environmental effects of offshore drilling are definitely unsafe, for our environment, and for our oceans well being. Offshore drilling also spews tons of carbon into our atmosphere unremittingly, and whether you believe in global warming or not, you know that pouring tons of carbon into our atmosphere cannot be good. Expanded offshore drilling poses the risk of oil spills ruining our beaches from Florida to Maine and along the Pacific Coast, bringing harm to those who live, work, and vacation along the coasts, as well as harming habitats critical to plants and animals. For instance contamination from the massive 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill reached shorelines nearly 600 miles away. That is the equivalent of an oil spill on the East Coast, reaching from Massachusetts to North Carolina. An oil spill of that magnitude would not only effect our entire east coast, but also the Atlantic Ocean.

All these devastating effects that offshore oil drilling have on our beautiful oceans are long lasting. They are not able to just be washed away, or cleaned up instantaneously. Scientists investigating the long-term impacts of the Exxon Valdez spill estimated that nearly 20,000 gallons of oil from that spill remain in Prince William Sound, 26 years later, continuing to harm threatened and endangered species, and undermine their recovery. The U.S. DOE’s research is conclusive. It is apparent that offshore drilling does not decrease gas prices, it does not create more jobs, and it does not enable us to be more “self-reliant” in the global oil economy. Finally not only are the claims in favor of offshore drilling false, but we can see that offshore drilling is fatal to our global marine environment. Any efforts made to stop offshore drilling, or at least make it safer, would have a positive effect on our marine environment, on a global level.



Natural Resources Defense Council: Domestic Oil Drilling; still not a solution to rising gas prices



Vision Launch: Pros and Cons of Offshore Drilling



National Resources Defense Council: Protecting Our Ocean and Coastal Economies: Avoid Unnecessary Risks from Offshore Drilling



Live Science: Why is Offshore Drilling so Dangerous? May 28, 2010



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