Movers and SHAKERS
Drilling Into Unexploited Areas Brings an Arduous Debate
On September 1, 2020, the Trump Administration revised regulations governing the oil and gas drilling across more than 190 million acres of U.S. forest land. The states most affected by increased drilling would be Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. The administration has hinted that it intends to push to open the door for drilling off the coasts of Florida and California if they win the November election. Drilling off the coasts of Florida and California has been banned since 1969 following an oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara. Earlier, on August 17, 2020, the administration announced plans to open 1.5 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas drilling. Environmentalists derided the decisions claiming drilling will disrupt and harm wildlife. The administration claims the impact will be minimal, and the steps taken are necessary to assure the nation’s energy dominance. Is opening this land to drilling minimal and necessary, or will allowing drilling be harmful to the environment and unnecessary?
Source: Department of Energy (DOE)
Arguments For (Opening Drilling is Necessary and Minimally Invasive)
The impact will be minimal. The area being opened in Alaska represents only 1.56 million acres out of a refuge that is 19.3 million acres. That is less than 1% of the property. A similar argument can be made for opening drilling off the coasts. A constitutional amendment bans oil drilling in state waters, meaning proposed drilling must be roughly 3 miles off the Atlantic coast and 10 miles into the gulf. That means any drilling rigs are unlikely to be visible from shore. As far as the National Forest System goes, only 2.7% of the 193 million acres are currently leased for drilling, and new rules are unlikely to change that percentage by much.
The moves will boost the economy and create energy jobs. The ANWR land sits on an estimated 7.7 to 11.8 billion barrels of oil. There are 3.6 billion barrels of oil below the Florida Coast and 10 billion barrels off the coast of California. Proponents say increased Alaskan production could generate $1.1 billion over the next decade, helping the Alaskan economy, which is dependent on the energy industry for one-third of its jobs. Opening U.S. Forest land could add 1,500 new wells. The federal government would receive 12.5 percent of the royalties from oil and gas sold from wells on U.S. Forest land.
Arguments Against (Opening Drilling Is Unnecessary and Harmful)
It does not take much to disrupt wildlife. Oil spills from tanker accidents or pipeline breaks can be devastating. The impact on plants and animals can last for decades. The noise and dust from road traffic needed to build and service power lines and drilling pads will disrupt animal migration patterns. Drilling requires large amounts of water, sometimes in areas of limited water supply.
Source: Wikipedia, Arctic Refuge drilling controversy
Drilling in these areas is not economical anyways. Technological advances in drilling in shale formations have meant that domestic energy companies can produce oil and gas at lower costs. Lower costs combined with decreased demand resulting from a renewable energy push have led the United States to become a net exporter of energy. The areas being opened to drilling are more costly to drill and do not have an existing infrastructure in place to move oil and gas to refineries or storage. Opening land to drilling is unlikely to create the economic boom forecasted by proponents in the foreseeable future.
Opening areas to drilling has become a hot topic. Opponents claim such moves will be disastrous to wildlife, while proponents say the moves simply address an overregulated environment. Most likely, the impact on either the environment or the economy will be muted, and the steps taken by the government will be largely symbolic.
https://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/energy/article/Trump-moves-to-open-up-drilling-in-national-15528688.php, James Osborne, Houston Chronicle, September 1, 2020
https://www.fool.com/investing/2020/08/17/trump-administration-to-approve-oil-drilling-in-al/, Mathew DiLallo, The Motley Fool, August 17, 2020
https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2017/12/06/arctic-national-wildlife-refuge-drilling-oil-impact-wildlife/, Sarah Fecht, State of the Planet, December 6, 2017
https://www.politico.com/news/2020/06/10/interior-drilling-florida-waters-november-election-310595, Ben Lefebvre, Politico, June 10, 2020
https://www.tampabay.com/news/environment/2020/08/29/oil-drilling-off-floridas-coast-looms-on-the-horizon-this-election-season/, Zachary T. Sampson, Tampa Bay Times, August 29, 2020
https://www.nrdc.org/experts/josh-axelrod/rule-speed-oil-drilling-national-forests-released, Joshua Axelrod & Samuel Eisenberg, NRDC, August 31, 2020
Suggested Readings:Eliminating the Con-Fusion