Advantages & Disadvantages of Offshore Drilling

Written by derek dowell
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Advantages & Disadvantages of Offshore Drilling
Offshore drilling would create more oil industry jobs. (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

There may be more emotionally charged issues in American society than offshore drilling, but not many. Opinions exist on both sides of the heated argument and neither should be dismissed without consideration. An unbiased observer would see that the issue is difficult due to the legitimate advantages and disadvantages of either proposal. While environmentalists worry about ecological damage, other groups are vexed by the reliance on imported petroleum. The problem is not likely to be definitively resolved any time soon and will remain a political hot potato into the future.

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Replace Imports

Proponents of offshore drilling in the United States claim that it is critical to national security and the long-term economic health to reduce the reliance on oil imported from the Middle East and other countries. Sixty-two per cent of U.S. oil is imported, nearly 30 per cent of which comes from nations either unfriendly to the United States or politically unstable. Examples of these countries would be Venezuela, Nigeria and Iraq. Offshore drilling would help inoculate the American economy from events abroad.

Price Reduction

While no particular pump price reduction is guaranteed, offshore drilling could see a stabilisation and even decline of the price of gasoline to consumers. Much of this depends upon the actual size of the suspected oilfields and the difficulty or ease in reaching them. An increase in offshore drilling could also mean more jobs for America, which is never a bad thing.

Environmental Damage

You need only reflect upon the Exxon Valdez grounding in Alaska in 1989, when about 11 million gallons of crude oil spilt onto Prince William Sound, or the even larger 2010 explosion of BP's Gulf of Mexico rig, Deepwater Horizon, to see that technology failure can have a devastating effect on the natural environment. This is the primary disadvantage offshore drilling opponents point to in the discussion.

Exploration Costs

Another drawback to offshore drilling is that it is impossible to tell exactly how much oil is located in a field thousands of feet below the water surface and then thousands more below the submerged landscape. A company must build a rig at considerable expense, and create a possibly unnecessary environmental impact in reaching oil that might not be worth the effort, in which case they close down that rig and try again from a different location. The imprecise nature of oil prospecting can create a high cost of recovery, which will be passed by the oil company onto the consumer.

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