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Commentary

Offshore oil drilling is still necessary

Marketplace Staff May 12, 2010
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Commentary

Offshore oil drilling is still necessary

Marketplace Staff May 12, 2010
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TEXT OF COMMENTARY

Kai Ryssdal: BP’s going to try again tomorrow to get a containment dome down to the bottom of the Gulf Mexico. A company official said today it could be in place — and trapping oil — by Friday if everything works out all right. On Capitol Hill meanwhile, congressional committees are still trying to work their way through all the mutual finger pointing that BP and its drilling partners are doing.

Commentator David Frum says it’s time for the oil industry to fix what went wrong and then get back to work.


David Frum: It hasn’t been the greatest couple of weeks for the offshore oil drilling industry. The next few months will be even worse: congressional investigations, huge clean up costs, new regulations.

The offshore industry must change. One critic of the industry compares the big oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island. Three Mile Island forced the nuclear industry to adopt zero-tolerance standards for accident and mistake. The drilling industry must now accept the same zero standard.

But the rest of us are also going to have to accept this: Offshore drilling remains as necessary as ever to America’s energy security.

In 1970, the lower 48 states produced almost 10 million barrels of oil per day. Today, the lower 48 produce a little more than 3 million barrels of oil.

It’s Alaska and offshore oil that sustain the United States as an important oil producer. And as oil production in the lower 48 continues to fade, the United States will depend on Alaskan and offshore oil more and more. The Energy Information Agency estimates that offshore oil production alone is on track to overtake lower 48 land production by the 2020s.

Without offshore oil, the United States will soon end its days as a major oil power.

Americans cannot accept the end of United States oil production. Already too much of America’s oil — too much of the world’s oil — comes from dangerous sources. Some say we cannot drill our way out of the problem. OK. But we cannot import our way out of it either.

Agreed, conservation and innovation can reduce demand for oil. We’ve seen it happen before: After the oil shocks of the 1970s, Americans cut their oil use sharply — not until 1996 did American oil use again catch up to its level of 1978.

But oil use will not fall to zero any time soon. And so long as Americans use oil, they should want to produce as much as they can: from land and from sea.

Ryssdal: Commentator David Frum is the edtor of “FrumForum.”

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