Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Drill, Baby Drill..........Or Not

With the disastrous BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, possibly brought to you by Halliburton, turning out to be worse than we thought, the idea of expanding even more offshore oil drilling (aka "Drill, Baby, Drill!") has come under fire recently. For example, lax oversight by U.S. regulators with improper ties to the oil industry has been shown in a new, rather disturbing report to be a problem with such drilling in general.  Numerous violations have been noted between 2000 and 2008, when many of the rigs were constructed and maintained, and was likely a contributing factor to the disaster.  We all know whose administration was in power at that time, but it is very likely that similar violations also occurred before and after those years as well.

Should we abandon offshore drilling altogether, or at least not expand it?  Probably not.  If we don't get it, you know China will--do we really want that?  While we need to end our addiction to oil and transition to renewable energy in the long term, we still need oil in the short and medium term.  Crazy as it sounds, we simply cannot complete the transition to sustainability without it.  And the withdrawal syndrome would be nothing short of fatal for millions of people.  Unfortunately, nearly two-thirds of the gasoline in our tanks is made from foreign oil, with the lion's share of that from the Middle East, including rather hostile regimes that often fund terrorism.  Wars are fought over it.  We might as well be filling up our gas tanks with the blood of innocent civilians.  And coal is inherently filthy--there is no such thing as "clean coal," at least not when it is burned directly like we do now.  So we need more practical solutions.

We need to engage in enhanced oil recovery and continue oil exploration on our own soil, both conventional and non-conventional.  We need proper oversight on all aspects of the oil and coal industries from the government, after throwing out all the crooks.  But we must not lose sight of the fact that even with that, oil is both dirty and finite.  In parallel, we must also greatly expand renewable energy and even (gasp!) nuclear power, and push for better conservation as well.  And a properly implemented carbon tax would do exactly that.

The time for dithering over our oil addiction is over.  Starting right now.

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