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The Risks of Drilling Off Virginia’s Coast

Waldo Jaquith has a good piece illustrating the risks that Virginia is undertaking by pursuing off-shore oil drilling.  Like me, I don’t think he’s anti-drilling in general.  It’s just that it doesn’t make any sense for Virginia when you compare the risks – oil spills, threat to tourism, etc. –  against the relatively small benefits of the oil royalties (which aren’t even assured, remember).   Virginia’s off-shore drilling is primarily a political slogan, and not a choice born of a policy-driven debate.  That should be remembered in the face of the risk of the very real costs it could impose.


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  1. tx2vadem

    Spills of this magnitude are rare. The most common occurrences, recently, are caused by hurricanes. So, in terms of weighing risk, you have to take into account probability.

    We also don’t have a good idea of what is off Virginia’s coast. It could mostly be natural gas. In which case, this incident in the gulf would not be a worry.

    We do, however, need supply. Now it may be small, but really every last drop helps. The problem we face is our own growth and emerging economies’ growth. That is going to put a lot of pressure on finite supplies of everything, oil just one of those things.

  2. No, I don’t think I’m anti-drilling in general. I’m a realist on energy. I’m really enthusiastic about renewable energy, I’m bullish on nuclear, but I’d like to get us off of reliance on middle eastern oil ASAP, and that means drilling domestically. The ocean, in general, seems like a truly awful place to drill for oil. I appreciate there’s a lot of it there, but the risk is just too great. A spill in west Texas is a mess. A spill in the Chesapeake is a disaster.

  3. tx2vadem

    What constitutes too great?

  4. Warren

    At the very least, exploration should be started, so we can have some idea just what we’re talking about.

  5. MB

    That sounds reasonable to me, Warren, but I don’t know enough about the differences between exploration and extraction drilling. I suspect that tx could give us a short lesson, though, or point us in the right direction.

    For everyone else, do click through on the link above for the follow up conversation between Waldo and tx.

  6. tx2vadem

    It’s very expensive to do offshore exploration. Once we get to the point of drilling an exploratory well, we are near production. But for anyone to start the process, there has to be an economic payoff at the end. So, if you don’t want production, you don’t get exploration either. It’s a package deal.

  7. We need more nuclear power, and to get off all coal and oil from the middle east. Renewables (wind, solar, hydro, etc) need to be included, but they cannot satiate our demands for energy without nuclear and domestic oil/gas.

    Conservation needs to be encouraged, by market forces (drastically increased prices for oil, gas, electricity, etc) – and again, it cannot answer the whole problem; but can help enormously.

    The only thing we have in staggering, plentiful supply is people. We need to harness the energy of people more effectively.

    Containment of spills in a fluid environment is staggeringly difficult; so off-shore drilling needs to be curtailed and kept to a minimum.

    Let’s keep things in perspective though, as staggeringly bad as this spill will be in the Gulf of Mexico, it is nothing compared to the constant daily damage accumulated by hundreds of coal fired power plants spread all across our country and China.

  8. MB

    So what you’re calling for is more Soylent Green, Scott?

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