An accident. That’s how billionaire investor Warren Buffett almost cavalierly described the ongoing oil spill caused by the recent destruction of the Deepwater Horizon.
An accident is what happens when a BP oil executive crashes his Jaguar on the way to the golf course. What is taking place in the Gulf of Mexico is a catastrophe.
Buffett was not really attempting to dismiss the impact of the spill, he was simply remarking on the fact that accidents or, in this case, catastrophes do happen. He is right about that. No matter how many safety precautions are in place and no matter how many redundancies are built into a system, things can and will go wrong. Just ask NASA.
Just as space exploration is fraught with great risks, so is deep water drilling. The question that must be answered is if the rewards are worth the peril.
For the United States, the answer is unfortunately yes. As an oil hungry nation, we are uncomfortably dependent on foreign governments to fulfill our needs. Over half the oil we use is imported and fluctuations in the price of this oil have resulted in major economic disruptions over the years.
With an increase in offshore drilling, our dependence on foreign sources is projected to decline over the next 20 years to the point where we only import 40 percent of our oil. That is still highly undesirable, but at least it is an improvement over our current state.
While much fuss is made regarding the recoverable oil available within our borders, the truth is that much of it would be very difficult and expensive to extract. Offshore drilling has provided a less expensive means to meet our energy needs and, for the most part, has been safe. Over 4,000 offshore platforms exist in U.S. waters. There has not been a catastrophic spill from one of these platforms since 1969.
However, like NASA, a stellar safety record means nothing when a failure results in loss of life and, in this case, environmental disaster.
The pictures coming out of the gulf are horrifying. Initial estimates by oil company officials and the Obama administration regarding the magnitude of the spill now appear to be grossly inaccurate. While scientists have long been skeptical of the 5,000 barrel a day estimate, recent underwater footage has confirmed fears that the well could be spewing more than 70,000 barrels of oil a day into the gulf.
Oil is washing ashore in several places and wetlands in Louisiana are already suffocating under a coating of oil. Large portions of the gulf are closed to fishing and the economic impact to coastal areas will be devastating.
While most would like to blame the oil companies or the government for this catastrophe, it is really a disaster of our own making. We, as a nation, have not put enough effort into conservation or the development of alternative fuel sources. As such, we are overly reliant on oil to drive our economy. Until a viable alternative fuel source is developed, there will be ever increasing pressure to tap new sources of black gold despite the potential environmental risk. Unfortunately, even alternative fuel sources have drawbacks – solar, wind and hydroelectric power cannot be used without some sort of environmental consequences.
While there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the coming months over offshore drilling and the regulation thereof, in the end it must continue. Weaning ourselves from oil will take decades if it is even possible at all. Until then, we must insist that all the technological abilities of the industry are dedicated to preventing any future catastrophes. Our insatiable need for oil created this problem and our continued need for oil will drive us to make oil extraction as safe as humanly possible.
Kristi Reed is a reporter for the Barrow Journal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Surely as Republicans Ms. Reed you must understand that we value money over the environment. It's the way we are. It's in our soul. Don't you ever listen to Rush Limbaugh? Who cares about an oil spill? In the end, BP will rebound and make trillions more. That's all - or oil- that matters.
Kristi, it is not a matter of Republican or Democrat. It is matter of we the people facing the reality that all natural resources are going to run out one day and go about preparing for that event now. I think it can be done and we should not leave such a problem for our children and future generations. Since my wife died and our family income was reduced significantly, I have had to cut back more and more on my gasoline consumption and other power usages in order to continue living a fairly comfortable lifestyle, which to me, has always been adaptable when circumstances mad it necessary to do. In the last couple of years I have reduced the amount I pay for gasoline by about 150.00 per month by just not going out when it is not necessary. Now I know the thought of doing that and just staying home
(Home Sweet Home) and leaving the rest of the world to its vices, would blow the average American's mind. But with that being said, I would venture to say that, by the average American just going ahead and blowing their own minds now, they will not have to have it blown for them by the government due to some natural disaster such as the Gulf oil spill. Now, in closing let me say this: If we don't drill offshore you can bet your boots the Chinese and Russians will, as China already is slant drilling into what we call our waters. And Russia is, I think, beginning to drill in Cuban waters just to show us that they will, whether we like it or not. So if anyone thinks this oil spill is just something to blame some entity of industry or government, I suggest to you that, we are our government and it's time for us to start conducting our business in a conservative way and stop our continuing actions of liberalism. Thank you Kristi. You have brought a breath of fresh air to journalism in Georgia.