Offshore Drilling: A Conundrum


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Offshore Oil Rig, Source:

It is hard to say whether or not we should continue to allow and promote offshore drilling, because it’s a complicated issue. On one hand, our renewable energy technology isn’t where we need it to be for that source of energy to be our primary source; and updates to the power grid would have to happen in order to deal with renewable energy. On the other hand, these offshore oil rigs can have a negative impact on the environment and wildlife, and extracting oil promotes the use of a source of fuel that will eventually run out. I think it would be wise to not allow any more offshore rigs to be built, divest in oil, and start to reinvest money that would have been used for oil into renewable energy.

Examples of Offshore Oil Rigs, Source: UAF

Offshore oil rigs come in a variety of structures, but the riskier ones are the floating production system. They are dangerous not only because of the potential for oil leaks during transportation, but also because of hurricanes. From about August through November, hurricanes go through the Gulf of Mexico. While oil rig companies make preparations for hurricanes, they cannot necessarily hurricane-proof offshore rigs; rigs can be damaged and leak oil as a result of hurricanes. The wildlife and environment are used to natural slow leaks of oil from the Earth’s crust, but are unable to handle a large amount in one time event. The BP oil spill in 2010, not caused by a hurricane, is an example of how wildlife and the environment are affected by a massive oil spill. This 2010 oil spill produced wildlife casualties, but luckily when a spill occurs, there are crews ready to deal with the clean up of both wildlife and the environment. Tri-State Bird Rescue was the lead responder on the BP 2010 oil spill, and while data is not yet available due to legal issues, it’s safe to say that without these oil spill responders, the devastation on wildlife could have been greater.

If we divest in oil and reinvest money into renewable energy, part of that investment could be made into the power grid. The power grid needs updating if we are to start relying more heavily on renewable energy. Along with not building anymore offshore oil rigs, there is the issue of abandoned oil rigs and not knowing exactly what sort of impact they will have on the environment. There are already 27,000 abandoned oil rigs and wells in the Gulf of Mexico, with some dating back to the 1940s, that need to be dealt with. These rigs were built with materials that may not be suitable to withstand a long-term marine environment, and they can (and do according to this news article) leak. That’s more oil and materials going into the ocean that is already taking a huge hit from anthropogenic pollution. As a species, we need to take responsibility for the impact we have on the environment and lessen it whenever possible.


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