Friday, July 25, 2008

OCS Crude Oil Exploration: Economic Bottom Line versus the Environment?

As our wildly swinging global crude oil prices finally retreats back to a somewhat manageable level, shouldn’t we be moving away from our crude oil incumbent industry and commerce instead of looking for more illusory “cheap oil”?

By: Vanessa Uy

A few years after Al Gore’s “environmental shocker” called An Inconvenient Truth finally convinced governments around the world to take the issue of global warming caused by industrially created greenhouse gasses much more seriously, the “Industrial West” is still a few decades away from being weaned from crude oil “addiction”. Sadder still, the current Bush Administration has initiated the process to repeal the executive domestic crude oil exploration ban established by then president George Bush, Senior.

This domestic crude oil exploration ban which specifically sites the Outer Continental Shelf or OCS regions in United States’ sovereign territory was initiated in part due to the overwhelming disdain of Americans back in 1989 of the negative impact of the petroleum industry on the environment. Add to that the Exxon Valdez oil tanker disaster, thus making patriotism indistinguishable from environmentalism during that time. Plus – as a politician – then president George Bush, Senior was very desperate to distance himself from the inane statements of his predecessor Ronald Reagan who said that trees are more polluting than automobiles. Despite of Bush Senior’s attempt to appease the growing American environmental fervor, he wasn’t elected for a second term in office.

Fast forward almost twenty - or so years later, current incumbent president George W. Bush has set to put into motion plans to repeal what his father had legislated with regards to the US domestic oil exploration ban, especially on American Outer Continental Shelf or OCS regions. The question now is, Is this a logical – even attainable – solution to America and the rest of the world’s problem of high crude oil prices? Never mind the ensuing future environmental consequences of the Industrial West’s Quixotic quest for a cheap and abundant source of crude oil.

Famed theoretical physicist and science documentary consultant Michio Kaku states that in order to maintain our current crude oil demand, an oil field of similar yield to that found on Saudi Arabia must be discovered and developed every ten years. Add to that the realistic assessment of petroleum company insiders citing that a viable crude oil field, once found, usually takes 5 to 10 years to develop into a commercially viable crude oil producing facility. Sadder still the 5 - to -10 year figure are somewhat optimistic at best. Which now begs into question whether petroleum companies who advertise on major news media outlets like the BBC or CNN really are telling the truth by stating that they are currently working alternatives to replace crude oil. When the truth is that they must spend their time eternally searching for crude oil just to keep their company running.

The current petroleum lobbyist controlled Bush Administration probably sees the repeal of the executive ban on oil exploration as a godsend because the Outer Continental Shelves in the US are usually located 50 to 200 miles off shore which can be somewhat hard to be picketed by environmental protestors. Except maybe by dinghy-equipped adventurous Greenpeace activists. Which for all intents and purposes is an environmental activism made out of sight and out of mind by sheer luck of the crude oil conglomerates’ latest praxis on greed. But the question now is, will every citizen of planet Earth be willing just to stand by as the insatiable greed for crude oil continues to compromise our planet’s ecosystem?

The issue of the US Government repealing the ban on domestic crude oil exploration is by no means just an issue that affects inhabitants of the North American continent. Nations bordering the Arctic Circle are setting their sites on the yet untapped crude oil fields found in there which was made more easily accessible due to the inexorable progress of global warming. Even though the Arctic Circle crude oil fields are estimated to only meet our current demands for just 3 years, the site has currently become too tempting to pass up despite of the environmentally sensitive nature of the area. USGS geologist David Gautier has stated on a July 25, 2008 interview on the BBC that crude oil exploration in the Arctic Circle region is a particularly risky exercise at best. This is so because of the United States Geological Survey’s lack of thorough understanding with regards to the environmental and geological dynamics of that region. Add to that the environmental impact studies that had yet to be undertaken in the Arctic Circle region, not just for crude oil exploration but also for mining concessions as well.

Given the environmental challenges, I wonder if it is high time for the Industrialized World to wean itself away from their crude oil incumbent systems for the sake of our environment. And also to end the needless deaths of our young men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice just to keep Halliburton and their ilk in business.

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