Offshore Drilling: Beating a Dead Horse


rying to take advantage of consumer unease over gasoline prices above $4 a gallon, Virginia Republicans are trying to reopen lease sales offshore the Old Dominion to oil companies.

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor are trying to reverse the Obama Administration’s decision to delay a lease sale off the Virginia coast until 2017 after a rig leased by BP, the British energy giant, exploded and released about 5 million barrels into the Gulf of Mexico. Oil was gushing into the bottom of the Gulf 5,000 feet down at a rate of 53,000 barrels per day for three months in this country’s worst environmental disaster.

McDonnell and Cantor want Congress to pass the Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act. McDonnell wants a second chance at his “vision” to make Virginia the “energy capital of the East Coast” (whatever that means). Initially, his big plans for such a vision, of course, were pretty much blown away with BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig.

For his second try, McDonnell has tapped the state’s conservative establishment, such as the Richmond Times-Dispatch which ran a McDonnell column promoting the bill on its op-ed page along with ordering up a front page story by Olympia Meola trumpeting the new charge.

Bob’s op-ed piece states: “We are simply too dependent on foreign sources of oil. More than half of the oil we use comes from imports. And many of those barrels come from countries that are not our allies.”

Well, let’s take that statement apart. As far as our enemies supplying us oil, the No. 1 exporter is Canada, which we all know views us with great disdain (probably jealousy). No 2. is Saudia Arabia, which may hate us but we let them rent our Army from time to time. No. 3 is Mexico, which probably hates us because of our Neanderthal immigration policies. No 4. is Nigeria, unstable but not an enemy. No 5 is Venezuela, Marxist president but they’ve been supplying us since about the 19th century. Following these are Angola, Iraq, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia, Algeria and Kuwait. Lot’s of enemies there!

Regarding the Deepwater Horizon blow out, McDonnell writes: “We know that lessons are being learned and that new safety standards are being put in place.”

Huh? It’s going to take a little longer than one year for the standards to be raised. “A year from now, and no one seems to have learned a lesson from the disaster,” writes Canadian newsmagazine Macleans. Are there blow-out preventers in place of the more sophisticated type that Norway and Brazil use for their deepwater rigs? No. Have there been plans to put in place to deploy wells to be drilled quickly and relieve pressure? Don’t know. Has the Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service, the regulator, been through a housecleaning? During the Bush Administration, the MMS was approving rigs left and right while some of its staffers were, literally, in bed with the oil companies.

The last fallacy of the McDonnell-Cantor idea is that even if a lease sale off of Virginia gets the OK, and if oil is found (no discovery yet), it won’t be until 2020 or later before oil will make any difference. It will not be a panacea for today’s higher oil prices, which are being driven by great demand from Asia, not hatred for America. By the time any oil might get to market, it could well go to those few, leftover cars that are still powered by the internal combustion engine. Plus, any number of economic movers in Virginia, from commercial fishing to the Navy, are against drilling.

A wiser choice would be for Virginia to drop the oil idea and pursue alternate energy ones. Car-makers in Detroit and Tokyo have already pushed electric batteries using better, higher tech batteries. There’s a big proposal for a wind farm off the Virginia to New Jersey coast backed by search engine Google. Why doesn’t McDonnell push conservation and electricity generation by smaller sources than big, base-loaded plants?

By beating this dead horse, McDonnell and Cantor are once again showing how firmly they are stuck in the past.

Peter Galuszka

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