Post Drills Holes in Arguments Against Offshore Oil

    It’s not often that you can point to The Washington Post as the voice of reason, but the paper has its moments. One such was the August 12 oil drilling editorial that debunks three major “‘truths’ masquerading as fact” about offshore drilling.


     The piece, headlined “Snake Oil,” showed how groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council misrepresent the reality of offshore drilling by downplaying the amount of oil, claiming existing leases are going unused and maximizing the “danger.” The NRDC, a $75-million liberal environmental group, had taken out ads in the Post and other papers detailing its opposition to drilling.


     While the editorial argued against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) because it “should be preserved,” the Post went on to explain why drilling offshore makes sense.


     “The NRDC's arguments above neatly encapsulate the position taken by environmentalists and other opponents of offshore drilling,” wrote the editorial.


     So here are the three arguments the Post neatly dissects:


·        Drilling is pointless because the United States has only 3 percent of the world's oil reserves.

·        The oil companies aren't using the leases they already have.

·        Drilling is environmentally dangerous.


     Reality, even the Post’s reality, is far different.


     The paper explained how the estimates of 18 billion barrels of oil offshore are based on old measurements. Data from the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service (MMS) are out of date. In a similar situation, the Post wrote, the department estimated 9 billion barrels were beneath the Gulf of Mexico. “By 2006, after major advances in seismic technology and deepwater drilling techniques, the MMS resource estimate for that area had ballooned to 45 billion barrels.”


     That’s a 400-percent increase. A similar rise would mean 90 billion barrels of oil are offshore.


     The Post also disregarded the claim that oil companies don’t use the leases they now own. “The notion that oil companies are just sitting on oil leases is a myth. With oil prices still above $100 a barrel, that charge never made sense,” the paper wrote.


     To tackle the claim that drilling offshore is bad for the environment, the Post went back to the MMS. “According to the MMS, between 1993 and 2007, there were 651 spills of all sizes at OCS facilities (in federal waters three miles or more offshore) that released 47,800 barrels of oil. With 7.5 billion barrels of oil produced in that time, that equates to 1 barrel of oil spilled per 156,900 barrels produced.”


     “Besides,” went the editorial, “if it is acceptable to drill in the Caspian Sea and in developing countries such as Nigeria where environmental concerns are equally important, it's hard to explain why the United States should rule out drilling off its own coasts.”