After the Deepwater Horizon oil rig sank and leaked millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico in April, a memorandum was enacted that temporarily put a halt to deepwater gas and oil drilling.
The ban lasted until it was lifted Tuesday.
An especially delicate issue for residents in Florida and neighboring Gulf states, the ban’s end has generated controversy. However, it comes with stipulations that cleverly strike a careful balance between the economic interest and environmental responsibilities of the U.S. oil industry.
Deepwater Horizon spilled nearly 5 million barrels of oil, threatening the health of the Gulf region habitat and costing the lives of 11 men who were trying to make a living aboard the rig.
Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson told a congressional committee in June that oil companies are unprepared to handle another deepwater spill. However, as opponents of the ban have argued, an indefinite ban of U.S. deepwater drilling is not possible.
Not only are oil companies continually paying for the expensive cleanup effort, but the memorandum cost thousands of jobs for workers connected to the drilling industry.
New deepwater oil platforms will be built off the coast of Cuba in early 2011, closer to Florida than the Horizon spill. Mexico and other countries throughout the Caribbean and Central and South America will also continue their own deepwater oil endeavors.
Oil will be drilled in the Gulf and elsewhere. The U.S. and other nations must feed an oil addiction that sustains their citizens’ way of life.
Not drilling will only further America’s dependence on foreign oil.
The new rules issued by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, a recently created agency under the Department of the Interior, will not allow for the continuation of the same atmosphere that led to the precautionary failures and subsequent disaster.
Companies wishing to operate deepwater drilling platforms must now adhere to stricter guidelines for blowout preventers, well designs, emergency response and training and safety certification.
These changes appear to reflect a better understanding of the necessity to take oil spill prevention more seriously.
Until alternative sources of fuel are found to power the growing needs of an ever-industrializing world, the threat of devastating oil shortages and spills will remain.
It’s important for the U.S. to act pragmatically, despite a strong inclination to forbid all drilling in the Gulf.