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Offshore Drilling

03 Aug 2016Science and Technology Essays

Fossil fuels, which include oil, coal and natural gas, are nonrenewable sources of energy (California Energy Commission). These came from diatoms, creatures like planktons, that died billions of years ago and their bodies were buried under heavy sedimentation throughout time (California Energy Commission). Somehow, these creatures were preserved by nature with their energies intact, and gradually they became what we now call fossil fuels (California Energy Commission). The fossil fuel, oil, is considered to be one of the most needed products in the world.

In the United States alone, oil consumption reached 20,680,000 barrels daily in 2007 (Petroleum Basic Statistics).  One oil barrel is equivalent to 158.9872 liters and each barrel is now priced in the world market as $106.23 (Williams). This is no surprise as to the fossil fuel in its oil form serves many purposes in various industries not only in the country but around the globe as well. Oil can be seen inside the house from appliances to cosmetic products, plastic containers to candles (Paleontological Research Institution). Oil, through refining, makes very good synthetic fibers that usually end up in our curtains and carpets (Paleontological Research Institution). Oil can be used to make detergents, synthetic shoes, rubber, some drugs, pen ink, bandages, paint, and fertilizers (Paleontological Research Institution). Apparently, not even half of the oil used for these household and industrial items can measure up to the utilization of oil in terms of petroleum consumption. The increasing demand in the country and the increasing world market price encouraged the president to reconsider offshore drilling.

Despite the disturbing price escalation in the world market of a product that we humans cannot exist without, namely oil, offshore drilling shouldn’t be the choice. Not only will engaging in this kind of activity bring harm to our environment, with the possibility of oil spills and grave disturbances to the marine life, but this will not bring about lower oil prices as predicted.

Offshore drilling is a process which involves the utilization of certain machines that enable them to “dig” into offshore lands, usually found in the middle of big bodies of water (Freudenrich). But it’s not the only requirement needed to operate gigantic oil rigs, finding oil, preparing to dig, the process of drilling itself, and then they will test for oil and extract afterward (Freudenrich). The monetary amount needed to finance an offshore drilling project or business is estimated to cost $500,000 to $550,000 a day, for renting the oil rig alone (Philips). The huge amount of financing needed is the start of a string of questions directed towards the president for even thinking of uplifting the ban on this industry. It’s not only the monetary issue; the time allotted for this drilling is not in terms of months. Offshore drilling is not really going to help the crisis at hand because it's going to take years before oil is actually dug out of the outer continental shelf ,which is anticipated to happen in 2017 (Horton). Also, because the country does not have as much oil supply as the middle east countries do, its contribution to the global market will only be around 0.2 million barrels per day, compared to world production of 82.5 billion barrels per day (Horton).

Monetary and time issues are one thing, but putting the environment at risk is the bigger picture, and combined, there is really no other explanation why offshore drilling should never take place. Creating oil rigs in the middle of the ocean entails a lot of digging and in the process, the natural habitat of the sea creatures are disturbed. Erosion, destruction of kelp beds, reefs, and coastal wetlands are among the consequences of digging (Rainforest Action Network). Locating oil deposits employ the use of a seismic tester, which creates decibel levels of 260, which can cause disorientation, beaching, and brain hemorrhaging in whales and dolphins (Offshore Drilling – It’s NOT the Answer to High Gas Prices at the Pump). It is not only oil that is released through all the digging and drilling, contaminants such as mercury lead, cadmium and radioactive substances such as radium are also released (Offshore Drilling – It’s NOT the Answer to High Gas Prices at the Pump). Pollution from oil rigs can cause health and reproductive problems for marine creatures and the threat of oil spills is always a possibility (Rainforest Action Network). In fact, oil spills have the worst, devastating effect on the environment. When animals ingest oil, it can cause death and other grave physiologic effects on the body (Marine Environment Protection). The pollution offshore drilling contributes can leave over 90,000 metric tons of drilling fluid and metal cuttings into the ocean, 50 to 100 wells can dump 25,000 pounds of toxic metals, and strong carcinogens like toluene, benzene, and xylene into the ocean, and pollute the air equivalent to 7,000 cars driving 50 miles a day (Rainforest Action Network).

Offshore drilling is not the answer to increasing oil prices and uncontrollable demands. Fossil fuels are not renewable and if things are going to look as devastating as they are right now, researching and developing renewable sources of energy will save money and not endanger the environment. Conserving energy and cutting back consumption is always an option that people can do to help in lieu of this problem. There are numerous suggestions made by conservative groups and environmentalists on how to cut back energy consumption that can be found on the internet. Some suggestions range from simply purchasing appliances that are lower in watts consumption, or walking to a destination instead of driving, or by simply not forgetting to switch off the lights when not in use to utilizing Energy Star computers or remodeling the house in such a way that majority of the walls are transparent glasses letting the light in during the day. 

These saving tips lie in the energy consumer’s willpower to control energy usage. However, since we need a solution that can be used in the long run, these saving tips cannot prevent energy depletion from occurring. The energy debate will only end if a real, practical, and tangible solution is presented.

Environmentalists are now putting forward various solutions to the energy crisis being experienced today. According to Greenpeace USA, tapping into renewable energy sources is the plausible solution to this dilemma (Offshore Drilling – It’s NOT the Answer to High Gas Prices at the Pump). There are five current renewable energy sources being promoted and developed by the Energy Information Administration of the United States of America (Renewable Energy). Biomass, Hydropower, Geothermal, Wind, and Solar power are the renewable energy sources that are most often used in the world today (Renewable Energy). 

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