News / USA

US Deepwater Oil Industry at Risk from Gulf Disaster

The catastrophic oil leak from a BP-operated rig off the coast of the U.S. state of Louisiana and the Obama administration's six-month moratorium on further deepwater drilling threaten one of the nation's most vital industries. Oil and gas operations in the Gulf of Mexico have become an important source of jobs as well as energy for the United States.

Officials in Texas, Louisiana and other states on the Gulf of Mexico say the moratorium on new drilling in deepwater could put thousands of people out of work and prompt companies to move their expensive rigs to other parts of the world where they are in demand.  President Obama last week said he would lift the moratorium sooner if the commission examining safety issues can complete its work sooner.

Thousands of energy sector layoffs could devastate Gulf state economies dependent on the industry for much of their income and growth.  But the rest of the nation would also feel the impact if there is a dramatic decrease in oil production in the Gulf.

Despite the current crisis, Tyler Priest, an energy sector historian at the University of Houston, says the United States will have to keep drilling there or import more oil from other nations.

"It is understandable that people now are very nervous about offshore oil when they can see the huge impact that something like this has and is going to have," he said. "But, on the other hand, we need oil from offshore.  The Gulf of Mexico accounts for 30 percent of our domestic oil production."

Priest says energy companies started working on rigs offshore as early as 1938, but that underwater drilling expanded rapidly after World War II as resources became harder to find elsewhere.  The oil fields tapped in deepwater operations have also proved to be very lucrative, he says.

"The productivity of deepwater reservoirs is incredibly high," Priest said.  "[They are] very prolific wells: so you can get from a single well 20, 30, even 40,000 barrels a day, whereas onshore or in shallower water a good well would produce 1,000 to 3,000 barrels a day."

There has not been a significant accident at a deepwater operation in the Gulf of Mexico for more than 30 years, but Tyler Priest says the magnitude of the current one is likely to result in increased scrutiny and regulation.  The problem he says government will face is finding inspectors and regulatory officials with enough training and experience to properly carry out the assignment.

"They do have their work cut out for them because this is probably the most sophisticated industry on earth today," he said.

But Priest says government and industry will have to address the problems associated with exploiting resources in such risky environments.  The University of Houston professor says the current crisis should prompt a serious discussion of energy development.

"One thing this disaster will do is force us into a debate and a conversation and maybe those will lead us to the formulation of a national energy policy or national energy strategy," he said.

Among the possible solutions ahead, Tyler Priest says, would be conversion of freight transportation vehicles to natural gas, which has now become abundant in the United States thanks to advances in drilling techniques.  But any such move would take many years to complete and, in the meantime, he says, the country will still need oil.

You May Like

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs