Editorial by NewsRoom America Editor, Peter Fowler
7 June, 2010 - If we were ever in doubt that the world is running out of oil and so-called Peak Oil has arrived then the BP oil disaster should put that to rest, and despite the horror unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico we should get used to the idea of deepwater oil drilling because that is what will keep our cars running for a bit longer.
Or should we get used to that idea?
The Deepwater Horizon oil rig and others like it are perhaps the best illustration so far that the days of drilling a hole in the ground in Texas, inserting a pipe and watching oil gush out are long gone.
The Peak Oil theory relies on common sense to suggest global oil reserves are non-renewable and will therefore eventually run out, with suggestions the supply has already peaked or is close to it and we are now on the down curve.
The flow of oil won't just suddenly stop however, because oil companies such as BP are using more extreme, risky and expensive methods to extract oil and meet the still growing demand, with the Deepwater Horizon being a prime example.
The gusher coming from thousands of feet below the Gulf of Mexico is one of the deepest oil wells dug in history.
Deepwater Horizon chief electronics technician, Mike Williams, who leapt for his life off the burning oil rig, said there was increased pressure to get the well into production after the first attempt to drill the deep water well failed.
Mr Williams told "60 Minutes" that a BP manager ordered a faster pace of drilling. "And he requested to the driller, 'Hey, let's bump it up. Let's bump it up.' And what he was talking about there is he's bumping up the rate of penetration. How fast the drill bit is going down," Williams said.
He said as a result of going faster the well split open and the drill got stuck, forcing the well to be abandoned and a new one to be dug which eventually exploded.
Mr Williams said the delay cost BP more than two weeks and millions of dollars. "We were informed of this during one of the safety meetings, that somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 million was lost in bottom hole assembly and 'mud.' And you always kind of knew that in the back of your mind when they start throwing these big numbers around that there was gonna be a push coming, you know? A push to pick up production and pick up the pace," Williams said.
Asked by 60 Minutes if there was pressure on the crew after the first well was abandoned, Mr Williams said, "There's always pressure, but yes, the pressure was increased."
Was it financial pressure that allegedly resulted in BP wanting to drill faster, in a company that reported billions of dollars in profits for the first three months of this year? Or was it the pressure of a dwindling oil supply and trying to keep up with an increasing world demand for oil, particularly in countries such as China and India?
In that sense we are all responsible for this oil spill, because we demand the oil they are forced to take these sorts of risks to get.
If BP is found to have been negligent in the deaths of the 11 Deepwater Horizon oil rig workers or negligent in its precautions to avoid catastrophic oil spill, then it should be severely punished. But we give companies such as BP and Exxon a license to be out there taking those risks every time we jump in our car or drink from a disposable plastic water bottle.
Calls to boycott BP ring hollow because it does nothing to resolve the underlying behaviours which led to this growing environmental catastrophe. Will the boycotters fill up at Exxon service stations instead, which is using the same company that owned the Deepwater Horizon to drill for oil deep below the ocean floor?
Sure boycotts are a way of punishing BP, a way of venting frustration and sending it a message, but it won't change the underlying circumstances we find ourselves in.
Oil industry experts agree that offshore drilling is the future of oil, because that's all that's left to get. The low hanging fruit is all gone, because why else would the oil industry be taking these sorts of risks at such great expense? Why else would President Obama agree to open up even more areas to offshore drilling.
If we stop deepwater drilling then it follows there will be less oil and the price will shoot even higher that what we are now paying to support this type of oil extraction, and the United States would be more dependent on oil from foreign nations.
We have all heard about Peak Oil, yet we treat it with all the urgency of going to the dentist. We put it off until the pain gets too much. But in the case of Peak Oil, the pain could be on a scale that has yet to be imagined.
Before we get on our high horses about how evil BP is we should consider that it was just doing our dirty work in the Gulf of Mexico, as it appears to struggle to keep up with our insatiable demand for oil which the planet is obviously rapidly running out of.
Instead of boycotting BP, maybe it is time to boycott oil.
(C) NewsRoom America 2010
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