Deepwater Oil Drilling by chenmeixiu


									    Deepwater Oil Drilling

           The Growth of the Deepwater Oil Drilling Industry
           Massive Oil Spill Complicates the Future of Deepwater Drilling
           BP Spill Highlights Risks of Deepwater Drilling, Critics Say
           Proponents Say Deepwater Drilling Is Necessary
           Is the End of the Oil Spill in Sight?
           Discussion Questions
           Bibliography
           Additional Sources
           Contact Information
           Key Words and Points
    The issue: Should deepwater oil drilling in U.S. waters be halted by the federal government, at least
    temporarily, in order to study whether it is safe? Or is deepwater drilling too important to the U.S.
    economy for the U.S. to stop it for any length of time?

              Critics of deepwater oil drilling say: The explosion of a deepwater oil drilling rig run by BP, and
        the ensuing oil spill that devastated the Gulf of Mexico, offer clear proof that deepwater oil drilling is an
        inherently dangerous practice with potentially disastrous consequences. At the very least, the federal
        government should intervene and temporarily halt new deepwater drilling, if not end it completely, until
        the practice can be fully evaluated.
              Supporters of deepwater oil drilling say: The deepwater oil drilling industry employs thousands of
        Americans; even a relatively brief moratorium could cause those jobs to disappear, as multinational
        drilling companies pack up and take their operations to more-drilling-friendly countries. Additionally, the
        U.S. remains heavily dependent on oil, and needs to produce as much as possible. Therefore, it does not
        make sense to deprive the U.S. of the millions of barrels of oil that can be obtained only by drilling in
        deep waters.

                                                                         AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard
    The Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns after the April 20, 2010, explosion that killed 11
workers and led to a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

On April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon, an exploratory drilling rig located in the Gulf of Mexico about 40
miles off the Louisiana coast, exploded. The blast, caused by a sudden surge of natural gas that somehow
ignited, killed 11 workers aboard the rig. Two days later, the rig sank into the water, causing severe damage
to a pipeline that extended from the rig through 5,000 feet of water and 13,000 feet of seafloor sediment, to
a natural oil reservoir within the Earth's crust. Immediately, oil began gushing from the damaged pipes into
the surrounding waters at a tremendous rate—up to 100,000 barrels a day, according to some estimates—
causing untold harm to the environment. Oil continued to pour out for at least three months after the blast.
"[T]his was not merely an ecological disaster," wrote Rolling Stone journalist Tim Dickinson. "It was the most
devastating assault on American soil since 9/11."
Built in 2001, Deepwater Horizon was owned by Transocean Ltd., a multinational offshore drilling
contractor that builds drilling rigs all over the world to be leased by energy companies. The company that
was leasing Deepwater Horizon when it exploded was the London-based multinational BP PLC, the world's
second-largest energy corporation. The blast at Deepwater Horizon and the subsequent oil spill infuriated
millions of people around the world who blamed BP for allowing the disaster to occur on its watch. The
company has faced intense scrutiny from the U.S. government, which is attempting to hold BP accountable
for its role in the oil spill.
The very practice of drilling in deep water has come into question as a result of the disaster. Although there
is no official definition of deepwater drilling, energy companies have been drilling for oil and natural gas in
ever deeper waters—as far as 30,000 feet below sea level—over the last 10 to 20 years. Deepwater
drilling is highly specialized and expensive, and because it is so new, some experts believe it is
extraordinarily risky—perhaps too risky to be permitted in U.S. waters.

Shortly after the BP disaster occurred, the administration of President Obama (D) issued a six-month
moratorium on new deepwater drilling projects and on production at 33 existing deepwater sites. However,
that moratorium was struck down by a federal court a few weeks later, and its legal status has yet to be
resolved. Government officials say that the moratorium is necessary to evaluate the potential dangers of
continued deepwater drilling. Supporters of deepwater drilling, however, argue that it is crucial to the gulf
economy and to the U.S. as a whole. Should deepwater drilling be allowed to continue?

Critics say that the risks involved in deepwater drilling are still largely unknown; a moratorium is necessary
in order to study those risks and ensure that a disaster along the lines of the BP oil spill will never happen
again. Opponents further note that oil companies are motivated more by profit than by safety, and cannot be
trusted to regulate themselves, which is exactly why a moratorium is so crucial. Other critics, meanwhile, say
that a moratorium will accomplish nothing—deepwater drilling is so dangerous and unnecessary that it
should be outlawed entirely.
Supporters, meanwhile, maintain that deepwater drilling has become an indispensable part of the U.S.
economy, particularly in the gulf states, where deepwater drilling rigs provide jobs for thousands of
Americans. Even a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling could cause those jobs to disappear
permanently, as the large multinational energy companies that run deepwater rigs will almost certainly take
those jobs overseas, proponents say. Additionally, they note that the U.S. cannot function without oil, and
that there are untold millions of barrels of extractable oil within deepwater reserves; it would be absurd not
to take advantage of that, they argue.

The Growth of the Deepwater Oil Drilling Industry

Americans have been drilling for oil in shallow coastal waters for more than a century. In 1896, the first
offshore oil drilling expedition began, just about one mile off the coast of Summerland, a tiny town in
California's Santa Barbara County. The Summerland oil field would quickly develop into one of the most
productive oil sources in the U.S. A little more than 50 years later, in 1947, oil production began in the Gulf
of Mexico, when an oil-drilling rig opened off the coast of Louisiana. Within a few years, oil companies
began moving rigs into shallow coastal waters in the gulf—especially the areas bordering Texas and
Louisiana, where the richest oil deposits were found. Offshore drilling became a booming business in the
U.S., and energy companies took full advantage of the newfound resources. [See Key Events in the History
of Deepwater Oil Drilling (sidebar)]
Some Americans, however, voiced their disapproval of offshore drilling, arguing that an oil spill in the water
could prove disastrous to the environment. In 1969, their fears were realized: A well in the Summerland oil
field cracked, causing an ecological disaster of unprecedented proportions, as an estimated 4 million gallons
of oil gushed into the Santa Barbara Channel. The oil spill had numerous consequences, including the
formation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Perhaps the most important effect of the
Summerland spill, however, was the birth of the environmental movement in the U.S., marked by the
creation of Earth Day, principally by Senator Gaylord Nelson (D, Wisconsin), in 1970. The oil spill caused
what was "almost a religious awakening to the importance of protecting the environment," said Harvey
Molotch, a sociology professor at New York University, in 2010. [See Offshore Oil Drilling; Issues and
Controversies in American History: National Environmental Policy Act of 1969]

In 1981, reacting to the burgeoning environmental movement, Congress imposed a partial ban on new
offshore drilling projects. The ban prohibited energy companies from obtaining federal leases to drill new
wells within 200 miles of the West and East coasts, as well as in the eastern portion of the Gulf of Mexico
and off the northern coast of Alaska. President George H. W. Bush (R, 1989–93) strengthened the ban via
an executive order in 1990 following the 1989 crash of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker off the coast of Alaska,
which spilled at least 11 million gallons of oil into the water.

That ban, however, did not apply to most of the Gulf of Mexico. Indeed, beginning in the 1980s, many
energy companies vastly increased their capacity for drilling for natural gas and oil in deeper and deeper
gulf waters. At the time the moratorium took effect, the deepest offshore drilling rig was capable of
plumbing roughly 5,000 feet of water. Today, the rigs can be set up in waters more than twice that depth,
and they can drill through 30,000 feet of earth to reach the oil.
The deepwater rigs themselves are mammoth and expensive structures: approximately 300 feet tall by 300
feet wide, deepwater rigs can cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build—not including maintenance costs
that can easily reach $1 million a day. Although they can weigh more than 30,000 tons, some of the rigs
intended for drilling in the deepest waters are buoyant enough to float, maintaining stability through the use
of thrusters and propellers. Deepwater rigs are designed to carry tens of thousands of feet of drilling
equipment and piping, as well as living quarters for as many as 175 employees. A number of rigs contain
amenities include creature comforts for those living on board—including gym facilities, movie theaters and
Internet cafés—but with employees putting in grueling 12-hour shifts each day, those perks are rarely used.
As one would expect, drilling for oil more than seven and a half miles below sea level is an enormously
complicated endeavor. In deep waters, the bottom of the ocean is pitch-black, and the water pressure is
strong enough to crack iron. The drilling apparatus must therefore be assembled slowly and painstakingly,
in 40-foot-long sections, by robotic underwater craft that are remotely operated by workers aboard the rig.
The challenge does not end when the drill is constructed, either; simply finding a suitable spot to drill is
extremely difficult. At their tip, the drills are just 18 inches in diameter. Striking an oil reservoir with a drill
pipe in deep water is analogous to "hitting a coin at the base of [a two-story building] with a strand of human
hair," says Robin Walker of WesternGeco, a company that collects seismic data for companies involved in
oil drilling.

Despite its high degree of difficulty, deepwater drilling has very rapidly become one of the primary methods
by which oil and natural gas are collected. Major energy companies such as Chevron Corp. and Royal Dutch
Shell PLC have established hundreds of deepwater drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico alone; in 2009,
80% of all oil produced in the gulf came from deepwater sites. Globally, about 10% of all oil production
stems from deepwater rigs; and drilling in deep waters is expected to increase by nearly 70% by 2015.

Deepwater drilling seemed to receive a significant boost in March 2010. That month, President Obama (D),
in an effort to reduce the U.S.'s dependence on foreign oil, proposed an end to the ban on offshore drilling
in many, but not all, of the areas that had been off limits. Obama proposed allowing energy companies to
obtain federal licenses to drill in the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico; in waters off the U.S.'s East Coast,
south of New Jersey; and in portions of the Arctic Ocean, off the northern coast of Alaska.
The proposal was criticized by environmental organizations, which noted that Obama had repeatedly
criticized offshore drilling during his presidential campaign. Some of Obama's critics also mentioned the
potential for a catastrophe if something were to go wrong at an offshore drilling site—especially a
deepwater rig. Obama, however, did not share their concerns. On April 2, he responded to that criticism: "It
turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don't cause spills," he said at a public event in Charlotte,
North Carolina. Eighteen days later, Deepwater Horizon exploded.

Massive Oil Spill Complicates the Future of Deepwater Drilling

In the days that followed the discovery of an oil leak at the Deepwater Horizon site, BP officials said they
were cautiously optimistic that any resulting oil spill would be "manageable." BP officials estimated that
roughly 1,000 barrels of oil were flowing into the Gulf of Mexico each day—a significant amount, but
controllable. (One barrel of oil is equivalent to 42 gallons.) However, it eventually became apparent that the
sheer volume of oil gushing into the gulf waters was much greater. By mid-June, at the apparent peak of the
disaster, BP officials adjusted their estimate to 35,000–60,000 barrels a day—the equivalent of five Exxon
Valdez spills roughly every three weeks. Some geophysicists, however, say they believe that as many as
100,000 barrels a day might have been gushing from the well.

                                                                         AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
In June 2010, Bay Jimmy in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, is contaminated with oil
from the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

All the oil spilling into the gulf has had an immensely negative impact on the environment. Scientists
estimate that thousands of animals—including fish, birds, turtles and dolphins—have been killed as a result
of the disaster. Roughly one-third of the gulf was declared off-limits to commercial fishing and shrimping,
and there are fears that the toxicity of the oil has degraded the waters there permanently. On land, viscous
blobs of oil known as tar balls began washing ashore in certain places by mid-May; by mid-June, the entire
coasts of Alabama and Mississippi—as well as significant portions of Florida, Louisiana and Texas—had
been affected by oil reaching land. Many beaches have been closed to swimmers in all of the gulf states.
BP has employed several different methods in its attempts to stanch the flow of oil. The company's primary
response has been the drilling of a pair of "relief wells" adjacent to the Deepwater Horizon site. The relief
wells were constructed to run parallel with the main well, around 2,800 feet away. At roughly 10,000 feet
below sea level, the relief wells veer diagonally toward the spot where the Deepwater Horizon well entered
the oil reservoir, some 18,000 feet below the surface of the water. When the three wells meet, BP will pump
heavy drilling "mud" to temporarily block the flow of the oil. Then, BP will pump cement down the relief wells
to seal the reservoir more permanently, a technique known as a "bottom kill." Construction of the wells
began on May 2, and by mid-July BP reported that their completion was imminent.

While those wells were being built, BP attempted several long-shot methods of halting the oil's flow. In late
May, BP initiated a "top kill," a method that calls for pumping heavy drilling mud, then cement, directly into
the leaky well. Around the same time, BP began stuffing the Deepwater Horizon oil pipe with debris,
including rubber balls, in order to clog up the works; that method is referred to as a "junk shot." Despite initial
optimism, however, both attempts failed. Meanwhile, BP has dispatched a fleet of 40 specially designed
ships to the area to contain and skim oil from the surface of the water. Chemical dispersants have also been
added to the gulf waters to break up the oil, making it less concentrated and, theoretically, less harmful. The
dispersants themselves are toxic, however, leading some environmentalists to question the efficacy of that

Indeed, BP has been criticized at nearly every turn of the disaster. The company, along with its chief
executive officer (CEO), Tony Hayward, has been the focus of many fierce protests around the world. (On
July 27, it was announced that Hayward would be replaced on October 1 by the American Robert Dudley,
the first non-British head of BP in the company's history.) Perhaps unsurprisingly, the bitterest anti-BP
invective has emanated from the gulf states, where millions of people are directly affected by the oil spill.
"My way of life is over," said Kindra Arnesen, the wife of a shrimper from Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana.
"They've destroyed everything I know and love."

In addition to the reams of negative publicity from the spill, BP has also suffered a significant financial toll. In
late July, the company announced it had set aside $32.2 billion to address the effects of the oil spill and
reported a record $17 billion loss for the second quarter of fiscal year 2010. Included in the $32.2 billion set
aside was a $20 billion escrow account that the U.S. government has forced BP to establish; that account
will fund all the damage claims that BP will have to pay to victims of the spill. Additionally, the company may
have to pay a fine of $4,300 per barrel spilled as a result of the federal Clean Water Act. Meanwhile, the
company's stock price has plummeted, and there has been widespread speculation that the oil spill may
cause BP to declare bankruptcy.

The federal government has opened several investigations into the catastrophe. Perhaps the most forceful
congressional critic of BP has been Representative Henry Waxman (D, California), the chairman of the
House Energy and Commerce Committee, which convened eight hearings to address the issue in May and
June alone. During those hearings, Waxman upbraided Hayward repeatedly for his role in the oil spill. (It
was at Waxman's insistence that BP began to broadcast via TV and the Internet a live video feed from the
bottom of the ocean, showing the gushing oil in real time.) The Energy and Commerce Committee's probe is
just one of at least nine investigations currently under way, including investigations by two other House
committees, one by BP itself, and an investigation by an independent commission created following an
executive order issued by Obama. [See BP Chief Tony Hayward Testifies Before the House Energy
Committee (sidebar)]

Many observers assign some of the blame for the disaster to the Obama administration for poor regulation
of the deepwater drilling industry. All applications for deepwater drilling must be filed with the Interior
Department's Minerals Management Service (MMS), an agency suspected of having been corrupted during
the administration of President George W. Bush (R, 2001–09). When Obama's appointee to head the
Interior Department, Ken Salazar, was confirmed, many Obama supporters expected Salazar to clean up
the MMS, but he took no firm action until the Deepwater Horizon spill, when he fired MMS Director Liz
Birnbaum and reorganized the office as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and
Enforcement. In fact, in March 2009, two months after Obama took office, BP had filed an application with
the MMS, asking for a federal permit to drill at the Deepwater Horizon site, and despite several senseless
responses to a number of questions on the application (such as BP's stated plan to save walruses, which do
not inhabit the region, in the Gulf of Mexico in the event of a spill), BP was granted a drilling permit. [See
BP Disaster Highlights Flaws in U.S. Drilling Regulation (sidebar)]

Obama himself has faced criticism for his response to the disaster. Some pundits have argued that he has
not seemed sufficiently angry in his reaction to the spill. Others, however, have criticized Obama for being
too forceful. In early May, the Obama administration announced a moratorium on all new drilling projects in
waters deeper than 500 feet, to last through the end of the month; the moratorium would also halt drilling at
33 existing deepwater sites in the Gulf of Mexico. On May 27, he extended that moratorium for the next six
months. Salazar said that the temporary ban was necessary to study deepwater drilling and ensure that it
can be done safely. Critics, meanwhile, claimed the moratorium would merely result in workers losing their
One company that argued that it would be especially adversely affected by the moratorium was Hornbeck
Offshore Services, a Louisiana-based company that ferries people and equipment to offshore drilling
sites. Hornbeck filed a lawsuit against the federal government, claiming that the six-month moratorium will
cause it to suffer huge financial losses. On June 22, a federal judge in New Orleans, Louisiana, agreed with
the company, striking down the Obama administration's moratorium. The judge, Martin Feldman, held that
the administration had acted "arbitrarily" in imposing the temporary ban. "The blanket moratorium…seems to
assume that because one rig failed and although no one yet fully knows why, all companies and rigs drilling
new wells over 500 feet also universally present an imminent danger," Feldman noted. The Obama
administration appealed the decision, but on July 8, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of
Appeals in New Orleans upheld Feldman's decision to strike down the moratorium.
On July 12, Salazar issued a revised moratorium, which allowed some deepwater drilling to continue.
Meanwhile, environmental activists continue to argue that deepwater drilling is an inherently dangerous
activity, and should be banned permanently. Supporters, however, contend that drilling in deep waters is
crucial in maintaining the high quality of life that Americans have come to expect.

BP Spill Highlights Risks of Deepwater Drilling, Critics Say

The disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has highlighted the fact that the risks presented by deepwater
drilling are not yet fully understood, critics of the practice say. Experts must take time to investigate exactly
why Deepwater Horizon exploded, and temporarily halting deepwater drilling is the best way to accomplish
that goal, critics insist. "Continuing to drill at these depths without knowing what happened does not make
any sense," said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, speaking on behalf of the Obama
Therefore, opponents say, a government-imposed moratorium is crucial to determining whether deepwater
drilling is safe in the first place. Because the potential consequences of unsafe deepwater drilling can be
so far-reaching—as the BP spill has shown—the federal government is well within its rights to temporarily,
and perhaps even permanently, limit the practice. "It's crystal-clear what the federal response to the [BP oil
spill] ought to be," said Senator Frank Lautenberg (D, New Jersey). "Bring [this] dangerous offshore drilling
pursuit to an end."
The government must intervene in the deepwater drilling industry because energy companies have proven
that they cannot be trusted to maintain safe working environments on deepwater rigs, critics charge. Like
most big corporations, energy companies care more about their profit margins than they do about the safety
of their workers and the environment—a fact that was driven home by the BP explosion, opponents argue.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee found that with its Deepwater Horizon venture, BP
"repeatedly chose risky procedures in order to reduce costs and save time and made minimal efforts to
contain the added risk." Representative Waxman, the chairman of the committee, was even more forceful
when he was directly addressing BP's Hayward at a hearing in June 2010: "BP cut corner after corner to
save a million dollars here and a few hours there. And now the whole Gulf Coast is paying the price."

Opponents have further criticized the courts that ruled against Obama's six-month moratorium on new
deepwater drilling expeditions. They say it was absurd for any court to have decided to allow energy
companies to continue doing business as usual in deep waters at a time when oil was gushing relentlessly
into the Gulf of Mexico. Opponents further note that Judge Feldman, who initially reversed the moratorium
on June 22, owned stock in at least one major oil company that engages in deepwater drilling (Exxon-Mobil
Corp.) at the time he agreed to hear the case. Critics maintain that there was a clear conflict of interest, and
that Feldman should have recused himself.
While many critics of deepwater drilling have argued that the practice should be halted temporarily to
ascertain its safety, other opponents contend that deepwater drilling is so obviously unsafe and harmful to
the environment that it should be outlawed completely. The irrationality of deepwater drilling, writes Slate's
William Saletan, is summed up by the fact that the wells are drilled so deep that humans must rely on
remote-controlled robots to maintain them. After a BP official compared the task of fixing the Deepwater
Horizon leaks to heart surgery, Saletan wrote:

[I]f this is heart surgery, the wound that made it necessary was inflicted by the surgeons themselves. BP
drilled the well. It did so knowing that its robots couldn't handle a blowout and its people couldn't get there. If
a surgeon did that—if he opened a hole he couldn't reach to stop the hemorrhage—he'd lose his license.

If anything, those opponents say, the Obama administration should push for a much tougher moratorium
than the one they have imposed. The most strident critics of deepwater drilling say that, even if the six-
month moratorium survived all legal challenges, it would have little effect; production would be shut down at
only 33 existing deepwater drilling sites, leaving the remaining 3,000 deepwater rigs fully operational.
Proponents Say Deepwater Drilling Is Necessary

Supporters of deepwater drilling assert that the practice is absolutely critical to ensure that Americans have
all the oil they need to maintain the high quality of life they have come to expect. Oil is by far the most
important source of power in the U.S., supporters note; without it, transportation, industrial food production
and countless other facets of modern life would grind to a halt. It simply makes good economic sense to
extract oil from all possible sources—and the quantity of oil buried in deepwater reservoirs is potentially
immense, supporters say. "Deepwater production is so important, the United States has no alternative to
continue exploration and raising [oil production] if the country is to have any real prospect of meeting
predicted energy needs at acceptable prices," writes John Kemp, a columnist for the news service Reuters.
[See Fuel Prices; National High School Debate Topic: Alternative Energy Incentives]
The emergence of the deepwater drilling industry over the past decade has been extremely beneficial for
the U.S., supporters maintain. For example, it has created tens of thousands of jobs for American workers—
jobs that will be threatened if Obama's six-month moratorium remains in place, proponents argue. "People
are being put out of jobs," said Carl Rosenblum, a lawyer representing Hornbeck Offshore Services. "Rigs
are leaving the gulf, and going to foreign waters."
Indeed, even though Rosenblum convinced Judge Feldman to strike down Obama's moratorium,
multinational oil companies could very well abandon American deepwater drilling sites for friendlier foreign
waters before drilling actually resumes, proponents suggest. On July 9, Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc., a
Texas-based multinational deepwater drilling contractor, became the first such company to pack up and
leave the gulf, taking thousands of jobs with it, supporters point out. With the status of the moratorium still up
in the air, many other companies may be prompted to leave the U.S., advocates assert. "Rigs won't wait idly
for six months; they'll move overseas to places like West Africa or Brazil," said Louisiana Governor Bobby
Jindal (R). The Obama administration must stop being so overtly hostile to deepwater drilling, supporters
say, and a good way to start would be to abandon its efforts to halt deepwater drilling. "The last thing we
need to do is to enact public policies that will destroy thousands of existing jobs while preventing the
creation of thousands more," Jindal said.
In fact, supporters maintain that the federal government should be actively encouraging more deepwater
drilling in U.S. waters. The U.S. needs to obtain oil from somewhere, they note; it is not as if the nation's
dependence on oil will end tomorrow. Therefore, supporters say, the U.S. has two options: Either draw more
oil from U.S. waters by encouraging more deepwater drilling, or buy oil from foreign countries. "In my mind,
there's no question that when we purchase oil and gas it is far better to buy from companies operating
domestically, directly supporting our people and our Treasury, as opposed to foreign governments," said
Paul Bommer, a senior lecturer in the Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering at the
University of Texas at Austin.
Proponents insist that deepwater drilling is still one of the safest ways to extract oil from the earth. The BP
oil disaster has been an especially well-publicized fluke in an industry that has an extremely strong safety
record on the whole, they claim. Banning deepwater drilling because of one incident—significant though it
may be—simply does not make sense, advocates say. "If some drilling equipment parts are flawed, is it
rational to say all are?" asked Feldman, the New Orleans judge who overturned Obama's moratorium. "Are
all airplanes a danger because one was?… That sort of thinking seems heavy-handed, and rather
overbearing," he continued. Additionally, supporters point out that the government has data showing that
deepwater drilling is actually much safer than drilling in shallow waters; in light of those findings, they ask,
should shallow water drilling be banned as well?

Additionally, proponents maintain that the negative environmental impact of the oil spill has been vastly
overstated. Because oil is a naturally produced substance, it "will break down in due course like any other
such hydrocarbon," writes Rob Lyons of the libertarian online magazine Spiked. "When the oil hits the
surface, much of it evaporates before it can do any serious harm, especially in the warm climes of the Gulf
of Mexico.… In fact, as much oil naturally leaks from the sea floor in the Gulf of Mexico every day as is
leaking from the damaged pipeline," Lyons continues.

Is the End of the Oil Spill in Sight?

On July 14, for the first time since the Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20, no oil leaked out of the
damaged pipe. After the temporary cap placed there in early June failed, the company tried again—this time
with a larger, more secure cap—about a month later, and the initial results were encouraging. After several
days of testing the cap to make sure it would hold up to the immense pressure of the oil flowing beneath it,
BP declared the cap a success, and closed all three valves necessary to fully stanch the flow of oil. As of
late July, the oil remained fully blocked, and BP officials, as well as President Obama, said they were
cautiously optimistic that the end of the oil spill was in sight. The next step was to implement the more
permanent "bottom kill" method; construction on the two relief wells is scheduled to end sometime in August.
However, the BP oil spill, like deepwater drilling itself, will likely remain a source of controversy. In mid-July,
the Obama administration issued a second six-month moratorium on new deepwater drilling projects;
additionally, the same 33 drilling sites are still barred from any activity. Administration officials say they are
bracing themselves for the legal challenge that will almost certainly follow. Furthermore, Obama has
promised to hold BP accountable for its role in the Deepwater Horizon explosion. On July 15, the day after
the oil stopped leaking for the first time since the explosion, Obama told reporters that "BP is going to be
paying for the damage that it's caused."

Discussion Questions

1) The BP oil disaster has caused widespread anger throughout the U.S. What are your own personal
reactions to the oil spill?
2) Do you think drilling for oil and natural gas in deep waters is a good idea? Explain your reasoning.
3) The Obama administration has been trying to impose a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling.
What do you think such a moratorium will accomplish? Do you support or oppose a moratorium, and why?
4) Think about the role that oil plays in your life. With that in mind, do you think expanding deepwater
drilling projects is the U.S. is necessary? Why or why not?

5) Imagine you are the U.S. president. Write a brief speech to deliver to the nation, in which you describe
your response to the BP oil disaster and outline your plan to address the issue of deepwater drilling. Form
small groups for you and your classmates to share and discuss your speeches. What did they have in
common? What was different about them?


Broder, John. "Court Rejects Moratorium on Drilling in the Gulf." New York Times, July 8, 2010,
Cranford, John. "Oil, Water, Profit and Peril." CQ Weekly, June 7, 2010,
Dickinson, Tim. "The Spill, the Scandal and the President." Rolling Stone, June 8, 2010,
Dinan, Stephen. "Judge Lifts Deep-Water Oil-Drilling Moratorium." Washington Times, June 22, 2010,
Greenemeier, Larry. "Gulf Spillover: Will BP's Deepwater Disaster Change the Oil Industry?" Scientific
American, June 7, 2010,
Kemp, John. "Too Much at Stake for Long Drilling Moratorium." Reuters, June 16, 2010,

Lyall, Sarah. "In BP's Record, a History of Boldness and Costly Blunders." New York Times, July 12, 2010,
Lyons, Rob. "The Low Horizons of Modern Society." Spiked, May 12, 2010,

Robertson, Campbell, and Henry Fountain. "Obama Reacts Cautiously to Hopeful BP Test Results." New
York Times, July 16, 2010,
Saletan, William. "20,000 Leaks Under the Sea." Slate, June 9, 2010,
"What the Spill Means for Offshore Drilling." New York Times, April 29, 2010,

Additional Sources

Additional information about deepwater drilling can be found in the following sources:

Pratt, Joseph. Offshore Pioneers: Brown & Root and the History of Offshore Oil and Gas. Houston, Texas:
Gulf Publishing Company, 1997.
Priest, Tyler. The Offshore Imperative: Shell Oil's Search for Petroleum in Postwar America. College
Station, Texas: Texas A&M, 2007.

Contact Information

Information on how to contact organizations that are either mentioned in the discussion of deepwater
drilling or can provide additional information on the subject is listed below:
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20240
Telephone: (202) 208-3100
BP International Headquarters
1 St. James's Square
 London, England SW1Y 4PD
 Telephone: +44 (0)20 7496 4000
 House Committee on Energy and Commerce
 2125 Rayburn House Office Building
 Washington, D.C. 20515
 Telephone: (202) 225-2927

 Key Words and Points

 For further information about the ongoing debate over deepwater drilling, search for the following words
 and terms in electronic databases and other publications:

 Deepwater Horizon
 "Bottom kill"
 Tar balls
 Tony Hayward

 Modern Language Association (MLA)

"Deepwater Oil Drilling." Issues & Controversies. Facts On File News Services, 2 Aug. 2010. Web. 20 Sept.
  2010. <>.
 For further information see Citing Sources in MLA Style.
 Facts On File News Services' automatically generated MLA citations have been updated according to the MLA Handbook for
 Writers of Research Papers, 7th edition.

 American Psychological Association (APA)
 Citation format:

The title of the article. (Year, Month Day). Retrieved Month Day, Year, from Issues & Controversies database.

 See the American Psychological Association (APA) Style Citations for more information on citing in APA

 Record URL:

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