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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 plan. 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 jobs. 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 administration. 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? Bibliography Broder, John. "Court Rejects Moratorium on Drilling in the Gulf." New York Times, July 8, 2010, www.nytimes.com. Cranford, John. "Oil, Water, Profit and Peril." CQ Weekly, June 7, 2010, www.cq.com. Dickinson, Tim. "The Spill, the Scandal and the President." Rolling Stone, June 8, 2010, www.rollingstone.com. Dinan, Stephen. "Judge Lifts Deep-Water Oil-Drilling Moratorium." Washington Times, June 22, 2010, www.washingtontimes.com. Greenemeier, Larry. "Gulf Spillover: Will BP's Deepwater Disaster Change the Oil Industry?" Scientific American, June 7, 2010, www.scientificamerican.com. Kemp, John. "Too Much at Stake for Long Drilling Moratorium." Reuters, June 16, 2010, blogs.reuters.com. Lyall, Sarah. "In BP's Record, a History of Boldness and Costly Blunders." New York Times, July 12, 2010, www.nytimes.com. Lyons, Rob. "The Low Horizons of Modern Society." Spiked, May 12, 2010, www.spiked-online.com. Robertson, Campbell, and Henry Fountain. "Obama Reacts Cautiously to Hopeful BP Test Results." New York Times, July 16, 2010, www.nytimes.com. Saletan, William. "20,000 Leaks Under the Sea." Slate, June 9, 2010, www.slate.com. "What the Spill Means for Offshore Drilling." New York Times, April 29, 2010, www.nytimes.com. 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 Internet: www.doi.gov BP International Headquarters 1 St. James's Square London, England SW1Y 4PD Telephone: +44 (0)20 7496 4000 Internet: www.bp.com House Committee on Energy and Commerce 2125 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515 Telephone: (202) 225-2927 Internet: energycommerce.house.gov 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" BP Tar balls Tony Hayward Modern Language Association (MLA) Citation: "Deepwater Oil Drilling." Issues & Controversies. Facts On File News Services, 2 Aug. 2010. Web. 20 Sept. 2010. <http://www.2facts.com/article/i1500410>. 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 style. Record URL: http://www.2facts.com/article/i1500410
"Deepwater Oil Drilling"