Monday, May 10, 2010

Chill baby chill; drill baby drill

Oil from the Gulf of Mexico may be washing up on our political shores, but the response is anything but environment first.

Just the opposite: it’s “chill baby chill."

And “drill baby drill.”

Meaning someday soon it could be “spill baby spill.”

And the baby could be lost with the black water.

The massive and ever-growing oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico has raised fears about the safety of offshore drilling.

But media reports indicate Chevron Canada Ltd. plans to proceed this week to drill one of the deepest offshore oil wells in the world off our coast.

Located 430 kilometres northeast of St. John’s in an area known as the Orphan Basin, the well will look for crude 2.6 kilometres under water — almost a kilometre deeper than the well that broke in the Gulf of Mexico.

It may take weeks or months to stop the Gulf of Mexico leak.

How much longer would it take to fix a leak that’s in far, far deeper water and in an area of the North Atlantic much further off the world’s beaten path?

Too long.
•••
It’s been 19 days since the oil rig blew up and sank in the Gulf of Mexico, causing an untapped wellhead to leak an estimated 5,000 barrels of oil a day into the ocean.

As of today (May 10th), the total works out to 95,000 barrels.

In response to the disaster, oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has been put on indefinite hold.

And governors from California and Florida have withdrawn their support for the idea of expanded offshore drilling.

Even if it means higher energy costs.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has gone so far as to issue a moratorium on future oil drilling permits off the state’s coast until it can be determined that a disaster similar to the one in the Gulf of Mexico can be avoided.

The response here in Canada runs counter to that of the U.S.

Federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice told The Globe and Mail recently there’s no need for a moratorium on future offshore drilling in Canadian waters.

Said Prentice: “Here in Canada, we’ve not had those kinds of incidents and that’s because of the strong regulatory environment that we have had with the National Energy Board (NEB).”

Those kinds of incidents?

Like an oil rig going down?

Think Ocean Danger 1982.

Or a helicopter plunging into the sea?

Think Cougar crash 2009.

Experts have been saying for years that it’s not a question of IF a massive oil spill will take place off Newfoundland’s shores, but WHEN.
•••
On one hand, our own Natural Resources Minister Kathy Dunderdale says the environment is of “paramount importance.”

On the other, The Globe quotes her as saying “until we understand more about what’s happened there (in the Gulf), we really don’t see any reason at this point in time to deviate from what we’re doing.”

But isn't that putting the environment at No. 2 on the priority list?

Shouldn't she be erring on the side of caution?

For the past few weeks, crews have been rushing to drill a relief well at the site of the Gulf of Mexico spill to stem the flow of oil.

Such emergency backup wells are used to reduce pressure in the main well so it can be capped.

If Chevron’s Orphan Basin well were to rupture, industry observers argue the equipment needed to drill a relief well would not be available fast enough.

It could take weeks — or months — to get rigs in place.

So much for "paramount importance."
•••
Ottawa instituted a moratorium on drilling off the coast of British Columbia in the 1970s to stop a small amount of exploration in environmentally sensitive waters.

When it was elected in 2001, the B.C. government pushed to open up the coast for drilling, but shelved the idea by 2005, given lack of public support.

The Gulf disaster pushes it farther back “on an already dusty shelf.”

“This is not about extracting resources at any cost,” said B.C. Energy Minister Blair Lekstrom.

Tell that to Kathy Dunderdale.

Premier Danny Williams has said he wants an independent analysis of whether Newfoundland is prepared for a major oil spill.

Meantime, drilling will continue.

For its part, Chevron says it has an emergency plan in place.

And Chevron’s word is good enough for the Canada/Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board.

Danny Williams has tried to calm fears over a potential spill by suggesting the colder water and thicker crude in the Orphan Basin would mean the oil would sink to the bottom instead of washing toward shore.

But as one energy analyst said, “that doesn’t give me a good feeling. Here they are supposedly sitting on one of the richest fishing grounds in the world.”

That analyst obviously doesn't have a clue.

Here in Newfoundland oil always come before fish.

1 comment:

George said...

That's the disturbing tale Ryan. Oil has taken first place and will always be because of its important and immediate role in the provinces treasury. The oil money is a "now" kind of cash whereas the "fish money" doesn't come until later.
The spill in Louisiana should be enough to get us to ask ourselves how bad we really want the oil in the first place but it shouyld also be asking us the role that "green" has in our daily lives.
Great post!