Skip to content (press enter)


The ugly truth of offshore drilling

There are a lot of myths about what offshore oil drilling will and won't do.

Over the holiday weekend Dr. Enid Sisskin* wrote a great opinion piece for the Pensacola News Journal highlight the myths and realities surround offshore oil drilling. It reads a lot like our Myths and Truths FAQ.

Here are Dr. Sisskin's:

Myth: With the new technology, drilling is so safe that there's no threat of pollution and spills.

Reality: Drilling for oil or gas offshore is a dirty, polluting business from beginning to end. From initial seismic exploration, associated with mortality of ocean life, through the exploration and production process and pipeline placement, to the explosive removal of rigs, every aspect of drilling contributes to environmental degradation.

Even with the newest technologies, oil companies still legally pollute by dumping drilling muds, cuttings, produced waters, drainage and workover fluids into the water every day. These toxic wastes contain heavy metals, carcinogens, solids, sanitary wastes, biocides, radioactive material and more.

Each platform also legally spews tons of nitrous oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, volatile organic compounds and particulates yearly, which pollute the air and contribute to climate change.

And every year there are numerous oil spills, blowouts, fires and other accidents. The latest government environmental documents predict at least one major spill a year.

Myth: There was no oil spilled or rigs damaged during the hurricanes of the last few years. That was claimed so many times that even government officials repeated it.

Reality: More than a million gallons of oil and other petroleum products were spilled into the Gulf, 378 rigs and platforms were damaged or destroyed, and some are still leaking today and may continue to leak for up to 10 years.

Myth: Most of our oil resources are off-limits to exploration, and we don't produce much oil in this country.

Reality: More than 79 percent of estimated U.S. oil reserves are in areas available to exploration. More than 68 million acres are currently available to drill, including 8 million acres opened by the compromise bill of 2006. Since 2001, the number of drilling permits issued has tripled. The United States is the third-largest oil producer in the world, producing over 7 million barrels of oil a day.

We consume 21 million barrels a day; it isn't our production that's the problem, it's our consumption.

The cruelest myth: If we are willing to risk our economy, environment and military presence to allow drilling near our shores, gas prices will decrease substantially.

Reality: According to the Energy Department, if we were to open every area for exploration that has any oil, at the peak of production, gas prices might decrease by a few pennies at most.

Read the whole piece here.

*Enid Sisskin, PhD, is chair of the Unite Escambia Environment Solutions Team and adjunct professor of environmental health at the University of West Florida