Since before the 2008 election, offshore drilling has been a hot-button issue. Many people who also support alternative, cleaner sources of energy support offshore drilling because America is used to gas, and should be phased off of it rather than forced to make a difficult, sudden transition. Not only that, but, at least in the past, offshore drilling was considered to be less invasive to the local wildlife, and it was. Under the sea, untapped oil lays just under the surface, requiring less drilling, and less habitats destroyed. Until, that is, the pipes break.
And the latest oil spill is much worse than the Exxon Valdez spill in the nineties. The oil is coming from the ground rather than a ship. In the Exxon Valdez spill, a ship crashed into rocks in the alaskan gulf, spilling thousands of gallons of crude oil into the ocean, but, once the oil from the ship was gone, it was gone. In this case, oil is spilling directly from the pipeline, meaning that there is no limit to how much will spill from the pipes aside from how much oil exists in that deposit, which happens to be quite a bit. And the wildlife aren’t the only ones affected.
The Gulf of Mexico, as well as the estuaries within, is swarming with fishermen dependent on the gulf for income. There are entire towns whose economies would collapse without the fisheries within them along the entire gulf coast, towns that will collapse if the spill kills too many fish, shrimp, and other marine species. Many fishermen are already faced with a tough choice, move away and look for work somewhere else, or take a job with the oil company, who they consider to be the enemy in the struggle to keep their jobs, livelihoods, and culture.
Before a few weeks ago, when the rig exploded, there were few mainstream doubts about offshore drilling. That doesn’t mean that mainstream America wasn’t for a gradual movement towards cleaner energy, but for the meantime, offshore drilling seemed like a good solution for oil companies and activists alike. But since that disaster, news has come out about numerous safety-hazard reports that went ignored and negligence in following proper precautions. The Senate is launching an investigation, and needless to say, safety laws will be better enforced in the future.
Following this spill, many steadfast offshore drilling supporters are questioning their views on the issue, weighing out the benefits and risks. Offshore drilling provides a relatively accessible source of oil, requiring less invasive destruction of †lands, often where people live or work. Instead, one merely has to drill several feet below the ocean floor to reach oil. But, offshore planks run the risk of explosions and spills such as this one, creating conditions detrimental to wildlife, and humans. So, across the country, on capitol hill, in the whitehouse, in the EPA, in oil company headquarters, and around the school people are asking themselves, and everyone around them one question: “Is it worth the risk?”