Casey Goodwin" />
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Saturday, September 30, 2023


Six-month moratorium good theory, ridiculous practice

On May 27, President Obama imposed a six-month moratorium on exploratory deep-water ocean drilling in the Gulf Coast. Obama meant to force the oil drilling industry to review and correct its obviously flawed system of safety measures. After all, the Gulf ecosystem may not be able to survive the hit if another oil spill follows so soon after the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

While the concept behind the moratorium was undeniably the right idea, the process itself is extremely questionable. Yes, it is clear from the Deepwater Horizon spill that something is desperately wrong with the drilling industry’s current precautionary standards. However, giving them the equivalent of a six-month time-out to think about what they did wrong is not the way to handle that problem.

Unlike your average misbehaving toddlers, the affected wells have tens of thousands of workers relying on them. The longer these people cannot work, the more likely they are to lose their jobs and join America’s unemployed.

This is not a desirable option in today’s economy—especially for an administration that has promised to create jobs, not destroy them.

This leads us to a basic conflict of interest. The men and women who work to support oilrigs each need to make a living. However, the environment also needs to be protected. We cannot risk another oil spill. Six months is not nearly enough time for the oil drilling industry to learn from its mistakes and create the best possible security measures.

There are masses of data to study and analyze before the total implications of the Deepwater Horizon disaster can be understood. Chances are that doing so will take years. Even after Obama’s moratorium ends on November 30, the full story of what caused the oil spill will remain unknown. The date Obama gave is nothing more than a shot in the dark, a symbolic attempt at keeping more oil from pouring into the ocean.

The most logical way to merge the two priorities—keeping people employed and not destroying ecosystems—would have been for a moratorium on each well to be placed not for six months but until its operators can present to Congress new, nearly paranoid safety measures that they will follow. This may have taken more than six months for some companies, but it would likely have taken less for most.

Everything that could possibly be a problem must be accounted for. Drillers cannot cut corners for any reason. If it looks like there is even a small chance that something might go wrong, drilling at the well must stop. Once more information is known about what caused the spill, these measures can be tweaked to comply with our developing understanding of what is and what is not safe.

These oilrigs are an important part of the economy. The ones that Obama’s moratorium closed down employed over 30,000 people in total. These individuals deserve be kept working as much as they can without risking the environment.

Casey Goodwin is a mechanical engineering sophomore and may be reached at [email protected]

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