Obviously, if I thought the oil-rig disaster was a calamity on Tuesday, I think it even more of one now. And if it really does take three months to stop the leak, the environmental catastrophe could be a mortal wound to offshore oil drilling, particularly the deep-water stuff. Three months of oil-covered birds leading the nightly newscasts. Three months of politicians hearing from their justifiably fearful constituents. Three months of environmentalists saying “we told you so.”
If it doesn’t take three months, if they get this thing fixed sooner rather than later, it’ll still be awful and critics of offshore drilling will still have ample ammo. But it’s worth noting that unless you’re going to abandon oil altogether, the case for offshore drilling — and domestic drilling generally — still has a lot of merit, even on environmental terms. Oil tankers are still way more dangerous than oil rigs. Thousands of tankers traversing the oceans raises the risks of spills considerably more than rigs close to shore.
Still, speaking as a longtime supporter of expanding our exploitation of domestic oil, this is just awful.