The Agenda

The Oil Spill

Briefly, Kevin Drum has written a post on the emerging politics of the oil spill, and he ends on an interesting note:

Plus there’s this, from the friend I was emailing with: “Maybe not Obama, but the WSJ snuck it in their story yesterday: you know, if the environmentalists didn’t make us drill so deep, so far out from shore, this wouldn’t have happened.” I haven’t seen that story, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this meme picks up steam in the days to come.

Is it possible to evaluate this claim on the merits? Whether or not environmentalists “made” this happen or not (I imagine there were a variety of different pressures at work, and of course a great deal of offshore drilling happens because, well, that’s where the oil is and the lowest-cost supplies are not gushing the way they once did), is it indeed true that there were oil deposits that were more accessible closer to shore that actually posed less serious environmental risks? I wouldn’t be surprised if the answer were no. Yes, we presumably are more experienced with the technology required of closer-to-shore drilling, hence lower risk of a spill yet the dangers of a spill could be greater to coastal populations, etc., so the adjusted risk turns out to be greater.

But this does seem like a legitimate question to ask. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts, particularly those of you with a background in the oil and gas industry. 

Reihan Salam is president of the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

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