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Monday, May 10, 2010

Should we rush into deep water development
or pause for thought like Barack Obama did?

Consider the case of the drilling program about to start a mere 400kms off the coast of our province and then consider the plight off the fisherman now sitting on the shores of Louisiana.

Consider as well the consumer need and our thirst for oil and we have an interesting debate about to ensue, and not just in North America, for the need for oil is great and the prize is found to be wanting everywhere.

In the Niger delta region lies proof that if Big Oil are left to develop a resource without restrictions, then the people are apt to be the ones to be left to pay the devil's pot. The area is now rank with the wanton destruction that careless development brings with it. The people there are also left to fight over their rights to education and other benefits from a resource that is both being squandered and spilled onto their grounds at the same time. The environmental damage will probably last a lifetime for most, long after the last Nigerian underground wealth has been drained away. Most spills are occurring because of a failed policy of regular, ongoing inspections by the Nigerian government.

Yes, accidents happen and sometimes people die in their pursuit of the black gold flowing in above-ground Nigerian pipelines. Sometimes, in their own quest for wealth and a piece of the Nigerian Light treasure, and far after they have been ignored and exploited by their own government and Royal Dutch Shell complicity, an explosion happens. In their thirst for their fair share of the wealth, the people there try tapping into a pipeline and a lot of souls go up with the wealth they try to tap into.

Meanwhile, there have been numerous cases of oil spills in the Gulf of Ginea region, the largest of all of them, according to Wikipedia, being a 400 million barrel spill (?) that occurred when a Texaco platform there went up in smoke. Since then, almost ten per cent of the mangrove swamp areas have failed to come back, a place that also was the harvesting grounds of fishermen. Almost no attempt was made to clean up the area and help bring back lost heritage and industry.

And all of the above is part of a big problem we have found ourselves stepping into when we allow deep ocean drilling off our coast. To be fair, I don't think any of us here in Newfoundland and Labrador thought about that point before the Orphan Basin was opened up for exploration licenses some time ago. All we really heard about was the fact that the oil out there could bring big bucks to the provinces treasury. we never heard about it, that is, until Louisiana...

The oil spills into the Gulf of Mexico there at the rate of 5000 barrels per day, and that might be a low-ball figure. The detergents and chemicals the company is using is being applied under the waves where, sight unseen, the disaster is only visible to some. The real damage may be for years to come to a shrimp fishery that may never come back, and that's what should give Newfoundland and Labradorians some pause for thought.

What if, like the law commercial says...What if a spill unlike the Louisiana incident, happens because the Sea Rose went up in flames? It may be a little more accessible being just 220 meters down but the Orphan drilling will occur something in the order of 2800 meters down. What happens if an accident happens there and how will we even find out if something in the drilling process goes wrong?

As Barack Obama was wanton to do just last week when he called a halt to the immediate issuance of drilling licences, perhaps we too can also take the hint and review the processes of prevention of spills and the processes by which we can turn off the spigot if a disaster happens in deep water...

Perhaps, if no remedy can be found to safe deep water drilling and safety technologies, we should not issue licences for drilling and exploration in deep offshore areas in the first place. Perhaps, like Obama, the province should take a pause for some more thought...

Perhaps an investment in greener technologies instead just might curve our thirst for the black gold in the first place...

Right now, it just looks like a whole lot better idea. Right now, the only positive thing to come out of the spill off the coast of Louisiana is the fact that we're forced to re-examine what"green" really means and we're forced to examine just how deep consumption of black gold really goes.



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