Over at Think Progress, Ben Armbruster points to the explosion of an oil and gas rig 80 miles off the Louisiana coast today, noting that just yesterday one of the senior employees at Mariner Energy, the company which owns the rig, had this to say about the offshore drilling moratorium:
“I have been in the oil and gas industry for 40 years, and this administration is trying to break us,” said Barbara Dianne Hagood, senior landman for Mariner Energy, a small company. “The moratorium they imposed is going to be a financial disaster for the gulf coast, gulf coast employees and gulf coast residents.”
Of course, the many gloom and doom predictions about the moratorium have not come to pass:
Unemployment claims related to the oil industry along the Gulf Coast have been in the hundreds, not the thousands, and while oil production from the gulf is down because of the drilling halt, supplies from the region are expected to rebound in future years. Only 2 of the 33 deepwater rigs operating in the gulf before the BP rig exploded have left for other fields.
While it is too early to gauge the long-term environmental or economic effects of the release of 4.9 million barrels of oil into the gulf, it now appears that the direst predictions about the moratorium will not be borne out. Even the government’s estimate of the impact of the drilling pause — 23,000 lost jobs and $10.2 billion in economic damage — is proving to be too pessimistic.
So the costs of the moratorium have been minimal – much less than predicted – and already we’ve seen a second rig explode in the Gulf this year. The oil industry should realize by now that cleaning up after a disaster is a far more expensive, messy process than ensuring that it doesn’t happen in the first place. It’s also terrible PR. But, of course, the oil industry does not realize that. Until each rig is inspected and safety on these rigs is ensured, I don’t see how the government can do anything but impose a moratorium. Of course, activist judges think they know better. I wonder how many more spills and explosions need to occur before we implement sensible safety and precautionary measures in our oil rigs? Kicking the costs down the road until something really bad happens is certainly not the answer, even if it is the likely outcome even of a disaster the size and scope of the BP oil spill.
Unlike the Deepwater Horizon, this explosion occurred in shallow water, operating at about 340 feet instead of 5,000 which makes any complications from a spill much more manageable. This, and the fact that no workers were killed, make up the story’s silver lining.
More on the explosion here.