[Coral-List] Underwater Video of Offshore Platforms in theGulf of Mexico (Wendy Cyriacks)

Steve Gittings Steve.Gittings at noaa.gov
Thu Oct 9 13:15:40 EDT 2008

Quenton - thought provoking remarks!  To address the oil and gas issue a 
bit more, I think it would help if everyone gave a little more thought 
to what the "oil and gas industry" really is.  It is multifaceted in 
ways that make it impossible to characterize as simply as most people 
try to.  It consists of tankers carrying around products from all over 
the world, onshore production, coastal production, offshore production 
pipelines, drilling operations, completion operations, fixed platforms, 
floating platforms, subsea completions, storage facilities, coastal 
refineries, LNG terminals, lightering zones, anchorages, an oil field 
service infrastructure, and much, much more  They all pose their own 
threats, which vary by orders of magnitude.  Spills from platforms and 
pipelines, for example, are much smaller, but more numerous than those 
from ships.  Of course, there are a couple of historically important 
exceptions (IXTOC and Santa Barbara) as well as hurricane impacts, as we 
are seeing right now in the Gulf.  Generally, however, most spills from 
platforms and pipelines are very small, and the environment handles them 
fairly well, similar to the way it handles natural oil seepage.  From 
the data I've seen, there is a dramatic difference between the threats 
posed by offshore development for O&G (note I am not including coastal 
development here) and that posed by shipping oil in tankers (potentially 
huge).  Further, they are inversely proportional in terms of the level 
of activity needed to support the economy. and thus can be thought of as 
competing industries.  Increase one and reduce the other.  Which would 
we rather have?  For my part, as long as we keep burning gas rather than 
tapping renewable sources, and using other petrochemicals in the U.S., 
I'd rather see offshore drilling under strong environmental regulation 
than increasingly gigantic and more numerous tankers.  The reality is we 
can't get rid of both, not yet.  So let's honestly weigh the threats.


Dokken, Dr. Quenton wrote:
> Good Morning,
> Gene is right; and it is time we get real not only about energy policy but
> also about the complete picture of degradation and loss of our marine
> resources.  Earlier communications implied that offshore oil/gas exploration
> will destroy the pristine coastal environments of Florida. Tell me, what
> happened to the reefs of the Florida Keys?  There is no o/g industry in the
> Keys.  Promoting conservation and land-use planning for sustainable quality
> of life I travel all 11 Gulf States of the U.S. and Mexico and the U.S.
> Caribbean Territories. Everywhere I go I see coastal habitats being
> destroyed more by on-shore infrastructure development than offshore o/g
> activities.
> Infrastructure to support tourism (hotels, condominiums, restaurants, putt
> putt golf courses, paved roads, etc), ports, recreational marinas, shore
> side businesses and industries, and homes on the beach are more of a threat
> to the quality, quantity, and sustainability of coastal habitats than
> offshore oil/gas activities.  Yet, political and business leaders,
> real-estate developers, bankers, etc continuously wave the flag of more
> growth!  The rallying mantra is "a community not growing is a dying
> community."  On the islands of the Caribbean the push is for more tourist
> infrastructure, more million dollar homes on the hill sides, more marinas,
> more paved roads, more - more - more followed by a lot of hand wringing
> because shore side habitats are decorated with trash and the once crystal
> clear water of the bays is turning brown with algae.  
> Then when a natural event such as a hurricane wipes out this expensive
> infrastructure and litters coastal habitats with millions of tons of human
> debris, we tax the citizens to rebuild "bigger and better!"  We call these
> "natural" disasters - there is nothing natural about them.  Hurricanes are
> natural phenomena; the disaster is entirely man made!  And, demographers
> tell us that the national population continues to migrate toward the shores.
> For the foreseeable future offshore oil/gas production is here to stay.
> Yes, it needs to be managed to have the least environmental footprint
> possible.  And, I don't know of anyone in the o/g industry who would dispute
> this point.  They get it!  They are fully invested in environmental
> sustainability.  They also will agree that we need to be developing
> alternative energy sources and more efficient use of hydrocarbon energy
> sources.  Some of these o/g companies are leading efforts to develop
> alternative energy sources. 
> The other industries, tourism, ports, marinas, food service, home builders,
> banking, etc, are here to stay too.  They need to be involved in
> environmental planning just as much as the offshore o/g industry.  No one
> industry can be blamed for all the ills we face.  So the challenge and
> greatest need is to honestly identify the impact of each industry and use
> long-term land use planning to minimize these impacts.  This is the only way
> we will achieve coastal communities that will provide a sustainable quality
> of life.   
> Quenton Dokken, Ph.D.
> Executive Director
> Gulf of Mexico Foundation, Inc.
> PMB 51  5403 Everhart Rd.
> Corpus Christi, TX 78411
> 361-882-3939
> 361-442-6064 cell
> qdokken at gulfmex.org
> www.gulfmex.org
> -----Original Message-----
> From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Gene Shinn
> Sent: Wednesday, October 08, 2008 11:23 AM
> To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Subject: [Coral-List] Underwater Video of Offshore Platforms in theGulf of
> Mexico (Wendy Cyriacks)
> Oh Wendy, You must have known you were pushing my buttons. It is 
> attitudes like this that have forced us to be so dependant on oil 
> from unfriendly sources. Yes the fish, sponges, corals, lobster and 
> countless other organisms flock to, and depend on, these Rigs. There 
> are about 4,000 artificial reefs like these in the Gulf of Mexico. 
> Just multiply what you saw in the videos by 4,000! Have you watched 
> the Sylvia Earl Kerr McGee TV commercials? Are there any natural 
> reefs in that area that support such abundant fish life? Not really, 
> Just hundreds of square miles of mud and sand bottom that can no 
> longer be dragged for shrimp and by-catch because of the rigs. Yes we 
> do need to educate the politicians. Many have painted themselves in a 
> corner to garner votes while NGS have used the issue to fill their 
> coffers. Now they all need a graceful way out. Maybe these videos 
> will help educate them.
>       FYI, Thirty eight exploratory wells have already been drilled in 
> the moratorium area off Florida's west coast before the moratorium 
> went into effect and 14 were drilled in the Florida Keys, Three of 
> them were drilled directly on coral reefs, the last one in 1960. Was 
> the area destroyed? Not that I know of.  Caribbean-wide coral demise 
> did not begin until the late 1970s and especially between 1983-1984, 
> years after the  Florida Keys wells were drilled. Not enough oil was 
> found to be economic back then but there maybe gas that was not worth 
> the effort until now. I suspect fishermen would love to have some 
> rigs within 15 miles of shore (you would not even see them from 
> shore). They sure love them off Louisiana and Texas. And hey, I seem 
> to remember that Tenneco placed 3 old rigs underwater off your area 
> to serve as artificial fishing reefs. Ask the divers what they see 
> out there. Or you can read our study about them. (Shinn, E.A., 
> Wicklund, R., 1989 Observations on deep water artificial fishing 
> reefs from Research Submersible, Bull Mar Sci. V, 44 (2) p. 
> 1041-1050).  Gene

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