[Coral-List] Help Ban Oil Exploration

David M. Lawrence dave at fuzzo.com
Tue May 3 10:12:11 EDT 2011

When talking about tanker losses in World War II, let's make sure we are 
comparing apples to apples.  When we compare all the oil dumped in an 
entire ocean basin to the amount of oil released in a fairly limited 
area from a Deepwater Horizon-like disaster, it seems the deck is 
unfairly stacked to make those concerned about drilling look like 
"greenie-weenies" out of touch with reality.  The fact is a lot of other 
factors besides volume of oil determine the severity of a disaster.

Having grown up in Louisiana and seeing a lot of drilling and extraction 
activity up close, there are a lot of adverse effects from petroleum 
exploration.  It might not look all that bad -- especially to those 
whose only frame of reference is a landscape (and seascape) already 
affected by the oil industry -- but the adverse effects are there 

I'm skeptical of the benefits of oil exploration to the economies of 
developing nations, too.  Extractive industries have a pretty lousy 
record of promoting long-term economic growth.  They so a good job of 
extracting as much of whatever resource they target, take their money 
elsewhere, and leave a permanently changed (arguably damaged) landscape 
behind.  It's not a terribly sustainable model, and there is rarely 
incentive for industry to invest in preparing the "host" community for 
survival after the industry is gone.

Whether or not the coral reefs would recover from an oil disaster, 
industries that depend on them -- like Belize's tourist industry -- 
might not.  Personally, I'd hate to see what would happen to Virginia 
Beach's Strand after a big oil disaster coats the beach in black goo.  I 
don't think anyone has done an adequate risk assessment of all the 
effects of such a disaster on local and regional economies affected by 
it.  Is the limited and temporary benefit from petro-dollars worth the 
potential wider and longer-term effects of such an event?

I would love to see that data some day.


On 5/2/2011 4:06 PM, Greg Challenger wrote:
> Steve:
> Ill let Gene defend himself but here is my take.  Offshore drilling "may" lead to environmental disaster.   My reading of the post by Gene is that he felt the risks should be weighed against the potential upside before stating absolutes.  To me it was the comments "will lead to disaster" and "never recover" that deserve some discussion.   In my opinion, these sorts of statements dont do the environmental cause much good and only give ammunition to the opposition in that they can find evidence to easily refute the statements without getting to the heart of the matter...real risks to Belize corals and peoples.  Many areas with drilling have never experienced an environmental disaster.  The volumes of oil dumped and spilled in the sea in WWII outweigh all combined other anthropogenic point sources in the past century by quite a bit (see 2003 paper by Jacqui Michel from International Oil Spill Conference), and yet I dont believe it is possible to find a place that will "never recover", unless an area continues to receive ongoing impacts that dont allow it to recover. I have seen some oil exploration areas that could conceivably fit this bill.   I didnt see any real embellished distortions other than getting the tanker thing wrong, which really isnt an embellished distortion at all relative to the issue at hand. While you are 100% correct that seeps are the biggest sources followed by land runoff, tankers are the largest anthropogenic point source  (i.e., disaster).   Since we are talking about risk of disaster from man's activities, then tankers and cargo vessels are indeed the number one cause since runoff and seeps arent typically considered part of a disaster scenario.  Oil spilled in the marine environment is a tragedy...it kills things....but a statement to the effect that drilling "will result in disaster" from which we can "never recover" deserves refutation.  As you can see, saying things like this takes people off track (as it did here) from the important issues like proper evaluation and careful consideration of the potential impacts, both environmental and economic.  That said, I understand that these comments can serve a purpose...we have to know where the left and right side of the road are located so we can safely drive down the middle.
> I know people think Im a fan of fossil fuel because I have a financial interest in my clients' oil spills, but frankly I hope I never work on another oil spill the rest of my life (I do other stuff as well).
> Best regards,
> Greg E. Challenger
> Marine Scientist/Principal
> Polaris Applied Sciences, Incorporated
> 12525 131st Ct NE Kirkland, WA 98034
> 425-823-4841
> 425-823-3805 fx
> 206-369-5686 cell
> visit us at: www.polarisappliedsciences.com

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