The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Analysis: Offshore Energy Production Benefits the Economy and Environment

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted December 1, 2009

We've discussed many times on this blog how increased access to oil and natural gas resources would benefit our nation's economy. We've also mentioned that while producing this energy both on-and-offshore, companies are committed to environmentally responsible development.

Yesterday, the Heritage Foundation released a new analysis about both above-mentioned points: how offshore energy production benefits the economy and the environment. The paper's author is Bruce Allen, co-founder of SOS California, an environmental and energy non-profit based in Santa Barbara.

Many people are unaware of just how much energy lies off our nation's shorelines. U.S. coastal waters hold tremendous energy potential--at least 19 billion barrels of oil and trillions of cubic of natural gas--but nearly 85 percent of these waters are off-limits to exploration and production.

Allen's analysis says, in general, these restrictions are imposed due to environmental concerns, "despite the fact that offshore environmental damage has been greatly reduced by technologies that minimize the risk of oil spills and other hazards to the environment." Furthermore, he says offshore oil production actually can have the added benefit of reducing the amount of naturally occurring oil seepage by decreasing subsea oil-reservoir pressure.

He also makes the point that the positive environmental impact of offshore oil production appears to far exceed the impact of accidental oil releases due to commercial extraction and transportation. "63 percent of hydrocarbon pollution in U.S. waters stems from natural seeps, while only 1 percent is due to offshore drilling and extraction."

Allen's bottom line is this: We can have a clean environment and reap the economic benefits from offshore energy exploration and development:

"The economic benefits from increased domestic hydrocarbon production are well known, but many erroneously assume they come at an environmental cost. In truth, there are opportunities, off Santa Barbara and elsewhere, to achieve substantial environmental benefits from drilling as a consequence of reduced seepage of oil and natural gas into the air and water. Expanded offshore oil and gas production can genuinely be a win-win proposition."

For more information, read the full Heritage analysis.