Jane Van Ryan
Posted April 7, 2010
Eric Smith, a professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, is calling on his "fellow environmentalists to reassess their stand on offshore oil."
In an op-ed published in Friday's Washington Post, Smith says the "technology of oil drilling has made huge advances," and he notes that detailed records on every offshore spill larger than one barrel show drilling is not to blame for large scale oil spills.
"[The data} show that the offshore oil industry spills a surprisingly small amount of oil and that the number and size of spills have declined sharply since the 1970s because of technological advances in drilling and tighter government regulations."
Smith does have one remaining question about offshore drilling, though: Does it emit more greenhouse gases (GHGs) than importing oil from other countries?
While API doesn't have a study that answers Smith's question directly, API Economist Russell Jones was able to compare GHG emissions from oil platforms to U.S. residential emissions.
An average-size offshore platform emits about 0.0663 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) every year while producing about 550,000 barrels of oil and 6.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas. That equates to two one-hundredths (0.02) percent of the amount of CO2 emitted each year for residential space heating, four one-hundredths (0.04) percent for heating water, or five one-hundredths (0.05) percent for air conditioning.
Plus, the platform is producing oil and natural gas that are used for transportation to keep America moving, as well as feedstocks for medicines, plastics and chemicals that are integral to the production of windmills and solar panels.
"If assessments show that domestic oil production contributes less to global warming," Smith writes, "environmentalists should support it. We should not be living in the past."
For more information, read the full op-ed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jane Van Ryan was formerly senior communications manager and new media advisor at the American Petroleum Institute (API), where she wrote blog posts and produced podcasts and videos. Before coming to API, Jane managed communications for a large science and engineering corporation, and for a top-tier research and engineering university. A few years ago, you might have seen her in your living room when she delivered the news on television. Jane officially retired from API in 2011 and now freelances as an independent communications consultant when not gardening at her farm in Virginia.