Waters off Australia’s southern coast have large reserves of oil according to seismic testing. Yet two Big Oil giants, Chevron and BP, have abandoned plans for deep-water exploration. And both for the same reason.
Last week Chevron announced that low oil prices meant that drilling in these waters, called the Great Australian Bight, would not feel the bight of their drilling. The waters are subject to severe weather with accompanying treacherous seas making oil exploration more dangerous and expensive.
The lesson for our National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is very clear.
If Big Oil won’t drill in offshore waters with great potential for reserves because of high-costs and a weak market, they are not going to drill the Atlantic that has the same rough seas but exceptionally small oil reserves.
The petroleum companies and proponents of offshore drilling in the Atlantic hope that oil prices will get better in the future. But that’s not going to happen. Not with our glut of oil on land and sea already while the demand for oil is plateauing and expected to drop in the future.
Even if the latter is not accepted by some, it is clear that our government’s decision on whether to let oil companies drill off the Atlantic Coast doesn’t need to be made in the new five-year plan for offshore oil leasing. After all, five-year plans seem to come more often than every five years.
And if it is possible that BOEM might come to the conclusion that the nation can hold off on allowing offshore drilling in the Atlantic until the next five-year plan, then there is no immediate need to greenlight seismic airgun blasting to look for oil.
There is no need for the NMFS and BOEM to approve permits to kill, maim and harass millions of marine animals by subjecting them to the loudest noise in the ocean every 10 to 12 seconds, 24-7 for months on end. And there is no need for the documented economic harm this testing will do to our commercial and recreational fishing industries—the fishermen, fish processors, fish markets, restaurants and tourism.
There is no need.
Frank Knapp Jr.