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A natural oil seep in Ventura County, CA
California environmental group advocates drilling to reduce oil pollution on local beaches

In 1969, a Union Oil rig off the coast of Santa Barbara experienced a blowout. Pipes burst, and oil spilled into the sea -- as much as 100,000 barrels worth. The resultant oil slick so horrified local residents that Earth Day was born.  Soon thereafter, the first of a series of laws banning offshore drilling was enacted.

The chance of another spill, locals reasoned, just wasn't worth drilling. And despite four decades of progress in eliminating such accidents, the ban has stood. Yet, local beaches still see oil slicks and its resultant damage. Where's the oil coming from?


A seep occurs when oil escapes naturally from the ground, due to pressure in the underground reservoir.  Off the California coast, seeps release an incredibly large amount of oil. In fact, since the 1969 accident, the amount of such seepage in the Santa Barbara Channel alone has been over 30 times as large as the amount from the spill itself. 

We can't stop such seeps, but we can reduce them. How? By drilling.

Earlier this year, University of California geophysics professor Bruce Luyendyk spoke to a citizens’ town hall forum at Santa Barbara. He told citizens that the oil mucking up Santa Barbara beaches was due to seeps, not spills. According to Luyendyk, the amount of oil escaping naturally from just one set of seeps in the Santa Barbara channel is equal to about 42 thousand gallons a day -- equal to an Exxon Valdez-size oil spill every 5 or 6 years.

Oil isn't the only thing seeping either. About 3 million cubic feet of natural gas escape each day from the ocean floor off the California Coast. By comparison, your average home uses between 200 and 300 cubic feet per day.

This is oil and gas we could be capturing and using. Instead, it's going to waste and polluting beaches in the process.

The sheer size of the seepage has led to the formation of a new environmental group, called SOS California -- which stands for Stop Oil Seeps. The group wants to lift the offshore drilling ban not to generate oil, but to reduce oil pollution from seepage. They point to university studies which demonstrate that extracting oil through drilling reduces reservoir pressure. That, in turn, reduces seepage. SOS advocates lifting the drilling ban for just that reason -- to reduce oil pollution on local beaches.

The Outer Continental Shelf is rich in oil. According to the US DOE, areas now off limits to drilling hold around 18 billion barrels. Other estimates are higher. Alaska's ANWR holds an additional 10 billion barrels. Together, that's enough to cut our foreign oil imports by 20% for the next 32 years, and generate $3.5 trillion in revenue. That's trillion, with a "T".

Polls show overwhelming support among Americans to lift the drilling ban. But is Washington listening? At the Democratic convention this week in Denver, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stopped to tell a group protesting the drilling ban, "can we drill your heads"? At the national level, the message doesn't seem to be getting through.

The Santa Barbara City Council recently voted to lift their local ban on drilling, a largely symbolic act since state and federal laws still prohibit it.   It's a start.

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RE: Interesting...
By jbartabas on 8/29/2008 1:56:37 PM , Rating: 1
Lad is a long-time Santa Barbara resident who as a commercial fisherman/diver amassed over 10,000 hours underwater along California shorelines. He is the founder of two pioneering enterprises known for the development of subsea equipment and marine construction techniques, Cal Dive International and Oceaneering International —both now New York Stock Exchange companies.

Vice President / Treasurer
Jim retired from Cal Dive International , Inc., a marine contractor and operator of offshore oil and gas properties and production facilities , where he was, Chief Financial Officer, Vice Chairman and a Director. Mr. Nelson currently serves on the Boards of Directors of four publicly traded companies: W&T Offshore, Inc., an independent oil and natural gas company focused in the Gulf of Mexico; Oil States International, Inc., a diversified oilfield services company ; Input/Output, a seismic services provider; and Quintana Maritime Ltd., an international provider of dry bulk cargo marine transportation services based in Athens, Greece.

RE: Interesting...
By jbartabas on 8/29/2008 2:07:16 PM , Rating: 1
I forgot one.

During her years as an undergraduate at the University of California, Peggy worked as a commercial abalone diver at the Channel Islands. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in Marine Biology, she was employed as a research diver for the University, participating in the Exxon population studies (whatever that means ...)to determine the effects of the 1969 oil spill on the abalone beds around the Channel Islands. Additionally, she worked as a salmon biologist for the Fish and Game department in Alaska, and spent several years abroad, primarily in Scotland, working in the offshore oil industry.

RE: Interesting...
By porkpie on 8/29/2008 2:20:40 PM , Rating: 2
Typical. Ignore the arguments and just make shady ad hominem innuendos.

Oh, you forgot to attack the geophysics professor. See if you can dig up some dirt on him too. I'm sure he gave a talk once where oil execs were present, which obviously proves he's a paid shill.

/shakes head.

RE: Interesting...
By jbartabas on 8/29/08, Rating: -1
RE: Interesting...
By porkpie on 8/29/2008 2:33:04 PM , Rating: 2
I "obviously haven't realized" you didn't attack the professor? I'm the one who told YOU that. You might want to work on those reading comprehension skills.

And you can pretend otherwise, but this is an obvious attempt to cast aspersions on the group by the old guilt by association trick.

RE: Interesting...
By jbartabas on 8/29/08, Rating: -1
RE: Interesting...
By porkpie on 8/29/2008 3:28:28 PM , Rating: 2
Whatever I could say on SOS would be irrelevant to both the professor and his message.
And by that argument, irrelevant to the entire discussion. So why even bring it up?

Your comments to Masher make it clear. You were looking for some way to cast aspersions on the intentions of this group. Trying to deny it now is pretty pathetic.

RE: Interesting...
By jbartabas on 8/29/08, Rating: -1
RE: Interesting...
By porkpie on 8/29/2008 4:12:29 PM , Rating: 2
Then congratulations, you disproved Jason's point that some environmental groups are actually sensible. This isn't a "real" environmental group at all.

RE: Interesting...
By Solandri on 9/6/2008 1:36:55 AM , Rating: 2
My graduate degree is in ocean engineering. Most of the folks working in the field love the ocean. It's why we took up careers in it instead of something more lucrative like aerospace or generally applicable like civil engineering or computer science.

Once you get your degree, you've basically got three choices. Work for the Navy, work for NOAA, or work for the oil industry. There are a handful of small companies scattered in the field (mostly manufacturers supplying equipment to the Navy, NOAA, or the oil industry), but the bulk of the jobs are by those three employers. Shipbuilding used to be big, but it's mostly outsourced to Asia now.

So if you're not working for the military / don't have a security clearance, and aren't doing research for the government, your job choice is pretty much limited to offshore oil exploration and drilling. That's just the way it is if you want an engineering career involving the ocean. Oceaneering International is the biggest ocean engineering company, and works on everything from oil platforms to research ships to oceanographic sensing equipment.

Like I said, most everyone in the field loves the ocean and would do everything we can to protect it. If we wanted to work in the oil industry and make lots of money, we would've become petroleum engineers. It pays just as well (if not better), you can get a job inland and not just on the coasts, and a mere storm doesn't drastically increase your chances of dying. If you love the ocean, you become an ocean engineer and just happen to be employed by the oil industry. We wouldn't be in the field if we didn't love the ocean.

RE: Interesting...
By JustTom on 8/30/2008 1:45:09 AM , Rating: 3
You do realize that all the information Jbartabas presented is straight from SOS' website?

RE: Interesting...
By eyebeeemmpawn on 9/3/2008 5:04:51 PM , Rating: 2
lots of that going on..."former" oil company employees manipulating facts for the good of the oil company. I wish our country could pull our collective noses from the grindstone long enough to see the corruption.

RE: Interesting...
By sigilscience on 9/3/2008 6:08:15 PM , Rating: 2
God, you conspiracy nuts are funny. If there really was any sort of connection, do you really think they'd let us know by advertising that they worked for an oil company on their website?

So someone once worked as a diver for some drilling company that once hired out to Exxon? Who else would better know that oil seeps up naturally out of the ground?

RE: Interesting...
By jskirwin on 8/29/2008 2:37:11 PM , Rating: 5
An abalone diver with a BA in Marine Biology who worked in the offshore oil industry.

So it must follow that she's wants to make a fortune off drilling off the coast and fouling CA beaches.

I work in the Banking Industry. Does that mean that if I started a non-profit that pushed for bankruptcy reform that I would be a shill for banking?

RE: Interesting...
By clovell on 8/29/2008 2:10:48 PM , Rating: 3
Pulled from the soscalifornia website. Yeah, it may seem a bit sketchy, but frequently, people who present ideas like this in such an organized manner are people who have a stake and / or a bit of experience in it.

Reality isn't pretty, but at the end of the day, what matters most is that the job gets done. I think the fact that this information is openly disclosed on their website is good.

RE: Interesting...
By jbartabas on 8/29/08, Rating: 0
RE: Interesting...
By masher2 on 8/29/2008 2:29:38 PM , Rating: 4
A conflict of interest only applies to a person with fiduciary, managerial, or legal authority over a matter, which doesn't seem to apply in this case.

I'm not quite sure what your problem is. Do you deny that natural seeps are occurring, or that we can't reduce them via drilling?

RE: Interesting...
By jbartabas on 8/29/08, Rating: 0
RE: Interesting...
By sigilscience on 8/29/2008 3:30:59 PM , Rating: 5
I don't really have one with the science as I said before. However, I don't like too much when people with possible financial interests enter scientific and political debates
Funny you never seem to mind when wind or solar advocates do just the same.

Just today DT has a story on T.Boone Pickens begging for government to fund wind power: something he has a multi-billion dollar investment in. A more clear conflict of interest couldn't possibly exist. Where's your outrage there?

You're not fooling anyone.

RE: Interesting...
By TheDoc9 on 8/29/2008 4:05:42 PM , Rating: 2
The best part about the T.Boone plan is that every resident in Texas will see an average $4 increase per month on their electric bill just to pay for the lines to connect his windfarm to the grid.

This of course is on top of the subsidies and tax breaks that he gets from the fed. Then he makes money off of selling the power itself. One story estimated that he might be able to pay the entire grid off in the first year of operation.

Capitalize on something people think they want, get them to pay for it and get even richer in the process. The guy is a genius. It's no wonder so few people are truly and royally rich. /sarcasm

RE: Interesting...
By Ringold on 8/30/2008 8:27:11 PM , Rating: 2
However, I don't like too much when people with possible financial interests enter scientific and political debates, whether they are in the business of carbon trading or the offshore oil drilling equipments.

Have you worked a day in your life, and then set aside or had set aside for you any of that money in either a self directed retirement account or a pension fund?

If no, then I'd doubt such a persons credibility as they must be all of 12 years old, and if yes, then they have financial ties to the oil industry. Oil companies make up components of both the DJIA and S&P500, and thus virtually everyone has part of their retirement coin on the line. This point has been made before, worth making it again.

Regardless of that, I don't see what the problem is with such people entering debates. Disregarding their opinion is disregarding the opinion of people who understand the business, have real-world operating knowledge of it, and perhaps best know how to change it or achieve whatever goal it is that society is looking for. I for one tend to consider such peoples word more highly than PhD's speaking from up high in their tenured academic ivory tower, who have little to no experience of whats going on in the real world. Clearly, some people from inside an industry may have bias, but to believe academics don't have their own equally strong political bias, that would be lunacy.

RE: Interesting...
By masher2 on 8/30/2008 11:00:30 PM , Rating: 4
I am perpetually astonished by how many people don't understand such a simple fact. There are only three ways to get money in this world:

1. Convince the government to take it from another and give to you.
2. Steal or beg some from someone other than you.
3. Invest in or work for a business making it themselves.

Given that doors #1 and #2 are morally degrading, dead-end, zero-sum games that involve exploiting others, it's amazing there is such hostility towards option #3.

RE: Interesting...
By Jim28 on 9/3/2008 10:52:45 AM , Rating: 2
jbart and co simply approve of or simply ignore that bias.
That bias is for our own good after all.

The hypicrosy is astounding

RE: Interesting...
By clovell on 8/29/2008 6:07:10 PM , Rating: 2
A valid point.

"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein

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