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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 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.

“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads

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