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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?

Seeps.

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 3:23:13 PM , Rating: -1
quote:
I "obviously haven't realized" you didn't attack the professor?


No, I said
I have not attacked the messenger of the science itself

who I identify right after as the geophysics professor to avoid any ambiguity. However I recognize that I could have written : (i.e. the geophysics ...), to make it less ambiguous.

In other terms, you accuse me of attacking the person instead of the argument. I tell you this is irrelevant, because the person on which I have supposedly "dug" some dirt is not the person carrying the argument (i.e. the messenger of the science, i.e. the professor). Whatever I could say on SOS would be irrelevant to both the professor and his message.

As for my supposed attempt of guilt by association, I think I just answered it.

Finally to make it clear, as I also answered Michael, my point is to let university professors and other independent (as far as possible) experts carry the message. Advocacy group with potential private interests should be taken with a grain of salt, here or on other subjects.


RE: Interesting...
By porkpie on 8/29/2008 3:28:28 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
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.


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