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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: Hey Mikey!
By underqualified on 9/4/2008 4:44:42 PM , Rating: 2
Ok given the LA times opposition to drilling:

"One of the study's authors, Bruce Luyendyk, says the group is 'extrapolating these results in ways that are not justified.'"

That's from the Wall Street Journal. That quote, just like the previous one from the LA Times do DIRECTLY refute the idea that Luyendyk has EVER supported this groups findings using HIS research as a foundation. Now what facts are you speaking of?

RE: Hey Mikey!
By masher2 on 9/4/2008 5:25:26 PM , Rating: 2
The study in question is entitled, "Decrease in natural marine hydrocarbon seepage near Coal Oil Point, California, associated with offshore oil production"

Quoting directly from the study's conclusions:

The spatial coincidence between offshore oil production at Platform Holly and the observed decrease in seepage around Holly are probably related and attributable to the impact of oil production on reservoir pressure. Oil production from the Monterey Formation oil and gas reservoirs caused subsequent declines in reservoir pressure, thus removing the primary driving mechanism of the seepage. This finding implies that worldwide oil production may lead to declines in natural emissions of hydrocarbons on a global scale .

That seems quite definitive, and doesn't leave much room for argument. You can read the actual study yourself:

RE: Hey Mikey!
By underqualified on 9/4/2008 9:43:37 PM , Rating: 3
Right again Mike except the discussion was never about the study. If it had been your article wouldn't have had the shock value you felt it needed. You see since you've now quoted the actual study, it's really not difficult to see why Bruce Luyendyk who wrote the study considered the SOS completely irresponsible in its conclusions.

1. That study makes absolutely no mention of any verifiable amount of oil seepage yet your article claims 42,000 gallons A DAY. They do happen to mention a verifiable amount of natural gas seepage but natural gas doesn't wash up on the sand so it doesn't help SOS's clean up the beaches movement.

2. Because of that lack of data, the extrapolation used to claim that seepage far exceeds the amount spilled by the oil rig in '69 is completely without foundation. This renders the claim of any environmental improvement baseless as well.

I am glad however that you finally linked to an appropriate source. It only took me half the time to find the flaws in your argument :) Now anyone who wants to can actually see the truth for what it is. It is wholly irresponsible to disregard the actual sources of your conclusions for secondhand claims. I hope you see that now.

RE: Hey Mikey!
By sigilscience on 9/4/2008 10:20:12 PM , Rating: 2
I can't tell if you're really this dense or just faking it to score pity points. That study proves drilling reduces seepage. But the total amount doesn't come from that. It comes from a direct quote from Luyundek himself at a town meeting. Point B shows the scale of the problem, Point A shows we can fix it. See it it all fits together?

The "flaws" you found are only in your head.

RE: Hey Mikey!
By whiskerwill on 9/4/2008 11:01:10 PM , Rating: 2
I can't tell if you're really this dense or just faking it
Read his posts on the sunspots thread and you won't wonder any more.

RE: Hey Mikey!
By underqualified on 9/4/2008 11:24:59 PM , Rating: 2
Please you are so behind the irrelevancy of your speech is still a mystery to you. While the study may discuss the idea of reducing seepage by drilling, it does not discuss or even begin to compare the environmental benefit of drilling to relieve the environmental effects of these "42,000 gallons" a day. The fact that to this point you've already read the study means you must not be illiterate. You must've also read that bruce p. LUYENDYK was never placed at that town hall meeting by any report and only addressed them in a LETTER that he sent to the board in advance of that meeting. Please step aside so the big people can talk.

RE: Hey Mikey!
By sigilscience on 9/4/2008 11:49:27 PM , Rating: 2
bruce p. LUYENDYK was never placed at that town hall meeting by any report and only addressed them in a LETTER
Wow, just when I thought you couldn't embarrass yourself any more than you have. It took me all of five minutes to find this from a Santa Barbara newspaper:
But attending last Tuesday’s hearing was one of the key authors of the very studies cited by Firestone and the board majority, UCSB marine geophysicist Bruce Luyendyk

I'd say you lost all credibility, but you never had any to begin with. Now run along, troll.

RE: Hey Mikey!
By underqualified on 9/5/2008 12:37:44 AM , Rating: 2
Ok only way I guess I can answer that is this:

Now if you can actually manage to read this one it's a great story! THIS is the story of how the Santa Barbara Independent, which you used as a source by the way, was used to spread misinformation as well as not report actual news of the day. There are juicy parts too!

"Newsroom employees regarded these interventions as only the latest in a long series that included McCaw's hiring of a publicist to plant articles derogatory toward her ex-boyfriend, and her requests to portray a local architect in a negative manner."

After many more scandals associated with the paper, one third of the company left or was fired. You'll find that after all the scandals readership accordingly shrank as well the "independent" that remained was left simply for people like you to search for online. And of course because you do not know the effect of putting print in bold on a web page you really believe that google has given you the ability to enter a conversation for which you were never prepared to begin with.

Who needs all this anger! Let's be friends! :) LOL

"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller

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