Safety First: Big Oil’s Rush To ‘Drill, Baby, Drill’ Is Reckless And Unnecessary

Our guest blogger is Daniel J. Weiss, Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy, Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Even though the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling today issued its recommendations for additional safeguards for future offshore oil production, Big Oil continues to rashly advocate for a speedy return to expanded offshore oil drilling. Oil prices are steadily climbing toward $100 per barrel and Big Oil’s congressional allies are poised to use this price spike to reanimate the “drill, baby, drill” war cry. This rush to drill first, reform later ignores projections that American oil production will increase nearly twice as fast as oil demand over the next 10 years. There is time to make sure future drilling is safer than before the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Energy Information Administration’s recent Annual Energy Outlook 2011 finds little need to hurry to begin drilling without precautions as the American Petroleum Institute and its allies wish to do. The outlook predicts:

Oil imports fall due to increased domestic production — including biofuels — and greater fuel efficiency.

In fact, the outlook estimates that the percentage increase in domestic liquid fuel production will be equal to the percent increase in oil demand between 2010 and 2015, and the percent increase in production will be twice as much as the percent increase of demand by 2020. Domestic production will increase relative to demand, and U.S. imports from OPEC will decline. There also will be two rounds of improvements in fuel economy standards for model years 2012–2016 and 2017–2022.


There is no need to launch panic drilling while ignoring the commission’s recommendations to improve safety. It is critical to note that commission found that the root causes of the disaster “are systemic and, absent significant reform in both industry practices and government policies, might well recur.”

It makes little sense to begin expanded deepwater drilling that relies only on oil industry changes rather than waiting to implement the commission’s recommendations. Yet API president Jack Gerard believes that the oil industry’s improvements determined before the cause of the BP disaster was known are adequate, saying that “we also cannot keep the industry on indefinite ‘hold’ while the regulatory process is improved.”

The commission found that API is wrong — that voluntary reforms are inadequate to protect the coastal economy and environment. Instead of API’s rush to drill, the commission’s recommendations released today should be fully implemented and thoroughly enforced on existing rigs before new expansion begins. Politico reports that these recommendations include lifting the oil spill liability limit, providing more resources for enforcement of safety measures, establishing an independent entity to set safety standards, and other new protections. Without such rules, we risk another multibillion-dollar Gulf Coast disaster that would further harm the local economy, push some coastal residents into poverty, and cause long-lasting economic and environmental damage.

Big Oil continues to lust after huge profits at the expense of the health and welfare of the American people. This reckless money chase occurs even though the production, combustion, and reliance on oil pollutes the water and air, and forces the United States to rely on oil from some unfriendly regimes.

Read the full version of this post, “Big Oil Sings the Same Old Song.”