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We need a primer on how oil and gas exploration and production works for our elected officials

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From the Washington Post article “Schwarzenegger Ends Support For California Oil Drilling

re: “Sen. Tony Strickland of Thousand Oaks said it was unfair for the governor to compare the type of drilling proposed in the Tranquillon Ridge area off California’s coast to the drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. They are two completely different types of drilling. In the Gulf they had to use floating platforms because of deep waters. T-ridge is only 1,000 feet deep and the platforms would be fixed,” Strickland said.”

This is yet another policy maker proving that what we need to do first, before we move forward on further exploration, is educate our elected officials.

Transocean’s floating drill platform Deepwater Horizon is, or rather was, a state of the art platform which uses dynamic positioning systems that keep the rig within just a few feet of a location.  While the reason for the blowout preventer failing isn’t yet known, one thing is clear:  Whether you drill in 100, 1000, or 5000 feet of water the blowout preventer sits on the seafloor as a part of the wellhead. Drilling in 1000 feet of water off of California is still a risky business.

We had a similar uninformed discussion about drilling back here on the east coast during the race for the Virginia governor.  Statements were made that supported offshore drilling – but only for natural gas, not oil – which was supposed to be some sort of recognition of the hazards of oil spills to the tourist economy in Virginia Beach.  Problem is that you can’t drill for natural gas and avoid drilling for oil. When you drill, you just drill, and you get what you get.

We need a primer on how oil and gas exploration and production works for our decision makers before they yet again take an incorrect policy stance based on less than perfect knowledge.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.

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