Reflections on the Lessons From the Gulf Oil Spill

By Mike Bryan | June 10, 2010
Much has been written on the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The anti-oil folks are beating their chests and rattling sabers on how we need to stop the off-shore drilling, eliminate our dependence on oil and castigate BP for the environmental damage caused. I frequently challenge the oil industry in this column but for things that are within their control.

My suspicion is that BP did not intend that the oil rig explode, killing 11 workers. I suspect also, that it would prefer not to be challenged with the multi-billion dollars in lawsuits and cleanup costs that will surely ensue. It was an accident, and like most accidents, they are generally caused by a series of mistakes and missteps rather than just a single event or failure. Was this preventable? Perhaps, but then in the final analysis, aren't most accidents? It's not the accident as much as what we learn from the accident that enables us to prevent a reoccurrence.

The fact is America will need oil for many years to come. The record of off-shore drilling, while not perfect, has been remarkably good. Obtaining a large percentage of our oil from countries that are hostile towards us, in my opinion, is a much greater threat to America than the risk we face from off-shore drilling. The billions that are sent to foreign countries every year is, in itself, a catastrophe of major proportion. America and the Gulf, will recover from this, and hopefully we will learn.

Of course the event in the Gulf, like the Exxon Valdez and others, highlight our need to aggressively develop a robust alternative fuels strategy. But at the same time, it certainly does not mitigate the need to responsibly develop a strong domestic oil supply. If we peel back the onion, our reliance on imported oil has caused the most death, destruction and exodus of money the world has ever seen. It has cost trillions of dollars, countless lives and untold destruction.

Is oil our future? For now, it certainly is an integral part of our short-term future. Long term, a greater reliance on renewable forms of energy will eventually lessen our dependence. In the meantime, we should look at strategies that address the real problem, imported oil. Those strategies include the responsible development of domestic oil and natural gas production, including off-shore drilling. They include what should be an unprecedented effort by Congress to encourage the use of ethanol, biodiesel and other forms of renewable energy. It's more than just a matter of national security, the reduction of America's dependence on imported oil through the expanded use of alternative fuels greatly enhances the opportunities for world peace.

That's the way I see it!