A federal judge has overturned the Obama Administration’s moratorium on deepwater oil drilling — details after the jump.
Also after the jump: checking the math of Exxon Valdez comparisons, exploring the obstacles to energy independence.
A group of local governments in the panhandle is seeking $14 million from BP to promote job growth.
The Minerals Management Service has a new boss and a new name: The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement.
Republicans have generally shied away from congressional BP apologist Joe Barton, but not North Florida’s Cliff Stearns, who will be joining him at a fundraiser. A moratorium on the drilling moratorium
The six-month deepwater drilling ban could be lifted early as a result of today’s ruling:
The White House swiftly said the administration would appeal the decision.
In a 22-page ruling, Judge Martin L. C. Feldman of Federal District Court issued a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of a May 28 order halting all floating offshore drilling projects in more than 500 feet of water and preventing the government from issuing new permits for such projects.
Citing the economic harm to businesses and workers in the gulf caused by the moratorium, Judge Feldman — a 1983 appointee of President Ronald Reagan — wrote that the Obama administration had failed to justify the need for the sweeping suspension, which he characterized as “generic, indeed punitive.”
The ban had been the subject of scorn at the World National Oil Companies Congress in London:
Transocean Ltd. president and CEO Steven Newman, owner of the destroyed Deepwater Horizon rig that has spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf, said Obama’s ban, which is currently being reviewed by a U.S. federal judge, was unnecessary.
“There are things the administration could implement today that would allow the industry to go back to work tomorrow without an arbitrary six-month time limit,” Newman told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting.
Related: The trend toward increased deepwater drilling is likely to continue.
The Exxon Valdez question
To put the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in perspective, journalists have compared the spill to the size of the next-largest in American history, as Time did yesterday:
Representative Edward Markey, the pugnacious Boston Democrat who has emerged as one of the political stars of the oil spill, may have the final word on what caused the accident—philosophically, at least. On NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, Markey released internal BP documents that showed the company believed that as much as 100,000 barrels a day—that’s 4.2 million gallons, or nearly half a Valdez spill—could gush from a damaged well in the Gulf of Mexico if all equipment slowing the flow were removed.
This week, NPR’s On the Media unpacks those comparisons and finds that the Valdez may be getting low-balled. According to Riki Ott, a marine toxicologist who has been tracking the effects of the Valdez for decades, the typical basis for comparison — 11 million barrels — was in fact the low-end estimate. The high-end estimate was 38 million gallons.
The State of Alaska went and hired independent surveyors because they were preparing for a lawsuit. This was a secret investigation. The code word for it was “Ace.” Each of the two independent surveyors tracked the amount of water that offloaded from Exxon Valdez, which amounted to around 19 million gallons. We have to remember that 8 of 11 cargo holds were ripped wide open. There was a 21-foot tide going in and out twice a day, and it just acted like a washing machine.So if you add 19 million gallons of water in with the 11 million gallons of oil that we know spilled, you actually end up with closer to 30 million gallons. And that’s what the two surveyors estimated spilled, between 30 to 35 million gallons.
Related: Historians debate which environmental disaster was America’s worst.
Getting off oil
Americans want to kick our oil addiction, a new poll finds. We just aren’t willing to pay the necessary price.
American companies, meanwhile, aren’t willing to make the necessary investments in alternative energy research, according to BusinessWeek.
Many economists argue that government needs to step in when the private sector isn’t providing the socially optimal amount of something like research. But government R&D spending on energy has been scarce, too. It was less than 0.03 percent of U.S. gross domestic product as of 2007, about one-third the share in Japan. The dearth of investment in energy R&D helps explain why the world is still getting its energy by punching holes in the sea floor rather than from safer, renewable sources such as the sun and the wind.
In his Oval Office speech on the Gulf spill on June 15, President Barack Obama cited a rapid boost in energy R&D as one of several ideas that “have merit and deserve a fair hearing in the months ahead.” That was a paler endorsement than some boosters hoped for.
Related: The Oil Drum tackles the question of energy independence.