Like a cornered weasel, President Obama has lashed out at the oil industry just days before his presidency ends, using “an obsure provision of a 1953 law, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act” to permanently ban drilling on most of the Atlantic coast and much of Alaska.
“It’s never been done before,” said Patrick Parenteau, a professor of environmental law at the University of Vermont. “There is no case law on this. It’s uncharted waters.”
Obama believes himself to be Captain Planet, and feels he must spare no legal loophole–and even make up a few–to stop what may be the most oil-friendly president ever from destroying the Earth. He really believes this, and the consequences cannot be overstated.
This bombshell declares about 115 million acres of federally-owned Arctic waters, along with “a series of coral canyons” in 3.8 million additional acres from Norfolk, Va., up to the Canadian border, to be off-limits to drilling to protect rare fish and animal species. Obama was joined by Fidel-loving Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the Arctic drilling ban.
Of course, the area in which oil exploration was ever contemplated in Alaska is about the size of a postage stamp compared to the ban, and past drilling has not driven species like polar bears or bowhead whales into extinction.
Specifically, it’s the possibility of oil spills that’s been tossed out as the reason for the ban, but that affects current production also. A 2013 study produced for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management looking at North Slope spill data from June 1981 to Sept. 2011 concluded thusly:
Spills of 500 bbl or larger are rare on the Alaska North Slope and appear to be random events with respect to crude oil production volume. The best approach to estimating their occurrence was a simple return rate that predicts between zero and two spills of more than 500 bbl will occur for every one billion barrels of production.
A barrel is 42 gallons. The best estimate of recoverable oil in North Slope (without further exploration) is right at 2 billion barrels. The spill volume projected if every drop is recovered is 21,000 gallons over 13 years at 450,000 barrels per day (current production levels). At peak production of 2 million barrels per day, that’s around 42,000 gallons (potentially) over three years.
BOEM estimates there are somewhere around 4.5 billion barrels of undiscovered oil in the Atlantic outer continental shelf, and between 10 and 20 billion barrels in the Alaskan Arctic outer continental shelf. That doesn’t include the 100-130 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
This diktat will certainly go through the federal court system and may even reach the U.S. Supreme Court. Now, about that Supreme Court Justice that we want President-elect Trump to nominate? Do we want to end abortion? Or do we want cheap fuel? I hope we can have both.