I have not really kept up to speed with what the media are saying about the Deepwater Horizon incident as I know how bad oil spills are – I don’t need to see images of oiled wildlife breathing their last and it’s kinda obvious what impact this will be having on fishing in the area. But it has also raised a lot of ‘peak oil-type’ comments – from the reasonable to the ridiculous.
At the ‘ridiculous’ end of the spectrum is an article saying that “the BP disaster should put an end to the widely disseminated “peak oil” theory that says the Earth is running out of oil”. As readers know, peak oil is not about “running out of oil”. But this article is in Canada Free Press, whose strapline is “…because without America there is no Free World”. If that wasn’t indication enough of their mindset, the article goes on to promote the abiotic oil formation theory, which says that oil is formed in the Earth’s magma and migrates to the surface. This view is not widely accepted by geologists but it’s a good bit of peak oil denial.
Now there have been links made to 9/11. To answer the question in the title, “yes, it will” in that both 9/11 and Deepwater Horizon have shattered some firmly held beliefs: 1) that no one hates America enough to fly planes into buildings and 2) that technology will save the day. No one likes having their reality questioned, especially by events rather than more easily deniable opinions. The events in the Gulf of Mexico hammer home the fact that most (conventional) oil left is in hard-to-reach places, such as beneath miles of ocean and rock or beneath the Arctic. More energy in. Obama has said “the ongoing oil spill would change the way the US thinks about energy forever” – I’m sure it will but how will the US think about energy in future? Not in terms of net energy, methinks.
And the Deepwater incident has ramifications closer to home. Energy Secretary Chris Huhne pointed out that ”with the beginning of exploration in deeper waters west of Shetland, we must be vigilant.” Initial steps are apparently already under way, including the doubling of annual environmental inspections of drilling rigs. Doubling? Twice a year? I doubt that would have prevented the Deepwater disaster, which seems to be due to corners being cut on safety (this interview with rig survivors is well worth a watch) – only to be expected as we cling to need for oil at any cost. There’s an old adage used by some oilmen – you can do it right or you can do it cheap but not both. In the case of oil and indeed all the fossil fuels, the right thing to do is leave it in the ground but I don’t think we’re quite ready for that yet – we’re still deeply in denial over the problem.