Saturday, May 29, 2010

Drill, Baby, Drill

Yeah, that's what I said.  Keep drilling. I point out in my profile that I live in Florida, and my own favorite fishing spots, beaches and all are threatened by this disaster.  I still say "drill, baby, drill". 

This week, the Prez declared a moratorium on drilling new wells and a moratorium on simply exploring for new oil offshore.

This is like saying "I got food poisoning, so I'm never going to eat again".  I understand the sentiment, but it's stupid and ultimately suicidal.

Simple truth.  Like it our not, our world runs on oil.  Another simple truth: energy use is directly proportional to affluence.  The news meme that drives me crazy the most is probably the one that goes "the US is 5% of the world's population but uses 25% of the world's energy".  You don't need a Ph.D. in library science, or anything else for that matter, to use Google or Bing or your favorite search engine to see that it's because we produce about that percentage of the world's GDP.  What that meme really means is we have a tiny population for the massive amounts of wealth we produce.  It should be something to celebrate, something to shout from the mountaintops.  Instead, they've made it something to be embarrassed about. Even otherwise brilliant engineers I know have not seen this until I pointed it out.

Do I like oil spills?  Hell, no.  Seems weird to even have to say that.  Do I want to see any wildlife hurt, or lose my favorite surf fishing spot?  Double hell no.  I feel terribly sorry for the families of the 11 who died on the rig, and the people whose lives will be disrupted by having their jobs destroyed; fisherman, guides and so on.  You just can not remove all risk from life.  Obvious science: any energy source has more energy than its surroundings or it wouldn't be much of an energy source.  That means getting it and using it is going to risky.  That means if the greens ever discover the magical unicorn farts they're searching for to replace oil and power everything, unicorn farts will be risky, too. 

Personally, I would rather see us using much more nuclear power.  I know they must exist, but I have personally never met an engineer who didn't want more nuclear power.  The technologies to build reactors that won't  melt down has been around for about a quarter century, now, so that whole "China Syndrome" argument is out the window.  The technologies to safely handle nuclear waste have been around even longer, over half a century.  The only arguments against it are political and NIMBY.  Nuclear is great for infrastructure and electricity, but for portable sources (cars, buses, other personal transport), some sort of fuel like gasoline, natural gas, or possibly hydrogen looks to be needed for a while, yet. 

Since the greenies have almost completely shut down nuclear energy in this country, and have relegated us to the most inefficient and expensive alternative energy sources (wind, corn ethanol) we are stuck with oil. 

Another energy source with great potential would be to produce giant arrays of solar cells in earth orbit and beam the energy down as microwave power.  The energy density can be reduced in the beam to allow birds and aircraft to go through the beam safely, but would require many acres on the ground to collect the energy and large battery banks for storage.  Neither acre-sized solar collectors or large amounts of storage batteries seems to be acceptable to the greenies. 

If we could get rid of the stupid regulations, we could have a cafeteria selection of energy sources choosing the most cost effective answer to the problem we need to solve.

For now, the environmentalists have painted us into a corner.  We either keep drilling or slowly die.  I say, "drill, baby, drill".


  1. In anything you do there are risks. Just living everyday life can be dangerous. Driving your car puts you in peril. The car’s brakes can fail, another driver can crash into you, a bus can fall off an overpass an land on you! There are risks. But just because there are risks you don’t stop doing those things, you don’t stop living.

    In the case of the Gulf oil spill, there were risks and there was an accident. The root cause has not been determined. There are rumors that the bladder in the blowout preventer was damaged during a test. The story goes that the bladder had been inflated and an operator moved the drill stem when he wasn’t supposed to and tore the rubber bladder. When the drill crew saw chucks of rubber coming up from the well in the drill mud, they were told by a supervisor “it’s ok.” If that is true that may explain why the blowout preventer isn’t working.

    No one is talking about the fact that drilling in such deep water is significantly more difficult than drilling on land or in shallow water. That fact adds to an increased risk of an accident to the process, not to mention making the process of mitigating an accident much harder. Who’s to blame there, maybe our government? You know, our government who won’t provide leases for drilling on land or in shallow waters. If this rig was in a couple of hundred feet of water they could have divers down at the blowout preventer fixing it. But in 5000 feet of water the only way to get to it is with robotic vehicles. Not nearly as effective as divers on the job! Include the environmental wackos in the blame game too, because every time a company wants to drill they hold protests and effectively, through the government, shut down any drilling. That one of the big reasons the oil companies are drilling in such deep water and therefore increasing their risks.