The Obama Administration has used the Deepwater Horizon disaster to achieve the radical goal of almost completely shutting down energy exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. After the tragedy that cost the lives of 11 crewman, the Administration implemented a moratorium on drilling in deepwater. In theory, a stoppage to assess what went wrong seemed reasonable. But as actual events have shown, the moratorium in deepwater was, in reality, a moratorium in shallow waters as well.
After the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the Administration and other critics bullied and badgered the oil and gas regulators. Now the regulators are so fearful, they seldom approve any of the necessary permits to produce energy.
Reuters writes that, “Before BP’s record Macondo oil leak, U.S. regulators approved about a dozen [shallow water] drilling permits a month…since [the disaster] they’ve barely managed one a month…” In other words, there is a de facto moratorium on shallow water exploration because of the Administration’s (in)actions.
Franz Kafka has nothing to do with oil production or energy, but as a literary critic, he was able to articulate the suffocating nature of a bureaucratic society and we can use his insights to explain the current permitting process.
In “Before the Law” a man comes to a doorkeeper who grants access to the law. The doorkeeper explains to the man that he has access, but that he cannot enter at the moment. After some protest, the man asks if he would be allowed access later. The doorkeeper responds, “It is possible, but not at the moment.” This exchange plays out in various forms throughout the fable, and echoes what oil companies are experiencing. The U.S. has granted access to shallow water, but when oil companies ask for a permit, they are told by the regulators, “not at the moment.”
Instead of waiting for access to permits, oil companies will explore other regions of the world for energy production, and those areas are welcoming them. They want our offshore energy factories and the jobs and revenue that Americans currently enjoy. They’re more than happy to sell us the oil we need but our government won’t let us produce, as the US spirals deeper and deeper into economic demise and national energy insecurity. And that means eventually higher energy prices for Americans, who because of the loss of jobs will be less able to afford it. It is time for tax payers to say that the moment for off shore permits is now. And it is time for the Administration to stop this “man-caused disaster.”