Federal Judge Blocks Obama's Offshore Drilling Ban: 4 Reasons This Is Positive

The economic and environmental risks posed by a deepwater drilling moratorium

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A federal judge has blocked President Obama's six-month moratorium on new deepwater drilling projects. Though the ban was popular with Americans, the judge said "the Interior Department failed to provide adequate reasoning for the moratorium" the AP reports. Before the ruling, a number of commentators raised doubts about the ban's wisdom. Here are four reasons the judge's ruling could be a good thing:

  • Ban Could Have Increased the Likelihood of an Oil Spill, writes Niraj Chokshi at The Atlantic: "The six-month ban on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico could encourage companies to move their rigs to other parts of the world, increasing the nation's reliance on imported oil. But it would also increase our reliance on long-distance shipping to bring that oil to the U.S. and increase the probability of oil being spilled at sea. Over the last half-century, transport vessels have been responsible for almost two-thirds of all marine oil spills."
  • Experts Say the White House Distorted Their Views, writes The Wall Street Journal editorial board: "In the wake of the oil spill, President Obama asked Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to produce a report on new drilling safety recommendations. Then on May 27 Mr. Obama announced a six-month deep water drilling ban, justifying it on the basis of Mr. Salazar's report, a top recommendation of which was the moratorium. To lend an air of technical authority, the report noted: 'The recommendations contained in this report have been peer-reviewed by seven experts identified by the National Academy of Engineering.' Now those experts say their views were distorted, writes the Journal. "As for a 'blanket moratorium,' the seven said it 'is not the answer. It will not measurably reduce risk further and it will have a lasting impact on the nation's economy which may be greater than that of the oil spill.' If anything, the ban could prove 'counterproductive to long term safety... Moratorium was not part' of the 'report we consulted-advised-reviewed.'"
  • It May Have Done Greater Economic Damage Than the Spill Itself, writes the New Orleans Times-Picayune editorial board: "The jobs provided by this industry go far beyond those on the rigs themselves -- more than twice as many people in oil-related jobs earn their livings on tugboats and supply boats and in shipyards, helipads, catering kitchens and other places on shore. It doesn't take an economist to see what shutting down the rigs for half a year will do to all those jobs and the people who hold them. But President Barack Obama doesn't seem to get it. His administration fails to grasp how Louisiana's economy works or what the six-month halt to exploratory drilling that the White House has ordered will do to people who earn their living from this critical activity."
  • Abandoning Wells Is Risky, says Ken Arnold, an energy engineer and consultant: "The ban requires oil companies to abandon uncompleted wells. The process of discontinuing a well, and then later re-entering it, introduces unnecessary risk... BP was in the process of abandoning its well when the blowout happened."
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