United States President, Donald Trump, keeps on worrying environment defenders. He first signed a decree about the building of a wall on the frontier of Mexico which threatens to unsettle the way of life of plenty of animals living nearby. After deciding to reopen wolves and bears hunt in Alaska in April 2017, he now wishes to rekindle hydrocarbon offshore drilling in California, Florida and the Arctic.
In geology, the operation of offshore hydrocarbon is the opening of the seafloor in order to probe or exploit an undersea oil deposit also called offshore drilling.
Why does Trump want to revive the exploitation of offshore hydrocarbon?
The American President’s leitmotiv “America First” is being confirmed by this project. For the main reason that motivates the plan of reopening the sluice gates of sea drilling must be the lure of profit. Indeed, he himself underlined the importance of this exploitation for the American economy.
The goal is to “enable a responsible development of the offshore zones which will make money for the state coffers and create jobs for our workers”. Indeed, oil and gas drilling in sea represent a sixth of the American hydrocarbon production.
This decision which would be applied as of 2019 with a spread of five years affects 90% of American territorial waters.
What risks for the ecosystem?
Towards a degradation of marine environment
On April 20th 2010, the drilling platform Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Mexican Gulf, leading to eleven deaths and discharging 4.9 millions of barrels of raw oil in the sea. This was the worst oil slick the United States even known. The ecological disaster was so bad that Barack Obama, president at the time, reinforced the regulation and the safety measures. The risk of another environmental catastrophe is therefore real because it is impossible to guarantee an oil spill won’t happen again.
What’s more, several protected zoned could be concerned by the exploitation of platforms. The NGO Oceana warns that these “radical” measures threaten “the balance and the economy of the coasts, which rely on a wholesome ocean”.
Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, shared the environmental organizations’ worry and asked for the withdrawal of Florida in the list of states affected by the sea drilling project. Other regions like the Arctic refuse as well the exploitation of hydrocarbon so as to protect their natural resources.
The marine fauna in great danger
If the Arctic is alien to Trump’s government’s project, it is because the region is the habitat of species of marine mammals unique in the world. Narwhals, belugas, white whales, walruses and Greenland’s whales are going to the Davis Detroit and the Baffin Sea during winter. Polar bears and seals live in the Arctic Ocean from February to May. Oil layers represent a risk of poisoning for these animals.
There is also a high risk of disrupting in the ocean’s food chain. For example, if the seals came to disappear, the food chain would be broken; polar bears being deprived from their main food.
Eventually, the building of oil platforms or pipelines is the reason of many cold water corals dying. The pipelines –which transport gas in the ocean’s depths- and mechanical devices used to explore the undersea destroy the coral.
The situation in France
France wishes to put an end to hydrocarbon production. The minister of Ecology, Nicolas Hulot, presented last September a draft to forbid forward hydrocarbon production in France.
The law plans that no other hydrocarbon exploration license will be given in order to stop the research of new oil or gas deposits. Besides, the existing permits of exploitation won’t be renewed beyond 2040. The production should therefore dim over the years until it disappears completely.
And what can you do?
Support the organizations which promote the submarine preservation such as the Marine Conservation Institute.
Keep yourself updated and share this video which sums up the project of hydrocarbon American exploitation in order to raise awareness.
Marjorie de Larichaudy, EVI editor.