So far, this is not the case, and oil companies only pay royalties on production. This is another area under scrutiny in the MMS scandal. There are reports, dating back to 2008, that the royalty offices of the MMS, located in Denver, routinely accepted oil company numbers on the amount of oil they produced, rather than independently auditing the numbers. No one knows how much lost revenue to the government that practice resulted in, and there is no way of finding out now. Clearly, future policy formation on the industry needs to include more oversight, more regulations, and a much less cozy relationship between the regulators and the companies they are regulating.
Future policy formation on other energy sources
The Gulf spill has helped to change public opinion on oil and its production, and on how it is regulated. It seems much clearer after the spill that we are a nation far too dependent on foreign and domestic oil. The rise in gas prices last year helped show that, too. Oil is a non-renewable, dirty fuel, and Americans are the most heavily dependent on it. We need to form policies today that will positively affect our country and our ancestors in the next decades. The White House and Congress are attempting to pass laws on renewable energy that will benefit us all, but there is stiff opposition from lobbyists and many Republicans. While the administration did manage to get a bit tougher fuel-efficiency regulations through Congress, any sweeping changes in renewable energy have not passed. Lawmakers need to recognize that it is vital for the country to develop alternative sources of energy, not only to help the environment, but also to stop our dependence on non-renewable oil.
Creating alternative power sources, such as geothermal, wind, solar, and hydroelectric. Today, we are dependent on oil and coal, two of the dirtiest, most polluting power producers. Replacing old coal-fired electric plants with solar, wind, or geothermal plants is expensive, but it makes much more sense in the end. Over time, these alternative power plants pay for themselves, and they are far cleaner and less polluting than traditional plants. In addition, they use types of power that is renewable and good for the planet. The Gulf oil spill shows just how dangerous oil is, and how important it is to step away from non-renewable fuels in favor of more environmentally friendly alternatives.
Short- and long-term socio-economic consequences of oil spills and continued reliance on oil
The socio-economic consequences of the Gulf oil spill have yet to be analyzed. In the short run, experts already know that tourism has dropped dramatically, and reports indicate that many communities that are heavily reliant on tourism are collapsing all along the coast. With tourism down, the economic cost to these communities will be great, and if people continue to think the area is polluted after the spill is controlled, the area could suffer for years. The Exxon Valdez incident shows that communities suffer lengthy comebacks, and that some fishermen and others are still affected from the 1989 spill today. The same will certainly hold true for the Gulf coast, it is sad to say.
The economic affect on the fishing industry is still being assessed, as well. Oysters and shrimp are already affected, and many fishermen are worried about spawning areas for other fish and shellfish, which could also affect populations for years or decades to come. Most reports say it is really too early to assess the long-term effects to the residents, workers, and wildlife in the area, but prior studies indicate all of these things will be greatly affected. BP will have to pay damages, but that does not really make up for the long-term affects the region will suffer.
The economies and livelihoods of the region will certainly be impacted, but the biggest tragedy in the oil spill is that it happened, it has been so difficult to control, and that it is affecting so much wildlife. The Louisiana government says that 2,986 birds have been collected within the five states impacted by the spill, and of those, only 461 have been successfully released back into the wild (Editor, 2010). Sea turtles and dolphins have also been affected, and there are no estimates of how many fish and underwater plants are affected. Fisheries are closed, and the region is yet to feel the full brunt of the oil spill.
In conclusion, the Gulf oil spill is one of the worst natural disasters the nation has ever faced. The most important thing is getting the region cleaned up after the spill is contained. However, past experience indicates that the Gulf is going to suffer for a long time, and that it will take decades for species to come back to pre-spill numbers. The public will eventually forget the spill, and life will turn back to "normal." However, the spill really shows how shortsighted our energy policies are, and why we need to rely on renewable energy instead of oil. The country should continue offshore drilling in the future, but with much more stringent regulations and policies. They should have much more stringent disaster plans, as well. BP may not have thought a tragedy like this could occur, but it did, and there have to be ways to stop it from happening again.
Editor. (2010). Update on oiled wildlife and marine life recovered along Louisiana's coastline. Retrieved 16 July 2010 from the Louisiana.gov Web site: http://emergency.louisiana.gov/Releases/07142010-wildlife.html.
Editors. (2010). Oil dispersants. Retrieved 16 July 2010 from the Prairie View A&M University Web site: http://www.extension.org/pages/Oil_Dispersants.
Falola, T., & Genova, A. (2005). The politics of the global oil industry: An introduction. Westport, CT: Praeger.
Green groups bolster lobby against offshore drilling; Democrats struggle to pacify uneasy voters. (2008, July 16). The Washington Times, p. A06.
Michel, J. And Esler, D. (2009). Report on recent lingering oil studies. Retrieved 16 July 2010 from the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council Web site: http://www.evostc.state.ak.us/universal/documents/LingeringOilReport.pdf.
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Phillips, M., Bucher, R., & Young, M. (2009, August). Positioning NRPA on offshore drilling and a "conservation royalty." Parks & Recreation, 44, 10+.
Sullivan, K. (2010). MMS deepwater lease sales to BP and other companies continue lax…