Accidents change tune of offshore drilling fans

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

From a commentary by Dave Zweifel in The Capital Times:

As George Bush and his oil industry cronies use the gas price crisis to push for more offshore drilling and the opening of the protected Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, I remembered a clipping I saved from the Chicago Tribune's editorial pages several weeks ago.

It was an op-ed column written by David McGrath, a teacher at the University of South Alabama who lives on Dauphin Island, three miles into the Gulf of Mexico, and admitted that he once was a big fan of drilling for oil and gas in the ocean floor.

Alabamians figured, for example, that to have big rigs as close as a quarter mile off the coast would give the state cheaper fuel if only for the fact that the fuel wouldn't have to be transported far. Besides, those big oil platforms provide good fish habitat -- much like, I assume, the overhang of Monona Terrace does for fish in Lake Monona. McGrath, like many who live near the ocean, is a big fisherman.

He and his neighbors changed their tune, however, after the many accidents that occurred on the giant rigs. There have been more than 300 accidents on offshore rigs worldwide in the past couple of decades.

McGrath said the scariest for him happened last fall when a cloud of poisonous gas was expelled by a natural gas rig and drifted over the island on which he lives. It sickened dozens of residents and forced the evacuation of the island's sea lab school.