Yesterday’s decision by the Obama administration to put a moratorium on drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico further intensifies the current debate about hydraulic fracturing, the controversial process by which much of the unconventional gas is being exploited in the US.
The process has been at the centre of the most recent argument between the oil and gas industry and environmentalists since Gasland was released earlier this year, highlighting the effect of some of the chemicals used in extraction. But the argument has gathered pace in the last few days, not least because of the announcement by Ken Salazar (pictured) that he would consider tightening up rules so that companies have to disclose what chemicals are being used to extract the gas.
The Obama administration has decided not to grant any new leases in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Florida, for the foreseeable future, as a result of the BP spill.
AP broke the story, reporting that the ban would last seven years:
A senior administration official told The Associated Press on Wednesday that drilling leases won’t be considered in the waters off Florida as part of the change. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision hadn’t been announced yet.
He said that because of the BP spill, the administration now understands the need to elevate safety and environmental standards. Before the spill, the administration had considered a plan to allow drilling in the eastern Gulf.
One note of caution: the NY Times has the same story, but is reporting that the ban would last “at least for the next five years”. Presumably the picture will become clearer when Ken Salazar has made the formal announcement this afternoon.
Here’s an interesting story from the States with potentially serious political implications.
The US interior department’s inspector general has carried out an investigation into why the government’s moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, implemented in the wake of the BP oil spill, looked like it had been peer-reviewed, when it had not.
The investigation found the following sequence of events: