Offshore Oil Search

July 18, 1973

Report Outline
New Interest in Offshore Drilling
Jurisdiction Over Seabed Development
Concern Over Energy and Pollution
Special Focus

New Interest in Offshore Drilling

Offshore oil offers the best chance for America to lessen its dependence on foreign petroleum and to ease the energy crisis. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, nearly 200 billion barrels of recoverable oil may be trapped in formations under the continental shelf and slope—more than twice as much as has been produced in the United States since the first successful oil well was drilled in 1859.While this oil promises to relieve the developing shortage of fossil fuels, it also raises profound fears among environmentalists. Mere mention of the words “offshore drilling” recalls the rupture of an oil well in the Santa Barbara channel in 1969. The well spewed thousands of barrels of oil into the Pacific, blackening nearby California beaches and killing birds and fish. Oilmen and ecologists are still debating whether the accident left any long-term effects on the area's ecology.

The Santa Barbara accident continues to have an impact on offshore oil exploration. It was a factor in passage of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 which requires federal agencies to assess the environmental impact of their decisions. Drilling remains suspended on half of the 70 leases previously awarded by the federal government in the channel and the incident has stiffened the resistance of Atlantic Coast states to drilling off their shores. Several bills have been introduced in Congress to create marine sanctuaries where oil exploration would be barred. Oil companies are now required, before exploration begins, to offer guarantees that their activities will not harm the marine environment.

On the other hand, the energy problem seems to be pushing the country toward allowing a massive new search for offshore oil and natural gas. Shortages of gasoline became apparent to American motorists in 1972 and continued into the summer of 1973, giving the petroleum industry a strong debating point in its demands for a relaxation of strictures against offshore drilling. The Federal Trade Commission reported on July 9, 1973, that more than 1,200 of the nation's 220,000 retail gasoline stations had gone out of business in the first five months of the year and many others had drastically cut back their hours of operation for lack of fuel supplies.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Aug. 07, 1998  Oil Production in the 21st Century
Aug. 23, 1991  Oil Imports
Oct. 30, 1987  Persian Gulf Oil
Apr. 04, 1986  Oil Prices
Dec. 23, 1983  Quest for Energy Independence
Sep. 23, 1983  OPEC: 10 Years After the Arab Oil Boycott
May 29, 1981  Western Oil Boom
Aug. 25, 1978  Oil Imports
Feb. 10, 1978  Oil Antitrust Action
Dec. 17, 1976  Alaskan Development
May 17, 1974  Arab Oil Money
Mar. 15, 1974  Oil Taxation
Jul. 18, 1973  Offshore Oil Search
Mar. 28, 1973  Persian Gulf Oil
Nov. 01, 1972  Gasoline Prices
Oct. 14, 1970  Fuel Shortages
Nov. 12, 1969  Alaskan Oil Boom
Dec. 11, 1968  Oil Shale Development
Oct. 26, 1960  World Oil Glut
Sep. 10, 1958  Middle East Oil
Oct. 30, 1951  Oil Nationalization
Aug. 11, 1950  Oil Imports
Apr. 23, 1947  Oil of the Middle East
Jan. 22, 1946  Offshore Oil
Mar. 09, 1944  Oil Supply
Dec. 24, 1935  Oil in World Politics
May 07, 1931  Control of Production in the Oil Industry
Mar. 27, 1929  The Oil Leasing Policy of the New Administration
Jun. 08, 1927  Oil Conservation and Stabilization
Feb. 08, 1926  The Mexican Land and Petroleum Laws
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Feb. 11, 1924  Background of the Oil Lease Cases
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Energy and the Environment
Oil and Natural Gas
Water Resources