walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
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Gulf Drilling Picking up after BP Oil Spill

After the Deepwater Horizon debacle, many predicted that oil drilling in the Gulf would be crippled by new regulations. Instead, oil companies have taken the changes in stride and are on track even to increase production significantly, as the Wall Street Journal reports:

New regulations imposed after the oil spill spelled out specific standards for well design and construction, added new requirements for safety equipment and inspections, while requiring that drillers have quick access to a containment system similar to the one that ultimately stopped the Deepwater Horizon spill.

The new regulations also have slowed the pace at which energy companies receive federal permits. Exploration and development plans now take about 150 days compared with 54 days in the past, according to investment bank Tudor Pickering & Holt. Permits to drill specific wells now take about twice as long as before the disaster.

But the number of permits has risen sharply so far this year, to 105 as of August, versus 79 in all of 2011. “Today we see cooler heads and more pragmatic leadership with the regulators in Washington, and things are now working more smoothly in the Gulf, ” says James Noe, general counsel for drilling firm Hercules Offshore Inc.

Bentek Energy estimates that Gulf oil will flow at 1.8 million barrels per day by 2022, a ten-year increase of nearly 28 percent. Oil companies have adapted to new regulations without missing a step, and continue to grow.

What happened at the Macondo well in 2010 was disastrous, but offshore oil remains an important part of America’s growing energy network. We have to go ahead with the drilling, but we also have to get the drilling right.

In Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Macondo is a magical town headed for unthinkable devastation. The explosion that happened at BP’s Macondo felt particularly ominous for those who knew the novel; let’s hope that that the new regulations and precautions limit the prospect of future great spills.

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