Thursday's explosion and fire on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico has reignited the dread--shared by environmentalists, oil industry officials, Gulf coast residents, and Washington lawmakers alike--over the months-long oil spill caused by the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, also in the Gulf of Mexico. While this latest incident appears to be far less severe, it has returned Deepwater Horizon's lessons to the forefront of the political conversation. President Barack Obama's offshore drilling moratorium, challenged but still standing, has already come under renewed debate. How will this incident shape that political fight? And what about the abandoned Democratic quests for energy reform or cap and trade? Here's what people are saying.
- Oil Spill Politics Return The New York Times' Campbell Robertson writes, "In another year, the blaze may not have garnered much attention; it might have been seen as one of the scores of fires and explosions that occur on offshore platforms in the gulf every year. But coming so soon after the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig in April, which killed 11 workers and set off the largest marine oil spill in American history, it took on much larger significance. Environmental groups quickly issued news releases, arguing that the fire proved the wisdom of the current federal moratorium on deepwater offshore drilling (though the platform was not drilling, nor was it in deep water). Officials from Mariner Energy, which owns the well, will now take their turn answering to Congress, following in the well-worn footsteps of executives of BP and Transocean, which operated the Deepwater Horizon."
- Makes Offshore Drilling Look Even More Dangerous The Wall Street Journal's Leslie Eaton says this incident "heightened pressure on the energy industry, which is battling greater regulation and a deep-water drilling ban. ... [It] provoked an outcry from environmental groups and politicians in Washington already skeptical of offshore drilling. And it complicated the energy industry's effort to portray BP PLC's massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill as a fluke that shouldn't have provoked a drilling moratorium, some energy experts said."
- Blow for Oil Industry's Fight Against Regulation The Washington Post's Steven Mufson writes, "The Mariner Energy fire also occurred as the oil industry has been battling to stop tougher regulations in the wake of the BP accident. The American Petroleum Institute is planning to hold rallies nationwide next week to urge the Obama administration to lift its moratorium on deep-water drilling and to pressure Congress to back away from new tax and liability measures. Oil industry executives stressed the differences between the new incident and the BP blowout, but the differences also underline the magnitude of regulating the industry. ... There are just under three dozen deep-water exploration rigs in the Gulf of Mexico but thousands of shallow-water production wells."
- Offshore Drilling Ban Has Costs The New York Times' Clifford Krauss reports, "BP is warning Congress that if lawmakers pass legislation that bars the company from getting new offshore drilling permits, it may not have the money to pay for all the damages caused by its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The company says a ban would also imperil the ambitious Gulf Coast restoration efforts that officials want the company to voluntarily support."
- Was Obama Too Soft on Shallow-Water Regulation? The Washington Post's David Fahrenthold writes, "The industry and the White House have battled each other all summer over a six-month moratorium on deepwater oil drilling imposed by the Obama administration after the historic spill from the Deepwater Horizon rig. But, within that fight, there was common ground: Both sides seemed to agree that there was less of a crisis among the gulf's other rigs. That would include those in shallower water, less than 500 feet deep, and those platforms that merely pumped oil instead of drilling for it. Then, on Thursday, a shallow-water pumping platform caught fire."