Open Season in the Atlantic

We’re appalled that the president is unleashing a wholesale assault on the oceans,” says Oceana Senior Campaign Director Jacqueline Savitz. “Expanding offshore drilling is the wrong move if the Obama administration is serious about improving energy security, creating lasting jobs and averting climate change.”

And that was only the start. The Sierra Club, The National Resources Defense Council, Greenpeace and scores of other green organizations condemned the Obama Administration’s proposal.

The drilling debate is particularly hot along the Virginia coast where state officials and about 70 percent of the Commonwealth’s residents are hoping to see leases signed with major energy suppliers sometime within the next 18 to 24 months. Virginians are committed to the idea of freeing the United States from its dependence on foreign oil and plumping up state coffers with royalties from oil sales.

Environmentalists, on the other hand, believe coastal communities and industries are far more valuable than the offshore oil reserves. “Opening the South Atlantic Coast to oil and gas drilling will do nothing to address climate change, provide only about six months worth of oil, and put at risk multi-billion dollar tourism and fisheries industries. One oil spill could devastate a coast,” said Deb Carter, director, Carolinas Office of the Southern Environmental Law Center.”

DRILL, BABY, DRILL
So far, green organizations and the administration of Virginia’s Governor Bob McDonnell are the only players who have their cards on the table. Environmental groups have promised to fight offshore drilling with PR campaigns and court challenges, and their word is good. McDonnell and the majority of the state’s residents will watch and no doubt root for the pro-drilling faction. As for who might do the drilling, that’s not clear yet.

The problem is that no one knows for certain how much oil and gas is out there, and estimates vary wildly. The federal government’s Mineral Management Service estimates that the 2.9 million acre area that will be up for lease contains 130 million barrels of oil, enough to supply Virginia’s energy needs for about seven months. However, MMS also admits that estimate is based on a 30-year old study that’s badly out of date.

Oil companies have made their own estimates but they are holding those numbers close to their vests. However, some updated estimates based on different models suggest there could be from two to seven billion barrels of oil off Virginia’s coast and 36 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

TESTING COMPANIES UP NEXT

Most people watching the drilling debate play out agree those numbers are high and they are waiting for real data. So far, seven geophysical exploration companies – Schlumberger subsidiary WesternGeco, Seabird Exploration, CGG Veritas, GX Technology, TGS Nopec and Spectrum Geo – have applied for permits to explore the area. The seismic companies intend to peddle the results of the tests in a multi-client fashion to interested energy producers who will then use the information to decide whether or not to bid on an offshore oil lease.

YEARS BEFORE THE FIRST DROP
Once a lease is awarded, there is survey work required, an exploration plan must be submitted and approved and an oil rig must be constructed. Then there’s an environmental impact statement that will weigh the value of energy reserves against possible environmental damage. Those hearings are several years off and there’s no doubt environmental groups have already started amassing information to use in their fight to stop any drilling.

It generally takes a minimum of seven years for an offshore lease sale to undergo the required environmental reviews before producing oil or gas, but because this would be the first drilling off the East Coast, may take even longer.

MAJOR LEAGUE GAME
Oil is measured in what the industry sometimes calls easy and hard barrels. Easy barrels come from humming onshore oil wells pumping soft ground somewhere in Texas. Hard barrels are sucked out of the continental shelf 50 miles out into the windy and unpredictable Atlantic.

The differences in the costs of producing onshore and offshore oil are dramatic. Add that to a seven-year environmental review, legal challenges and the cost of an offshore lease and you eliminate any small oil companies from the competition of bidding for offshore drilling rights.

Although no plans have been announced analysts have predicted any new leases are likely to go to the oil giants – Chevron, Exxon Mobil, BP and Shell.

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Interesting Facts About the Atlantic Ocean

If the ocean could talk, what tales it would tell! From famous pirates to treasures on its ocean floor, and everything in between, the ocean is full of extraordinary facts! Among the five major oceans, the Atlantic Ocean is the second largest ocean in the world. The name “Atlantic” originated from the famous island of “Atlantis”, according to Plato, the famous Greek writer. You will impress your friends and family with interesting facts about the Atlantic Ocean as you explore the fascinating trivia provided below!

  • The Atlantic Ocean is 31,660,446 miles wide. The Puerto Rico Trench, located seventy miles north of Puerto Rico, is the deepest part of the ocean. It drops down more than five miles (28,374 feet) below sea level. The trench, or slice in the sea floor stretches about 1100 miles to the east.
  • The first ocean crossed by an airplane and by ship was the Atlantic Ocean.
  • The first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean was Amelia Earhart in 1928.
  • A huge underwater mountain range called the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, runs south of Iceland about ten thousand miles. It is wider than the Andes Mountains and splits the Atlantic Ocean north to south.
  • Greenland is in the north where the Atlantic comes together with the Arctic Ocean. It is the largest island in the ocean and ice covers most of the island. At times, icebergs will break off and move through the water.
  • The largest ship in the world during the early 1800’s was the famous Titanic. The shipbuilders claimed it was “unsinkable”, but in 1812, on her maiden voyage to America, the Titanic sank in the Atlantic Ocean after hitting an iceberg.
  • The Atlantic Ocean is much saltier than the Pacific Ocean.
  • The Tiger Shark, the most dangerous after the Great White Shark, is only located in the Atlantic Ocean.
  • The Great Atlantic Shark weighs about four tons and is the second largest in the world. There are around 450,000.
  • About one fifth, or twenty-one percent of the earth’s surface consists of the Atlantic Ocean. The widest part of the ocean is between Mexico and Spain.
  • In the 1850’s, the Cunard Cruise Line developed a line of steamers and began carrying passengers across the Atlantic Ocean. They are the pioneers of World Voyage Cruises. Today, the Cunard Cruise Line offers luxury vacations to the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and Europe.
  • The Concorde, carrying up to one hundred passengers, was the first supersonic flight to cross the Atlantic Ocean at twice the speed of sound. It took less than four hours to cross the Atlantic.
  • The most mysterious area in the ocean is known as the Bermuda Triangle. Located off the southeastern coast of the United States, the triangle points are at the island of Bermuda, San Juan Puerto Rico, and Miami, Florida. It covers about five hundred thousand square miles in the Atlantic Ocean. The mysteries began in 1945, when a group on United States fighter planes disappeared. Since that time, there have been many unexplained disappearances of ships, people, and aircraft. The mysteries still continue to be debated.
  • The Atlantic Ocean is home to the world’s second largest barrier reef located off the coast of Mexico. It is called the Cancun Reef.
  • The highest tides in the world, around fifty feet high, occur at the Bay of Fundy, Canada. The bay is on the east coast of Canada and stretches from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia. The area of the ocean bay is one hundred seventy miles long.
  • One fourth of the world’s fish are caught in the Atlantic Ocean.
  • The ocean borders the west side of Namibia, in Southern Africa. This is a desert region where most of the world’s diamonds are found. Today most of the diamond mining is done offshore because the supply near the coast has been depleted.
  • From 1716 to 1718, Blackbeard the Pirate and his crew would sail the Atlantic Ocean terrorizing other sailors. He was very well- known along the Outer Banks of the Carolina coast. He had a reputation of being a ruthless monster and was killed in 1718 on Ocracoke Island. His head was attached to the bow of the ship. As the legend goes, Blackbeard left a great buried treasure along the Carolina coast, but it has never been found.
  • In the middle of the ocean, near the West Indies, is the Sargasso Sea. It is also known as the “floating desert”. The water is very calm and is filled with seaweed. The water moves in a clockwise rotation, contains very high salt levels, and is extremely clear and very blue in color. One of the most bizarre things is that eels are attracted to this area and come from all over to mate and lay their eggs.

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