New Scientist Magazine article The United States is set to spend more than $400 billion on offshore oil and gas development over the next four years, a staggering sum that is expected to put pressure on Gulf States’ economies and pose a threat to their ability to fight the deadly BP oil spill.
The oil and natural gas companies that will profit from this boom are the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Gulf states, whose governments have all been accused of failing to protect the environment from the spill, which has claimed more than 9,100 lives.US President Donald Trump’s executive order to protect public health and the environment in the gulf states is set for its first public hearing on Monday.
The Trump administration is expected formally unveil the proposal on Tuesday, when it will present the full proposal to the US Congress.
It will be the second time the US has formally sought congressional approval for offshore oil drilling in the region.
In March, Trump said that the US was not pursuing oil and coal development in the United Kingdom because it was not necessary to keep up with China’s rapid development of its own natural gas resources.
In November, the US Geological Survey said that global reserves of natural gas were around 10 trillion cubic feet (trillion cubic metres) and that the United State’s current shale gas production could reach nearly 9,000 billion cubic feet.
However, many experts, including the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), have questioned whether the United Nation’s latest World Energy Outlook (WEO) – which forecast an unprecedented surge in the global production of gas over the coming decade – accurately reflects the amount of shale gas currently on the market.
“There is a huge difference between the US government’s recent projections and the current state of the market,” said Robert Pindell, a professor of energy at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who is also an adviser to the Gulf States Environmental Council.
“This is going to be a huge financial challenge for US states.”
The new proposal has been crafted to address the concerns raised by the states, said John Deutch, who directs the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Oil Spill Prevention.
Deutch added that while the proposed rule would address the risks posed by the BP spill, it is also expected to create significant uncertainty for the Gulf Oil and Gas Council (GOGC), the industry association representing the oil and mining industries in the US.
Its president, Jeff Buhler, said the proposal is intended to protect Americans and the region’s fragile economies from an unprecedented risk.
“We are a small industry, but we are going to have to have the resources and infrastructure to mitigate this risk,” he told the BBC.
“The new administration is committed to working with the states to address these issues.”
However the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) says that it is still expecting a sharp rise in the number of rigs drilling offshore, as well as a surge in natural gas production.
According to the EIA, total oil production in the country in 2016-17 increased by 9.9 million barrels per day (bpd) over 2015-16.
Natural gas production increased by 11.5 million bpd, while crude oil production increased 4.5%.
“The offshore boom is now set to be the biggest on record,” said Steve Koonin, chief executive of the New York-based International Energy Agency.
Meanwhile, the Gulf is facing a wave of pollution, which is expected by some scientists to be even worse than BP’s oil spill, as air quality is expected hit record levels in some areas.
One of the worst polluted areas is the Gulf’s oil port of St. John, in the state of Louisiana.
Residents have warned that the air is so foul that they have stopped taking their children to school and are reluctant to go out at all.
Drinkable water is also being banned in some places, and children have been warned that they could be exposed to high levels of ozone, which can cause cancer.
Buhler said he was confident that the new regulations would provide relief from the environmental challenges facing the Gulf.
“If we do nothing, there is a high likelihood that the region will experience another wave of BP-related problems,” he said.
More on the BP oil disaster: Follow New Scientist on Facebook