I think it’s mostly a political question. The land used for off-shore drilling (including the Gulf) traditionally falls into the Secure Economic Zone (SEZ) of a particular country or set of countries. So in order for companies to secure the rights to drill there, they must either be based in the country in question or (like BP) negotiate with the government in question for the rights to establish operations in their land.
To stop drilling in the Gulf would require that most hated of all political actions in the US: business regulation. This country loves economic growth, and for the past thirty years has viewed political regulation as a surefire way to kill that growth. The first link cited below directs to an article explaining why Obama’s suggested moratorium on drilling in the Gulf was met with outcry and indignation, even in the face of the biggest environmental catastrophe since Katrina. The second links to an article in which two women widowed by the BP oil explosion express their wishes for drilling to continue, because it supports so much of the local shoreside economy.
Stopping drilling in the Gulf all together would require a massive amount of political mobilization. Members of Congress or President Obama would need to see an insistent outpouring of indignation from the American people and thus recieve an overwhelming mandate from the people indicating tge majority’s wishes to stop the drilling, which would alleviate electoral pressure and give the government the political wiggle room to act. Think all the petitions you’ve ever signed, but then more of them.
Sadly, I don’t think it’s a likely prospect any time soon.
If we stopped drilling and production in the Gulf of Mexico, the US would have to either 1) use one-third less domestic oil (2 million of nearly 20 million barrels we consume every day – 10%, or not quite one day a week with NO vehicles driving, no heating, no jets flying), or 2) import 2 million barrels per day more to make up for the loss of Gulf production. 32% of US domestic production comes from the Gulf of Mexico.
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