Over five years.
This means around 3500 wells will have to be capped and 650 abandoned platforms will be removed. Oil industry types are already predicting doom for their diminishing industry:
The Wall St. Journal cited one expert as saying the cost could total $1.4 billion to $3.5 billion. Mark Kaiser, R&D director at Louisiana State University's Center for Energy Studies, also estimated that companies, mostly smaller producers, would be giving up $6 billion to $18 billion in lost revenue from future production.
The oil industry is so overburdened by being asked to pick up after itself! Is anyone surprised that this is the same industry that tore up the Louisiana coast with canals and pipelines? They've dug these since the 50's, and then abandoned them when they were done with them, never cleaning up after themselves. This behavior is a direct cause of the salt water intrusion which has accellerated the erosion and disappearance of the coast by orders of magnitude. Why would we expect their treatment of drilling infrastructure be any different?
Because have no doubt, these abandoned wells and platforms are a clear and present danger to the human and natural environment of the Gulf South. Contrary to the right-wing "drill, baby, drill" narrative that "not one drop" of oil spilled during the hurricane season of 2005, the real numbers are inching closer to Exxon Valdez levels. And that's just what you haven't heard about.
Some additional thoughts:
1. Does this move by the government represent change I believe in? Maybe. Let's see if they actually make the oil industry clean up their own messes instead of passing it on to the taxpayers.
2. I know what you "free market" folks are going to say: "Cousin Pat, if we make the oil industry clean up after itself, they'll just pass the cost along to the consumer."
You know what?
I'm fine with that. No, not just fine. Good. This sounds like a plan I am down with. We pay either way: through taxes, at the pump, or when Louisiana suffers another catastrophe. So here's what we do: stop subsidizing the oil industry's misbehavior and let Americans pay at the pump. Look at how energized Americans are at the mere hint of a tax increase, let's see how they respond to the real cost of gasoline. Now, that is a market-based solution I am down with.
3. Regarding the mindset of the right-wing as expressed by Sarah Palin's tweet: "Extreme Greenies:see now why we push'drill,baby,drill'of known reserves&promising finds in safe onshore places like ANWR? Now do you get it?":
3A. If any accidents happen while contractors attempt to cap the 3500 abandoned wells and 600+ abandoned platforms, expect to hear how those accidents are the fault of government regulation. Because you always blame the folks trying to fix the problem, not the ones who caused it in the first place; and
3B. 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells. TWENTY-SEVEN THOUSAND. Representing, as "experts" say, possibly $18 BILLION in production revenues. If we've got that many wells that can produce that much revenue and THEY ARE SITTING AROUND ABANDONED, why the fuck are we even discussing drilling in Alaska? Do we need to create more abandoned wells around this country?
4. Rush Limbaugh famously said "oil is natural as ocean water" and echoed an "expert" estimate that 5000 barrells a day naturally seeped into the Gulf of Mexico. With 27,000 man-made, abandoned oil and gas wells, does it make more sense that the "seepage" of so much oil is a natural occurence, or could the culprit be something else?
5. 18 BILLION DOLLARS in possible revenue sounds like an awful lot of money in this economy. Especially for cash strapped Louisiana. Especially for a Louisiana that has lost an awful lot of coast because of oil extraction. Especially for a Louisiana that needs money to adequately defend her southeastern population from flooding. A cool 18 billion will go a long way to address those issues. I'm just sayin'.