In this day and age when environmental protection is given such importance, offshore oil drilling is taking quite a lot of flak. There are a lot of environmental effects of oil drilling and the whole process unavoidably pollutes the air, the land and the water.
One of the major concerns is oil spills and a prime example of this is the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. Oil spills of varying severity occur literally in every aspect and every phase of drilling. But the major threat comes from oil being transported. These spills pollute the water with poisons, which seeps into the land, and potentially disrupts the larger ecology and the food chain. Everyone has seen those awful images of petroleum coating the feathers of seabirds, making it near impossible for them to fly.
Oils spills are not the only thing that affects marine life; there are seismic waves that are used to detect the oil located under sea beds. This tends to damage or hurt the sonar signals that are primarily used by whales and dolphins to navigate the waters. One major oil company had to halt their usage of seismic waves to detect oil because close to 100 whales were beached as their sonar was affected by oil detection efforts. In extreme cases this does cause marine life to change their migratory patterns. Therefore, our search for fossil fuels and alternative energy sources must be tempered by concerns for environmental protection.
Another major hazard that occurs due to all this is the damage to the ecosystem. Since the infrastructure for drilling oil is so large –from the oil rigs to roads and tankers and pipeline jobs – it affects everything in its path. Airstrips are a big problem for birds. The constant landing and taking off of planes creates problems for reproduction and a loss of their habitat. A lot of building and construction is undertaken to create more energy and all this too creates havoc for the nearby flora and fauna.
Today, the technology used for drilling by energy companies like Shell Oil has come a long way. They have improved the way they deal with the environmental fall out and are working to reduce oil spills as well. There is now a new method of drilling oil which is horizontal drilling which basically rules out having to have oil rigs. Double hulls on all tankers have also reduced the chances of spillage when at sea. All of these efforts are designed to make discovery more responsible and the environmental effects less damaging and not as long lasting.