8 October 2014
Field Research Report-Offshore Drilling
The oil and gas industry is one of the most controversial yet important sectors in the global economy today, especially in the United States. Oil has been a major part of most Americans’ lives for the better part of the last century. It is our main source of fuel for many modes of transportation such as automobiles, airplanes, and ships. Petroleum also plays a vital part in our society as it is used as the basic materials in the manufacturing of common household items such as synthetic fibers for clothing, plastics, fertilizers, and insecticides. One of the hottest topics pertaining to this crucial industry is that of offshore drilling. Offshore drilling is the practice of drilling a well through the seabed in order to extract petroleum contained in the rock formations beneath the water. The process is an extremely effective way to harvest oil and gas since an estimated third of the world’s oil supply is contained under seafloors; however, a cloud of controversy surrounds the method due to the severe environmental threats that it poses. It has been a highly debated and polarizing matter in politics for the past several years, and the debate continues to rage today. This issue became central in the 2008 presidential election after gaining a significant amount of interest when President George W. Bush lifted his father’s 1990 executive order that prohibited offshore drilling. In March 2010 President Barrack Obama decided to expand areas allowed for drilling; however, he rescinded his decision later that year after British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the worst oil spill in the history of the United States. This catastrophic event gravely affected the delicate marine ecosystems of the Gulf and made the general public cognizant of the serious environmental concerns associated with offshore drilling. My main objective in this research is to get a good understanding and representation of the knowledge and opinions of both professionals and ordinary citizens regarding this pressing issue.
Methods and Procedures For my research, I conducted an online survey, interviewed a fellow petroleum engineer classmate, and interviewed my uncle who worked for ExxonMobil. I decided the questionnaire and interviews would be the more effective and accessible methods of conducting field research. My first form of research, the questionnaire, was eight multiple-choice questions designed to gauge the knowledge and opinions of the reader. I first asked to rate the respondent’s own familiarity with the subject and then asked a series of factual questions with right and wrong answers aimed at measuring the partaker’s intelligence. I finally asked a few questions inquiring about the people’s opinions of offshore drilling. My survey can be found in full in Addendum I. In order to ensure a diverse sample of participants, I strategically administered the questionnaire to a variety of groups by several different methods; these include emailing it to my English 2000 class, posting it to my Facebook page, sending it to many different members of my family, and randomly selecting students walking around campus. This guaranteed a variety of demographics and a wide range of previous knowledge of offshore drilling. As my second style of research, I conducted two interviews. The first was more of an informal discussion with a fellow classmate of mine, Michael Yenni. Michael is a petroleum engineer at Louisiana State, plans to graduate next year, and has already participated in an internship on an offshore rig. My objective for this interview was to question someone with sufficient knowledge on the issue but not a professional. I basically asked him how he would handle the situation if he were in charge. He was able to give me an informed student’s perspective on the matter, and these questions are included in Addendum