The current situation in the GoM is tragic at the least. Once the flow of oil has been stopped, remediated onshore, and all affected industries are operating at normal capacity, there will be much more to report on from a technological viewpoint. As for now, much of the reporting is derived from passion on both sides of the spectrum. Without doubt, this event will lead to sweeping changes in both the offshore drilling sector and our national sense of environmental stewardship. The main point at this writing is not to identify spin from the left or right. More importantly, the goal should be to draw proper comparisons to the Deepwater Horizon. PBS’s McNeil-Lehrer News Hour hosted interviews from both environmental and industry proponents on its May 4 (Tuesday) broadcast. The discussion was moderated by Judy Woodruff and featured viewpoints from Kenneth Arnold, a Houston, Texas-based oil industry consultant, and Michael Gravitz who serves as the Oceans Advocate with Environment America. Within the recent foray of reportage and pundit-related outrage, the PBS interview offered possibly some of the most rational viewpoints aired within the last several weeks. Although these speakers’ views are somewhat polarized where offshore drilling is concerned, they both emphasized the need to minimize the impact of the current spill. At one point, Kravitz assured Woodruff that the current mode of using dispersants to break up oil before it reaches onshore was outdated technology saying, “We’re using a bunch of 1960s and ’70s technologies to try to clean up this spill, and none of the techniques individually are very effective.” Kravitz went on to imply that the dispersants were also toxic and often are derived from petroleum, which basically add to the problem. Arnold replied, “He’s actually partially right and partially incorrect.” Arnold explained, “He’s talking about the 1960s dispersants, which used a hydrocarbon base as a solvent to disperse the surface active ingredients.” Arnold added that this process is outdated and that newer technology uses dispersants specified as safe by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Kravitz stated in his interview that this recent tragedy is a prime example of why the U.S. needs to get off of oil. “We need to find alternatives to oil,” Kravitz said. While this may be true, the possibility will not exist for at least the remainder of this century. Given our current technology, the world will run on a hydrocarbon diet for years to come. What are often referred to as “alternatives” such as solar and wind are actually better defined as “supplemental.” These technologies have to become scalable in the sense that profitability overrides cost, and this status will remain unchanged as long as fossil fuels remain in steady supply. Now, the key point to make here is that almost every report compares the Deepwater Horizon spill to 1989’s Exxon Valdez. It is true that the size and impact of the most recent spill will shadow the 1989 event, but to set these spills side by side is much like comparing apples to oranges. Namely, the Exxon Valdez occurred when a transport tanker ran aground – not from a well control incident. As a result, the U.S. set out on a rapid course of establishing moratoriums for most of the country’s offshore areas. As for timing, the Deepwater Horizon could not have happened at a worse time. With the Obama administration looking to expand the reach for many oil and gas exploration companies, that decision is now under further scrutiny. From an industry perspective, the current spill is heightened first and foremost by the tragic loss of life in addition to the environmental impact and its associated financial concerns. Secondary to these, another tragedy will play out over the next two or three generations. The oil and gas industry has shown its capacity to learn from its mistakes. Despite the fact that most major operators house teams of environmental scientists on their payrolls, many environmental activists are once again learning all they want to know about the offshore industry. With only two images (Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon) industry detractors are willing to lock away available domestic resources without identifying the reality that the U.S. diet for fossil fuels will (by design) remain virtually unchanged for many years to come. A look at actual facts and statistics from the 60-year history of offshore drilling will show that it far exceeds the safety of transporting resources into the U.S. from abroad. In addition, drilling in U.S. waters reduces both environmental and geopolitical risks. Yet, these facts are grossly overlooked for the sensational capacity of the most recent tragedy. In closing his interview with Woodruff, the Houston-based Consultant Kenneth Arnold said the following: “It’s been 41 years since the last major blowout in the United States where oil created a pollution problem onshore. That was 1969 in Santa Barbara. “We have drilled tens of thousands of wells since then offshore. We have a pretty good safety record. This is a disaster. It is terrible. I get in airplanes all the time. No one can assure me that the airplane will not crash. But the benefits of air travel far outweigh the small risk that every now and then an airplane will crash. “We learn from airplane crashes. We learn from blowouts. We will learn from this blowout, and the industry will be safer as a result of it.” We are currently in a time of passionate responses both for and against the need for offshore drilling. The true perspective arises not from the Exxon Valdez to now, but spans 41 years from Santa Barbara in 1969 to now. With the lessons garnered in the months and years to come, offshore drilling will be improved and while no can assure the public that another blowout will not occur the benefit of producing domestic resources in U.S. waters will far outweigh the risk involved. To view the full transcript of the Arnold/Gravitz interview visit