On Tuesday, May 11, 2010, the US Senate met with the heads of operator BP, rig owner Transocean, and service company Halliburton in Washington to inquire as to why the Deepwater Horizon suffered a catastrophic failure in the GoM. Inevitably, with the blowout still flowing, no real answers could be provided. While intervention is ongoing, the exact series of malfunctions will not be apparent until the leak is stopped and equipment is brought to the surface. For those us who want to understand exactly what failed and why, patience is in order. On the other hand, it seems as if every local newshound and nationally broadcast pundit has earned honorary degrees in petroleum engineering. The blogosphere is rife with false claims and obfuscated links between segments of current drilling operations. The bottom line: if you don’t have real answers, just make something up that sounds good. Now, the real issue is the tug-of-war ensuing between those who believe the US should “get off oil” and those who understand the complexity of this off-the-cuff proposal. In the long term, getting off oil may become a possibility contingent on new technology that currently does not exist (in a scalable form). As for hard statistics, oil will remain as a major part of the world’s economy for at least the next 30 years. Here are some numbers that show why getting off oil is not such a great plan for the US. According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), the US consumed 18.7 million bbl per day of oil in 2009. Out of this number, the country produced 9 million bbl per day domestically, both on land and offshore. More than half of the oil consumed was imported, namely from our neighbors, Canada and Mexico, with the difference being made up from the Middle East. The Material Management Services (MMS) reports that GoM oil production for 2009 totaled 565.8 million bbl (more than 1.5 million bbl per day). The current motive of the environmental sector is to end offshore drilling to prevent another catastrophic spill. Given the hypothetical deficit in domestic oil production if drilling ceased offshore, the US’s mobility would be hampered. While it did not report data for 2009, the EIA accounts for a daily production of 656 bbl of biofuels in the US for 2008. If this number remained static for 2009, a severe lapse in offshore production would lead to additional transport vessels bringing oil into the country. While a drilling moratorium for all offshore operations would decrease the risk of a blowout, the risks of a spill could actually increase due to a higher number of transport vessels sailing through US waters. Avoiding another Deepwater Horizon could invite the next Exxon Valdez. The real question is appetite. Because the US remains as one of the most highly developed nations in the world, it uses a vast amount of energy. While pundits would claim that wind and solar can alleviate our “addiction” to oil, it remains only partially true. It’s true that wind and solar do generate a certain amount of power. However, this passive generation is most effect for heating and cooling in residential and commercial environments, running other types of electrical equipment, and it provides only a fraction of the needed power for minor manufacturing. While these sources do offset overall coal consumption, wind and solar cannot accomplish much in the way of moving our trains, trucks, heavy equipment, shipping, and heavy industrial manufacturing. For these operations you need a dense, high-energy resource: oil. Others argue that dependence on foreign oil leads to long-term warfare. While this is also partly true, domestic oil production is the best answer to reducing dependence. By banning exploration in the Gulf, the deficit would most likely come from the Middle East who, according to the EIA, produced 24.4 million bbl per day in 2009. While our appetite for oil remains part of the problem, our infrastructure will not easily lend itself to an oil-free society in the near term. Despite the outcome of the current spill in the GoM, some observations should not be overlooked. While most media outlets have posed an “us” against “them” scenario between the oil industry and the fishing industry, the fact remains that successful drilling operations provide the very means by which these individuals ply their trade. From the manufacturing of their boats and engines to the equipment and the fuel used to venture out into the Gulf, we are all reliant on oil. Connecting the matrix of petroleum and its numerous roles in our everyday lives will prove that the benefits associated with offshore drilling far outweigh the risks.