EU energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger says that EUs member states should stop giving out fresh permits for deep-water oil drilling in the light of the BP oil catastrophe. The commissioner has launched talks with oil firms and member state authorities on future proposals regarding supervision, emergency planning, clean-up operations, environmental liability and compulsory oil spill insurance.
“National supervision will certainly remain in place but it would be a good idea to have overarching European standards and a European supervisory authority.”
“I am considering discussing this with member states, so that when new permits are issued, especially in extreme cases, they will consider deferring this,” Mr. Oettinger told MEPs at a debate in Strasbourg earlier this week.
“I am actually considering suggesting a moratorium at this moment … And I think it is really not justifiable to be issuing licenses or permits for further drilling operations at this moment,” he added.
The commissioner underlines that decisions on oil permits are made exclusively by national capitals. But he said member states should consider giving away some powers in future.
“National supervision will certainly remain in place but it would be a good idea to have overarching European standards and a European supervisory authority,” he says.
Talks In Progess
Mr Oettinger has already launched talks with oil firms and member state authorities with a view to future proposals on supervision, emergency planning, clean-up operations, environmental liability and compulsory oil spill insurance.
On the pro-industry side, he noted that BP and Shell are major European employers.
He also pointes out that despite EU plans to move toward renewable energy, Europe, and in particular its aviation and road transport sectors, is going to be dependent on oil for decades to come.
Mr Oettinger said he would be happy if just 10 percent of the 200 million petrol-powered cars on the road in the EU today could be retired by 2020.
“Over the next few decades if we accept individual mobility, if we want to keep on manufacturing cars, then oil will have a role to play,” he explained to the EU MEPs.
How Deep Is Deep-Water?
There is no standard definition of “deep-water.”
The US designates wells below 305 meters as “deep-water,” but its largest private oil company, ExxonMobil, says only wells below 400 meters qualify.
The vast majority of sub-400-meter oil fields are off the eastern coasts of Brazil and the US and the west coast of Africa.
There is just one, north of the UK, in the EU region.
Two deep-water development operations are also ongoing in the Adriatic and Mediterranean seas.
Norway became in June the first country outside the US to announce a temporary ban on new deep-water oil and gas drilling.
BP at the time urged governments not to make knee-jerk reactions to the US disaster, which happened at 1,500 meters depth.
“Companies have been drilling in deep water in the Gulf Of Mexico for 20 years and until now have had a good safety record,” its global chief of staff, Steve Westwell, says.
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