April 2018

First oil

Is it “transparency” on the GOM, or is it something else.
Kurt Abraham / World Oil

Well, here we are, with another OTC upon us—the 50th no less—and while the deepwater portion of the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) may show signs of a revival, the shallow-water GOM is still struggling. So, it’s obvious that the shelf doesn’t need any more bad news than it already has to tolerate. 

Nevertheless, mid-March saw two overly sensational stories about the shallow-water sector published by The New York Times (NYT). The first item, the larger of the two stories, appeared on March 10 and was entitled, “Trump Rollbacks Target Offshore Rules ‘Written With Human Blood’” (https:www.nytimes.com/2018/03/10/business/offshore-drilling-trump-administration.html). The second article (March 18) was entitled, “Offshore Oil and Gas Operators Want Less Regulation, but Surprise Inspections Find Serious Safety Problems” (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/18/us/offshore-drilling-safety-regulation.html). I encourage you, our stalwart readers, to go to these links and read these stories, and then see if you agree that they are unnecessarily negative and injurious.

Method and intent. As you read these two items, the March 10 story seems to have been written with a “kill two birds with one stone” mentality. It works at making Trump administration officials look bad for simply trying to inject common sense into onerous Obama regulations, put into effect after Macondo in 2010. This story also makes the shallow-water GOM operators look as bad as possible, dredging up reams of statistics and every negative angle imaginable.  

It’s not a wonder that NOIA and the Gulf Energy Alliance (GEA) were livid, as were the individual operators mentioned. They even worked up a significant rebuttal piece and submitted it to the NYT. To no one’s surprise, the NYT did not publish the industry’s side of the story. A reasonable observer might conclude that free speech is not alive and well at the NYT.

Nevertheless, to be fair, this editor contacted the NYT author of these stories, to see if I was somehow missing something. When I told the reporter that I was trying to figure out the true purpose of the first story, he gave me the banal reply, “Well, I wanted to look at compliance with the offshore regulations instituted post-Deepwater Horizon.” “Okay,” I replied, “but there certainly is a lot of data in here.” “Well, it’s BSEE’s own data,” he said. “Nevertheless,” I continued, “98.5% of the population don’t even know these data exist, much less know how to dig it up.” To which he said, “That’s my job. I’m an investigative reporter. I find data.”

I asked him what he was trying to prove with these two stories. He said, “I’m not trying to prove anything.” But he then told me that he had worked on these articles for months, including the building of a database of all the operator infractions. Which prompted my comment, “Well, for someone not trying to prove anything, you sure went to a lot of trouble.” He then said, “My job is to bring transparency to the government. I practice transparency in everything I do.” 

One thing in the March 10 article that bothered me was that the most incendiary quote, “These regulations were written with human blood,” came from an offshore safety consultant. One wonders why this person would throw raw meat to the NYT, rather than work through industry and government channels to iron out regulatory disputes. So, “did she help you?,” I asked. “No, I just happened to run into her while working on this project,” he said. He did allow that the stories had been prompted partially by Trump changing the offshore leasing plan and opening up much more of the coastline to potential development.

I could go on, but you get the point.  This tale illustrates that the national media instinctively paint the worst picture of the industry that they can, and it is incumbent that companies and associations fight back, or they are going to lose the long-term struggle. wo-box_blue.gif

About the Authors
Kurt Abraham
World Oil
Kurt Abraham kurt.abraham@worldoil.com
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