Twenty-five percent of America’s oil production and a significant amount of onshore refining capacity and pipeline infrastructure is located in the hurricane-prone central and western Gulf of Mexico — and much of it was in the path of Hurricane Gustav.
Fortunately, unlike Katrina and Rita in 2005 and other past hurricanes, Gustav has not done significant damage to the energy infrastructure there. Prices and markets will be relatively unaffected. Nonetheless, the hurricane does underscore the benefits of geographic diversification in domestic oil production.
The Atlantic, Pacific, and eastern Gulf of Mexico are off limits to offshore oil and natural gas exploration and drilling, as are promising onshore sites such as the few thousand acres at the edge of Alaska’s 19.6 million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge believed to contain over 10 billion barrels. While the eastern Gulf and Atlantic also get hurricanes and the Pacific coast and Alaska are susceptible to natural disasters of their own, obviously any one event can only disrupt production in one area.
While increased overall supplies are the main benefit of expanded drilling, the extra resiliency against natural disasters from geographically widespread production is another plus in the debate over repealing the moratorium on 85% of our offshore areas and the restrictions on ANWR.