Oil: During the Age of Exploration, seafarers carefully guarded their maps of discovery to ward off plunderers. Incredibly, Exxon faces a similar kind of piracy against its big Gulf oil discovery, as regulators snatch at its permit.
Make no mistake about it: American oil companies are operating in a great age of exploration comparable to the uncharted waters that Henry the Navigator, Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan sailed.
Five hundred years after the Caribbean was explored, oil is being discovered in unheard-of quantities, 230 miles into the Gulf of Mexico in waters so deep its retrieval would have been impossible even five years ago.
ExxonMobil, and its Norwegian partner Statoil made the biggest discovery of all — a field worth a billion barrels of oil — 7,000 feet below sea level in its “Julia” field in 2007.
Exxon tried to keep its discovery secret to keep marauders away. Sadly, the pirates in this instance are U.S. regulators — and their aim is to stop them.
That’s right: Instead of marvel at the continuing treasures of the New World, or hail the human ingenuity that made retrieval of so much oil possible, or simply quantify how this discovery will boost U.S. energy security, Interior Department bureaucrats moved instead to snatch Exxon’s permits and shut the whole thing down.
Employing an extreme technicality, these regulators claimed that Exxon’s request in 2008 for a short suspension of activity to upgrade and make safer its drilling operation amounted to an abandonment of three of its five permits, simply because Exxon hadn’t signed a contract with another partner, Chevron, by the time the suspension was completed.
In the past, such glitches were no problem — after all, it’s obvious Exxon, which spent $300 million on exploratory wells, hasn’t abandoned the operation.
But in the Obama era, which demonizes oil production in American waters by American companies, the bureaucrats came up with this permit technicality to effectively expropriate the entire operation. (IBD)