Offshore Drilling Expert Available to Discuss Obama Proposal

President Barack Obama announced March 31 a plan to reverse a long-standing ban on offshore drilling along the Atlantic Coast, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to reduce dependence on foreign oil.

A University of Houston expert on the history of offshore oil and gas says offshore drilling is one of the safest and potentially largest sources we have of a new supply.

Tyler Priest, a clinical professor and director of Global Studies at the Bauer College of Business, is one of the nation's leading experts on the history of offshore oil and gas. In 2008, he won the Geosciences in the Media Award from the Association of American Petroleum Geologists for his book, "The Offshore Imperative: Shell Oil's Search for Petroleum in Postwar America" and the Alice Hamilton Prize from the American Society for Environmental History for his article published in "Enterprise & Society, Extraction Not Creation: The History of Offshore Petroleum in the Gulf of Mexico." He is the chief historian on a series of U.S. Department of Interior studies to document the history of the offshore oil industry in the Gulf of Mexico and is currently working on two book manuscripts, "The Significance of the Ocean Frontier: The Contest over Offshore Oil from the Tidelands Controversy to the Law of the Sea," and "Seeing into the Earth: The History of Petroleum Exploration in the Gulf of Mexico."

"Offshore oil has always been a controversial subject in the United States.  Political polarization on the issue has given us one of the most restricted coastlines on Earth for oil activity. Eighty five percent of the Outer Continental Shelf is off limits for drilling," says Priest. "But offshore is one of the safest, most secure and potentially largest sources of new supply that we have.

"The environmental concerns that animate opposition to offshore drilling are relics of an earlier era, when domestic energy was relatively abundant, and safety and environmental practices in the industry were rudimentary.  The transition to alternative energy is going to take a long time, and we should support policies that encourage this transition.  But while this takes place, we will continue to consume large volumes of oil and gas.  It will enhance our energy security if we obtain at least some of this supply closer to home.  Although Obama's new proposal to expand offshore development seems to satisfy nobody (it goes too far for environmentalists, and not far enough for the oil and gas industry), it nevertheless is an encouraging and pragmatic start to addressing our energy supply challenges."

Priest may be reached at (713) 743-3669 and (cell) 713-824-2520 or .View his profile at


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