The biggest concern in recent times has been the serious impact on the environment as a result of exploration and use of natural, non-renewable energy. The government is challenged in balancing between consumer demand and consumer health in a way.
1) A major part of underwater exploration happens in and around the Gulf of Mexico. By 2000 A.D., over 4000 platforms were operating up to a depth of about 3900 feet. Advances in technology have been regularly harnessed to increase safety of exploration here.
2) The marine medium throws up a unique challenge of exploration work clashing with other uses of water bodies such as fishing, tourism, container traffic, military traffic and exercises, and areas cordoned for ecosystem preservation. Every new platform planned therefore needs to consider each of the other potential possibilities of clashing use on these lines before moving ahead with installation.
3) There is a risk of accelerated or even lopsided increase in population and resultant commercial activity as a result of the presence of exploration platforms. This is bound to place stress on civic infrastructure as well as the environment.
4) Although more clearly defined in recent times, there is a risk of dispute with neighboring coastal nations in terms of jurisdictional control. This would need recourse to international legal systems or arbitration, and can potentially jeopardize current as well as future plans within the disputed regions.
("Offshore Oil and Gas")
5) The Minerals Management Service (MMS) of the US government, in 2006, proposed the 5-year Outer Continental Shelf program for the east coast covering reserve wildlife and seashore areas. Apart from raising the hackles of environmentalists, this program has been challenged on the grounds that the reserves are miniscule for the expected demand by 2030 A.D. (date of extraction). Further, this is an area frequented by the US Navy for military exercises and the consequences of a misguided or failed missile/torpedo launch would be catastrophic should it happen near or on the proposed platforms.
("Offshore Oil and Gas looms" - Clean Ocean Action).
6) Drilling creates excessive waste and debris leading to obvious consequences for the logistics of safe removal, possible toxicity of seawater and danger to marine life. The seismic surveys too are known to cause harm to aquatic animals. ("The Facts" - Clean Ocean Action)
While the earlier section highlights the downsides of marine energy exploration, it cannot be denied that it offers promises, however thin, for catering to the energy demands of the future. Thus, the possible ways out in terms of mitigating known risks include:
1) Invest heavily and produce research that will enable safer and more efficient, non-intrusive methods of marine exploration.
2) Invest in garnering support of environmental groups and regulatory bodies, by initiating awareness and advocacy measures. In other words, look at an 'inclusive' approach to the issue.
3) Provide 'advance' information to key stakeholders who could be impacted such as the government, fisheries department, commercial cargo companies, etc. - this is a vital step during the feasibility-check phase.
4) Where allowed, encourage production of natural gas as it is known to be