NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- On the one-year anniversary of the BP (BP - Get Report) blowout disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, it's natural to ask ask how far we have come in our understanding of deepwater drilling, what steps have been taken to prevent another accident and where the opportunities might be as we move forward.
It's been an interesting road from where we were 12 months ago. As the Macondo well blowout disaster played out through the summer of 2010, it was incredible to see the overwhelming media focus and the way that those images of that spewing pipe at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico affected everyone, not just the capital markets. The event caused a massive swoon in both stock and commodity prices and enormous worry about the extent of the environmental disaster.
|The Obama administration has taken steps to prevent another catastrophe like BP's blowout disaster a year ago in the Gulf of Mexico.|
Both of these potential catastrophes have been blunted by time. The stock markets have recovered strongly, posting gains of almost 300 S&P points since the blowout-inspired lows of July 2010, while the environmental damage, although significant, has clearly not materialized into the widespread poisoning of the Gulf that many environmentalists worried was possible.
And how did deepwater drilling fare as a continuing source of our crude and natural gas reserves? The recoiling from deepwater technology was never going to be anything more than a visceral response. That's because fully 25% of our domestic supply of crude oil is obtained through offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, far too much to consider seriously for elimination. The Obama administration has been slow, however, in approving new drill rigs with only six new permits approved since the blowout. Although it's been faulted for its relative inaction from a bipartisan chorus including the American Petroleum Institute and former President Clinton, it made a credible response when it reorganized the Mineral Management Service, giving it a new name and a new leader in Michael Bromwich. The new focus has been to respond more quickly and fully to accidents as they happen, implying that prevention may not be as easy to fix. Indeed, the push for better blowout preventers that actually will prevent blowouts, better safety practice education of rig workers and cementing standards among other issues have been set as much longer-term goals, with a focus to restart drilling activity in the Gulf sooner rather than later.