Osama bin Laden had aspirational plans to hijack and blow up oil tankers in hopes of creating an "extreme economic crisis" in the West, according to data discovered in his Pakistani compound, the Department of Homeland Security said. And that's not even the scary part.
First, let's pause to contemplate the irony that BP unintentionally beat them to the punch. Except instead of a tanker, which can hold about two million barrels of oil, it was BP's damaged deepwater well that ended up spewing 4.9 million barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico.
Now to the meat of the issue. Al-Qaida is just one of the many threats to oil tankers and offshore drilling rigs. There are Somali pirates and drunken sea captains; as well as dysfunctional equipment and poorly executed company reorganizations to contend with. And those risks will increase as the our energy appetite grows and the easy-to-access oil fades from our reach.
Consider the lengths at which companies are willing to go to meet global energy demands. Take Royal Dutch Shell (RDS) for example. The company announced Friday it will build the world's first floating natural gas platform -- an absolutely massive structure that will be longer than four soccer fields laid end-to-end and weigh the equivalent of six aircraft carriers. Shell didn't say how much it would cost to build the floating platform. However, Shell's exploration investment in Australia, where the platform will be permanently moored for 25 years, is expected to reach $30 billion over the next five years, according to the company.
The purpose is simple: the floating platform can be used to explore areas once considered to remote and costly for drilling. Companies like Shell will continue to push the boundaries of oil exploration as long as the energy demands are there. As long as we're buying, the fossil fuels industry will find a way to deliver.
And as a result, we'll see companies making innovative breakthroughs in drilling technology and taking far bigger risks.