Port Arthur Oil Spill is About Transport Safety, Not Offshore Drilling

Last Updated Jan 25, 2010 3:16 PM EST

A large oil spill in the port of Port Arthur, Texas may not bode well for an industry hoping to expand offshore drilling. Even though the 450,000 gallon-spill did not happen near an offshore drilling site.

The spill occurred Saturday after a barge collided with an oil tanker headed for ExxonMobil's Beaumont refinery. A hole was ripped into the tanker's side and according to the U.S. Coast Guard about 450,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the port.

About 220,000 gallons of oil have been recovered, evaporates or dispersed naturally, according to the latest update provided by the U.S. Coast Guard. About nine miles of shoreline have been impacted and two oiled birds have been reported, the Coast Guard said.

The spill is a result of collision, not drilling, and yet I suspect most will focus their attention on the latter. For example, the Chronicle's energy blogger wrote about the numerous "offshore drilling is unsafe" responses he received after tweeting about the spill over the weekend. He went on to list other large spills along the Gulf Coast in the past 30 years.

Most of those spills occurred while transporting oil, so why not make that the focus?