Why Every Brazilian Surfer Knows About Pre-Salt Drilling, and You Should Too

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The Inertia

It seems that every few years an investment firm comes out and makes the claim that oil prices will experience a “super spike.” The general idea is that there’s only so much oil on the planet, and because we use so damn much of it the price will eventually go ballistic. The last oil super spike peaked in 2008 and has since retreated remarkably. This has been great news for consumers but discouraging to eco-friendly alternatives, including countries like Brazil that rely on the funds of their black gold to pay for a number of crucial social services. That’s not good. When the economy goes sour, people get shot. Just ask Conner Coffin,who witnessed a daylight robbery gone bad during the Oi Rio Pro this past May.

In 2007, when the Brazilian government announced that they had found up to 60 billion barrels of oil buried off of their coast, and with oil prices readying for a super spike, the state owned, publicly traded company, Petrobras, instinctively drew up plans to drill as quickly as possible. There were two major catches. First, the oil is in really deep water under what is called the pre-salt area, about 2,000-3,000 meters deep. The price tag to make this happen has been the country’s super spike bill ever since catch number two: oil took a super plunge.

What once seemed like the right choice for the Brazilian people has since come under increasing scrutiny from economists to environmentalists who don’t have as much success protesting as the squeaky Jesse Eisenberg, the blue macaw, did in Rio 2. In the real world last year, 29 Brazilian environmentalists were murdered, so getting a negative story out could come at the ultimate price.

A large part of that message is the “what if” scenario. What if something goes wrong? Brazil is no stranger to “what if” natural disasters. In the Fall of 2015, Brazil suffered the worst environmental disaster in their history. As Alexander Haro aptly put it, “It was an absolute fucking disaster…chock full of incredibly toxic shit, including mercury, arsenic, chromium and manganese at levels far above human consumption levels.”

So, no matter how safe Petrobras or the Brazilian government claims the extraction process to be, there is never a guarantee of safety. Most of us recall on April 20, 2010 when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. It was the planet’s worst oil spill. Because the Brazilian pre-salt fields are so much larger, deeper, and contain more oil, an accident at sea would be catastrophic beyond words. Can the world helplessly afford to watch another nightmarish underwater disaster unfold?




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