Deep Sea Drilling

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How will the technology advancements in deep sea oil drilling affect the ongoing competition for resources among countries?

IR 310: Peace and conflict Studies
November 25, 2013

The goal of this paper is to identify the potential risks that may arise as technology advances are made in extracting natural resources. The focus point will be on deep sea drilling for oil. As the demand for oil increases due to the growth in the world’s population and economies, the search for oil expands to areas where it is more difficult to extract, such as in deeper depths of the ocean. The ocean covers over 70 percent of the earth’s surface and oil industry studies show greater reserves of oil may lie beneath the ocean floor. The objective of this paper is to show how the advances in deep sea oil drilling create an increasing urgency among the world’s countries to stake their territorial claim on the ocean’s resources, leading to potential political and military conflict. This paper will explore the tensions caused by the difference in technological capabilities and military strength, the effectiveness of policies that address off-shore mining, and the economic risks from lack of cooperation among the coastal and non-coastal countries seeking to exploit the ocean resources. This paper will also discuss the theoretical political and economic risks that may arise as the deep sea oil drilling expands into areas outside the UN chartered boundaries set for coastal countries.

Technology is an ongoing innovation movement that seems limitless. Advancements in transportation, electronics, medicine, and all areas of human activity have improved the quality of life for many and supported the ever-growing world population. At the heart of technological advancement is the drive to produce goods and services better, faster smarter. Technology advances faster in areas of need. The improvements in medicine will occur faster than advancements in candle-making for example, because there is a greater need for medical services as well as a greater economic benefit to be had. The need for energy is universal and growing, making it one of the largest industries in the world, as evidenced by the size of the international corporations representing it. Because a country’s economic success depends upon having enough energy to fuel it, governments are also involved in promoting their interests in obtaining energy resources. The primary energy source in today’s world is hydrocarbons, or oil. It has been drilled for and pumped for centuries and as with any natural resource it is obtained from the most accessible locations first. As the resources get depleted from the initial locations technology is developed to extract oil from the more difficult locations. Over time this creates and expanding area of mining. As the world’s population and subsequent demand for energy grows the search for oil expands. In recent decades countries bordering the world’s oceans have sought to expand their territorial ownership of the ocean in order to protect the resources for their own use, even though the technology to extract them from the ocean does not exist. With earth’s land surface oil resource reservoirs have been accounted for, what lies beneath the oceans sea bed opens a new incentive for deep sea drilling innovations. As these theories for deep sea drilling become more plausible and the race to claim the ocean’s resources escalates, the risk of conflict among countries competing for these resources increases. The United Nations has worked on and developed international rules and laws to administer the ocean’s resources for the benefit of all citizens. It has developed boundaries, such as the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and rules such as the Laws of the Sea, to promote equal access and ownership of the open ocean resources while also recognizing the rights of countries bordering on the oceans to have some control over the seas close...