The oil spill spreading throughout the Gulf of Mexico may not affect government's contemplation of oil exploration applications in Bahamian waters, said Environment Minister Earl Deveaux.
With an April 22 spill still leaking thousands of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico daily - as cleanup crews scramble to contain it - concerns have been raised both locally and in the United States over the practice of offshore drilling.
When these concerns were put to him, Mr Deveaux said more attention on offshore drilling safety measures coupled with a well co-ordinated response to spills is needed. He continued: "We haven't had an application to drill an oil well, we had applications to lease (areas) for oil exploration. Most of that is done on the basis of digital mapping. So I don't think it's warranted to speculate to whether we would (approve oil) drilling or not," Mr Deveaux told The Tribune.
Opposition MP for Fox Hill Fred Mitchell believes the Gulf of Mexico spill and others like it should be heeded as warnings for the Bahamas. "This business of drilling for oil as being a panacea for all ills shows that there are problems that come with it. We have to be careful thinking that this is going to solve all our problems, drilling for oil, when in fact it can lead to tremendous issues for the environment and the fishing sector.
"Given the difficulty of the economy it's hard for a government to resist it. I just believe that our environment needs to be protected - we need to be looking at renewable (energy) instead of trying to go after carbon based fuels," said the former Foreign Affairs Minister.
Recently, the government published applications submitted by two petroleum groups who want to search parts of the northern and southern Bahamas for oil. One of these applications is from energy explorer BPC and Norwegian oil company StatoilHydro have teamed up in to possibly search three locations on the Bahamian side of Cay Sal Bank.
Another seven locations north of Grand Bahama are subject to applications covering five million acres from a partnership between Atlantic Petroleum Limited and Bahamas Petroleum Limited. Seven locations north of Grand Bahama are also subject to applications covering five million acres from a partnership between Atlantic Petroleum Limited and Bahamas Petroleum Limited, according to published reports.
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