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A Perpetual Extractive Frontier? The History of Offshore Petroleum in the Gulf of Mexico

Nature, Raw Materials, and Political Economy

ISBN: 978-0-76231-162-0, eISBN: 978-1-84950-314-3

ISSN: 1057-1922

Publication date: 26 October 2005


For the first time since the “limits to growth” debate of the 1970s, we hear serious talk about the prospect of the world running out of oil. In the United States, concerns about reducing dependence on foreign oil have incited debate over the viability of alternative energy sources versus the oil industry's search for new oil “frontiers.” The rancorous dispute over drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWAR) has captured the spotlight in this debate. Less controversial, but more significant for the future of U.S. oil production, are the bountiful “deepwater” reserves of the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). Offshore is central to the history of the petroleum industry over the last 50 years, and the GOM is the most explored, drilled, and developed offshore petroleum province in the world. In recent decades, revenue from offshore leasing has been second only to federal income taxes in value to the U.S. treasury. During the last 30 years, the search for oil and gas has continually moved into deeper waters and into new offshore environments. Still, the GOM remains the primary laboratory for technological innovation and regulatory practices. The recent and spectacular revival in production there thanks to deepwater discoveries has strongly reinforced this demonstration effect. As offshore oil assumes a high profile in national development strategies around the world, any effort to analyze the political, social, and economic aspects of offshore exploration and development must use the GOM as a historical precedent or basis of comparison.


Priest, T. (2005), "A Perpetual Extractive Frontier? The History of Offshore Petroleum in the Gulf of Mexico", Ciccantell, P.S., Smith, D.A. and Seidman, G. (Ed.) Nature, Raw Materials, and Political Economy (Research in Rural Sociology and Development, Vol. 10), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 209-229.



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