U.S. bill would divert money for oil spill research

By Alina Selyukh

WASHINGTON (BestGrowthStock) – Democratic Representative Edward Markey introduced legislation on Friday that would redirect $50 million a year to research on preventing oil spills and developing related cleanup technology.

The oil industry has been heavily criticized for relying on old methods to tackle the Gulf oil spill, such as laying boom to collect crude, and not spending enough to develop better equipment to control runaway wells.

“This legislation would divert money from Big Oil subsidies to scientists and spill response experts, to ensure that our country’s best and brightest minds can develop the technology that is sorely lacking when it comes to oil spill prevention and response,” said Markey, who heads the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee.

The “Stop Oil Spills Act,” known as SOS for short, would transfer funds to a new U.S. Department of Energy research grant program from the oil and gas royalty fees. That royalty revenue is now used to subsidize industry research for drilling into deeper offshore areas, which Markey said oil companies could pay for themselves.

The bill specifically targets research for improving blowout preventers on undersea wells, backup control systems to prevent leaks in case of human error, remotely operated vehicles that gather data in deep water, capturing oil that escapes from offshore wells.

The American Petroleum Institute trade group that represents big oil and gas companies is neutral on the bill. “It’s government money and they should direct it wherever they see fit,” said API spokeswoman Cathy Landry.

The energy and chemicals companies trails all other major industries in their research and development funding, forwarding less than 1 percent of their earnings toward innovation, according to a 2008 study by global management consulting firm Booz & Company. Even a smaller amount goes toward improving technology to prevent oil spills.

By redirecting some of the oil and gas royalty revenue collected by the government, the research grant program would not require taxpayer money or go through the yearly congressional budget fight.

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(Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)

U.S. bill would divert money for oil spill research