What happened at Three Mile Island in 1979 led to a new regulatory environment that increased the costs of building and running nuclear power reactors in the U.S. The environment was so hostile to the industry that no new reactors have been ordered since then. There are several in the planning stages, but none have been approved. The question now being debated among energy analysts is whether or not what’s going on in the Gulf of Mexico at the moment will lead to similar challenges for the oil industry.
The estimates of the just how much oil is spewing into the Gulf of Mexico from BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig keep rising. The latest guess — and it is just a guess — is something like 210,000 gallons a day. It is almost certainly going to eclipse the Exxon Valdez catastrophe by the time things are brought under control. Who knows how much damage has been done to the Gulf Coast ecology and economy? But could it be that we’re lucky this happened where and when it did, instead of a few years down the road in an even more difficult spot, say the Arctic Ocean?