Idea for Use in the Classroom

Offshore drilling is a process by which humans access petroleum trapped in rock found beneath the ocean. Before exploring the challenges and risks of this process, have students share how they rely on oil in their daily lives. Using the map, students can work in pairs to identify where most offshore wells and platforms are located along the United States and Mexican coasts and then use the scale to estimate how far offshore most are located. Students can further characterize the location of platforms and wells by using the map legend to determine whether most exist in shallow, deep, or ultra-deep waters.

Next, divide students into small groups and have them develop a list of challenges and risks related to offshore drilling based on the location of wells and platforms, as well as other evidence from the infographic. As students share their lists, review the risk of oil spills using the Deepwater Horizon and Ixtoc 1 examples. Connect these spills to environmental impacts and risk to tourism by highlighting the presence of coastal wetlands, using the Loop Current inset to demonstrate how oil could be carried to the Atlantic coast, and analyzing the “Economy of the U.S. Gulf” chart.

Finally, review the chart of U.S. Gulf oil from federal leases to understand how drilling has changed over time. Ask: Should offshore drilling operations continue to expand into deep and ultra-deep waters? Encourage students to consider the advantages and disadvantages of oil extraction, as well as possible alternatives like renewable energy.

Deepwater Horizon
Noun

oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that exploded in 2010.

environmental impact
Noun

incident or activity's total effect on the surrounding environment.

extraction
Noun

process by which natural resources are extracted and removed from the earth.

federal
Adjective

having to do with a nation's government (as opposed to local or regional government).

offshore
Adjective

having to do with facilities or resources located underwater, usually miles from the coast.

oil
Noun

fossil fuel formed from the remains of marine plants and animals. Also known as petroleum or crude oil.

oil drilling
Noun

process of digging below the surface of the Earth for oil.

oil platform
Noun

large, elevated structure with facilities to extract and process oil and natural gas from undersea locations.

oil spill
Noun

accidental release of petroleum products into a body of water, either by an oil tanker or an offshore oil rig.

Noun

fossil fuel formed from the remains of ancient organisms. Also called crude oil.

renewable energy
Noun

energy obtained from sources that are virtually inexhaustible and replenish naturally over small time scales relative to the human life span.

tourism
Noun

the industry (including food, hotels, and entertainment) of traveling for pleasure.

Noun

area of land covered by shallow water or saturated by water.