So there’s been some hoopla in Seattle involving a drill rig and lots of people in kayaks. Obviously my job now and for the last several years has either depended upon or involved the production of oil, so the more defensive part of me would be quick to point out that most of those kayaks are probably made from plastics derived from petroleum, and I’d venture that at least some of those protesters haven’t even considered this. And they will probably get back into their cars to drive home, powered by gasoline or diesel; even if they ride on one of Seattle’s partial-electric buses, they’ll be running on electricity that was created by burning coal, or running water through a dam, or from wind pushing windmills in a windfarm somewhere in eastern Washington, all amazing feats of engineering whose ultimate success depended heavily on petroleum products. There’s just no getting around it.
That being said, of course I’m not all for drilling in the arctic. I’m very concerned about what’s going on, especially after the fiasco involving Shell and their drill ship, the Kulluk, in the winter of 2012. We all need to be stewards of the environment, and so the people in kayaks are at least raising awareness about the issues, even if they know deep down no one is going to stop the gigantic oil companies from going for oil anywhere they can. I would go on to mention that Alaska has the strictest oil spill prevention legislature in place of all 50 states and the territories. There are locals in Valdez who work for the Alyeska pipeline and at the Valdez marine terminal who are extremely passionate about protecting this beautiful place from another disaster like the Exxon Valdez. There are oil spill prevention and response vessels doing drills out in the bay every day, preparing to go north and participate in the arctic drilling endeavor.
I’m seeing posts about it all over facebook and I wanted to say something about it here rather than throwing out some brief and ignorant status on some social media, where I’m sure I’d get torn to shreds by my liberal friends and a pat on the back from my conservative friends in the mess of comments that would probably stack up beneath my original half-baked and likely passive-aggressive opinion.
But if I had to commit to it one way or another, I’d say I support, with some reservation, drilling for domestic oil. More than once when I worked at a shipping agency in SF Bay I went to the customs house in Oakland holding papers for oil that had been imported from Iraq. People who are not in tune with the maritime industry often don’t think about where their goods come from, don’t realize that we need ships and oil for our economy to be at all viable, and that a lot of the oil we import still comes from areas ravaged by war and conflict. For now, I think it’s better to keep it in-house if we can. The production and use of cleaner-burning liquefied natural gas is on the horizon, though getting to it also involves fracturing the earth and causing environmental damage. Although we all look forward to a future where we’ll be able to run our world on solar and wind power, we will need oil to create solar panels and wind turbines and windmill blades, which I’m pretty sure will require at least some fossil fuels to produce and transport. I doubt we’ll be free of petroleum use and production in my lifetime, but I’m hoping we can get there someday.