The latest events in the Gulf of Mexico have given a new dimension to the energy dilemma. With anywhere from 5,000 to 80,000 gallons of crude (depending on the expert you believe) spewing into the Gulf every day. BP (the well owner) is mad at Transocean (the owner of the exploded oil rig), Cameron (the company that built the failed blowout preventer) and Halliburton (the people who were supposed to have sealed the well). Fishermen, environmentalists, everybody (except attorneys) is mad at BP, et al. The public’s heat has now added the federal government to the list of “how could you let this happen” culprits.
Well, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
For years it has been clear that, as the easy sources of oil are depleted, riskier and more expensive methods of mining more reclusive oil fields have been necessary. That means, for example, going offshore instead of drilling on dry land. The crucial difference between dry land and offshore drilling is that oil spills are much more easily contained and stopped in the dry land version than they are out to sea. If the spill occurs at the underwater wellhead, then its seriousness depends on how far underwater the leak is. When the leak is in relatively shallow water, as it was in the Santa Barbara oil spills in the late 1960s, the process of stopping the leak and cleaning up is far simpler than when the leak is a mile below the surface of the water.
And guess what? A substantial portion of the Earth’s yet-to-be drilled oil reserves is in even deeper water than the BP well. So if you liked the current Gulf leaks you’ll love the ones yet to come. This is not a comforting thought for many people who are, finally, beginning to rethink our need for oil.
Because the real, fundamental culprit in this fiasco is . . . US!
We, all of us, are responsible in some way for the gluey Gulf because of our seemingly insatiable demand for oil. Americans are, or were until recently, the worst offenders because of our dependence on the automobile for getting from here to there—and because of our assumption that we need an automobile to do our thing; therefore we need the oil, transformed into gas or diesel, to run the car. Besides, gas is cheap, at least in the US and in oil-subsidized countries like Iran. So there’s no real incentive to reduce our consumption levels. Unless, of course, you’re starting to worry about the future.
When we first proved the utility of telecommuting in the early 1970s it was during the first Mideast oil crisis. We noticed an interesting phenomenon then: people were quite willing to pay more for gas during the crisis, although they grumbled about $1.54 per gallon, but what really got their attention was when the gas stations ran out of gas. That made them mad. How dare the fates deprive us of our rides?
Well, folks, the Gulf leak is just the beginning. If our—and the Chinese and Indian and ??—demand for oil continues you can depend on more such disasters, not to mention the acceleration in global warming.
So please think about more telecommuting, pressuring your congresspeople about alternative, sustainable energy sources, switching to hybrid or electric cars and otherwise weaning yourselves from the oil habit.
We’re all in this together.