If you have the facts on your side, why tell lies?
Mortimer B. Zuckerman of US News and World Report has a 2-page Editorial on energy independence titled: Stop the Energy Insanity!!!!!! (I added all those exclamation points, but that’s the real title, sans !!!!’s) Upon first read, it seems. . .almost sensible. But if you do simple fact-checking. . . not so much.
Mort claims that awesome new technology makes offshore drilling for oil and natural gas super-safe. He then points to category-5 hurricanes Rita and Katrina that rocked the gulf coast in 2005 and spilled nary a drop of oil or gas offshore. Here’s what he said (can’t provide a link to Mort’s column as it is in the current issue of US News and World Report and isn’t online yet):
Similarly, the outer continental shelf is estimated to contain some 86 billion barrels of oil, plus 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that is overwhelmingly off limits and underdeveloped–even though those reserves could be tapped now with minimal environmental disturbance. This is supported by the fact that there were virtually no oil spills when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita flattened terminals around the Gulf of Mexico. (emphasis mine)
Virtually no oil spills? This is from the US Minerals Management Service:
NEW ORLEANS – Minerals Management Service (MMS) today released an update of the assessment of damage to offshore oil and gas infrastructure caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
MMS also is releasing the following tally of hurricane-related oil/condensate/chemical spills in Federal offshore OCS waters as reported to MMS and the National Response Center. Six spills of 1,000 barrels or greater were reported; the largest of these was 3,625 barrels of condensate reported by the Gulf South Pipeline Company in the Eugene Island Block 51 area. A total of 146 spills of 1 barrel or greater have been reported in the Federal OCS waters; 37 of these were 50 barrels or greater. No shoreline or wildlife impacts were noted from these spills.
One barrel of oil is 42 gallons. The largest spill was 3,625 barrels, or 152,250 gallons spilled into the ocean. That was just the largest spill. There were 5 other large spills of at least 1000 barrels each (and least 1000 barrels but less than 3,625). 1000 barrels (minimum) X 5 major spills X 42 gallons per barrel = 210,000 gallons spilled, minimum, from the next 5 major spills. 210,000 + 152,250 = 362,250 gallons of oil, natural gas, and chemicals (mostly oil) MINIMUM from only the 6 largest spills. Looking back at the data from MMS we see there were an additional 140 spills, of which 37 were greater than 50 barrels. That, to me, is alot of spilled oil and natural gas.
That’s just offshore. How about oil and gas spills onshore? Virtually none, either, if you’re idea of virtually none is over 7 million gallons of oil, gas and chemicals spilled in southeast Louisiana alone (here).
To see how far the press far fallen, honestly and intellectually, let’s hearken back to 1989, when the Exxon Valdez supertanker spilled 10.8 million gallons of oil in Prince William sound in Alaska and destroyed its ecology for at least another 30 years. Most probably due to the convenient scapegoat of a drunken captain, the press was all over the spill.The native people who made their living there through fishing and tourism went bankrupt. Exxon was sued and ordered to pay about 5 billion dollars in combined damages in 1994. They appealed repeatedly and finally got the Supreme Court of the United States of America to reduce the fines and damages to about half a billion dollars this year. Consider that Exxon made over 40 billion dollars in profits last year alone, but they still appeal and haven’t yet paid the effected people of Alaska a dime. (wiki of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill here)
So what’s my damn point? I’m wondering why, if Mort and the ruling class have the facts on their side, why do they lie? And, knowing Mort is lying, and he and the others repeating the company line that “virtually no oil was spilled during Rita and Katrina” are dead wrong, that the amount of oil spilled due to Rita and Katrina rivaled that of the Exxon Valdez disaster, how come nobody’s calling them on it? Why are they allowed to repeat such obvious falsehoods? I would posit it’s because everybody on TV and many voices in print media are servants of one or another corporate master, and they are simply repeating what the bosses want repeated. So: “No oil was spilled. No oil is ever spilled. And, even though no oil is spilled or ever will be, if it was, it wouldn’t do any damage anyway and don’t believe any tree-hugging communist who tells you differently. Now go buy some useless shit you don’t need.”
And how bout some real straight talk? Don’t you think Exxon and the other big boys, as well as the OPEC nations, like receiving over 140 dollars for a barrel of oil? What makes you think, even if we drill all over our coastlines and Alaska, that the oil powers that be won’t find a way to keep prices up, either through collusion or natural or man-made disasters? And even if they don’t, what makes you think demand won’t increase (via Chinese, Indian, and African development) to complete erase any added supplies?
Quite simply, we’ve reached the nadir of the oil economy. We can’t go on the way things are without terrible consequences. We need a Manhatten or Apollo-style project for clean energy technologies. We need solar panels and windmills or every roof or backyard, geothermal and tidal, cellolosic ethanol and electric cars. Pronto, chop chop.
According to a poster at Grist, they’re here:
Low-cost, hi-efficiency solar via Sunrgi.
Low-cost, non-food crop ethanol via Coskata.
From a joint GM/Coskata press release:
DETROIT, Jan. 13 – General Motors announced a partnership Sunday with Coskata Inc. to use the company’s breakthrough technology which affordably and efficiently makes ethanol from practically any renewable source, including garbage, old tires and plant waste.
Coskata, which was formally introduced as part of GM’s opening press conference at the North American International Auto Show, uses a proprietary process that leverages patented microorganisms and bioreactor designs to produce ethanol for less than $1 a gallon, about half of today’s cost of producing gasoline.
Again, oil, coal and nuclear are dying. Every barrel of oil pumped out of the ground, every scoop of coal taken from the soil, every barrel of radioactive sludge produced that has to be stored somewhere so it won’t kill or poison life on this planet, brings us closer to the end of those industries. But we aren’t doomed to a Mad Max existence if we get serious about this crisis and exploit our best minds, impulses and technologies. We can make it to a cleaner, brighter future.
One more thing. A friend send me an email about myths and facts about ANWR. Basically the gist is that environmentalists are full of what the birds eat and drilling there will be contained to a tiny piece (about 2,200 acres, out of 19 million acres) of land nowhere near anything pretty. The argument the email makes is that drilling would be clean and not effect much or any wildlife. Whether it’s a load of crap or not (Mort mentions it in his column, so I’m inclined to believe we’re not hearing the complete and accurate picture of what will go down up there), I’m of the opinion that we should go ahead and let the oil companies explore and drill there and on the offshore continental shelf (regardless of the risks in both places) as long as there is a new royalties agreement giving an increased share of the profits of oil and gas sales to US taxpayers. That’s the condition: they get more drilling permits, we get more $$$$’s. Put those extra $$$ in a fund exclusively for renewable energy projects for residential and business renewable, residential and business efficiency projects, clean energy R&D, mass transit, and converting coal and nuclear to clean energy projects. Not a dime for new coal or nuclear, for the obvious reasons that they aren’t clean or efficient–just incentives for them to convert to solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, etc. I know this may sound strange after the arguments of the rest of the post, but real change isn’t going to happen without compromise. This would be the Great Energy Compromise of 2009 (under President Obama, of course).