Po Boy Views
Not My Problem
Let Them Drink Oil
Okay, here we are on day seventy-five of the awful, awful miscarriage of oil in the Gulf and now the estimates are up to 80,000 barrels a day.
Remember last oil blog’s arithmetic lesson? Well, here’s another lesson: in today’s newspaper it was revealed that thus far BP has set 238,000 barrels of oil on fire. The quote was “Controlled burns have collectively removed…”. That is to say, if you took that quart of oil that you put in your car’s engine poured it in your filled bathtub and set it on fire, here comes the math part (ready?), you would need to do that 533,120 times a day to keep up with them. You can trust me on this, or you can divide the number of barrels thus burned (238,000) by the number of days (75), multiply by the number of gallons per barrel (42) and then multiply by the number of quarts there are in a gallon (4). Viola! Or Voila! Or whatever; that’s a lot of friggin’ oil. Wouldn’t you say?
Environmentalists worry about the hazards the plumes of noxious smoke may have on wildlife. What are the chances? “The fires burn 2 to 3 millimeters of oil every sixty seconds, rising as high as 100 feet and generating massive plumes of smoke”. Environmental groups are suing BP because they have found that the fires are burning sea turtles alive in the process.
So, now we have the spill, the chemical dispersants AND the fires; I’m telling you out there that we sure are having a time way down yonder in New Orleans. Oil is already in the mouth of the Mississippi River, 100 miles away. They’re predicting oil on Miami’s beaches and into the Florida Keyes by mid August and who knows how many storms we’ll have by then. The spill is now the size of the state of New Jersey. Break out the flags and sparklers, it’s July 4th weekend and business in the French Quarter could be worse, but I cannot imagine how. At least we’re eating regularly, but not the local seafood..
So, who’s fault is this anyway? This whole disastrous tragedy? Hmmm. Let’s start by taking into consideration that our dependency on oil and petroleum based products is the culprit. Let’s see. Plastic containers, Styrofoam containers and ‘peanuts’ for packing, my after shave lotion bottle, disposable razors, sanitizer bottles, plastic cups, ball point pens, cheap flashlights, colored markers, the keyboard that I’m typing on, the computer parts as well as printer (and ink cartridges), packing tape, spice jars, soda bottles and mailing envelopes and I haven’t even gotten to my car’s usage and consumption yet. My credit cards and identification are made of plastic, foods that I buy are packed in plastic and I’m sent from the store with my purchases in plastic bags. In New Orleans, where it’s illegal to carry alcoholic beverages in the streets in glass or metal cans, we have plastic ‘go cups’, drink containers shaped like glasses and even plastic beer bottles. AND WE HAVE NO RECYCLING!!!!!
We had an old air conditioner at home that just was not doing it’s job efficiently; when we called around to have it serviced, we were told that it was cheaper to buy a new one and that, anyway, no one worked on residential units any longer. I’m talking about a big steel, electricity-eating thing that was an example of machinery the likes that you will not see again. Our option was to swelter or purchase new. We purchased and indeed the new unit was not expensive (relatively speaking) and when it came time to install the option was to send the old unit to the landfill. The new unit is made of… guess. The unit was not manufactured in this country.
BP is not the bad guy… or are they? Political conservatives would have us believe that if the political liberals had not objected to drilling on land or in shallow water (it obscures the views) that BP would not have been FORCED to drill in deep water. As a student of capitalism I would say that profit oriented businesses (such as BP) would drill on the moon if they thought that they could make a buck and that brings up the theory that BP WANTS to keep the well flowing so that they would have the first crack at harvesting the well’s output with their ‘relief drillings’. What, after all, would happen if the well was closed for well and good? Perhaps a moratorium on the drilling site? How do we know? We don’t know NOTHING (double negative intended) and nothing is clear except that the oil keeps coming out of the well.
Is BP the only miscreant? The only scoundrel? The only reprobate? The only villain? The only criminal? Not on your tintype.
Shell Oil in Nigeria has the populace wading in oil spills, their environment in ruins, their economy nonexistent, their natural resources gone. No fishing and very little agriculture as the result of oil spills the size of the Gulf that are a regular occurrence on their land. Protesters have been beaten and murdered.
Does a poor citizen give a flip about the white man’s oil spill except where it impacts their employment or food sources? As a rural disenfranchised American in northern Mississippi, do I care about a sea turtle or my food stamps? If I get my seafood from the Missouri River do I really care about gulf shrimp?
Do investors put their money behind those that would do good or behind those that will give them the highest return on their investment no matter what their products produce or the effect that that company, in producing that product, has on the environment that we all collectively live in? Would a sane and rational person take a job with a company based on its integrity or it’s pay scale? Therein lies the rub.
Does a working stiff think about making plowshares from oil shares? Do the oil company executives give a flip if a well blows up, workers die and the environment is fouled past their lifetimes as long as it does not affect their bottom line and income? Do you want to bet that behind every great fortune that there is not a great crime perpetrated by great criminals, and in the case of a great oil spill; as Dr. John so rightly pointed out, are not the criminals then put in charge of the crime scene?
Make no mistake that poor people are impacted; they work the rigs, they fish the gulf, they work for the oil company that allows the spill to continue BUT they are also the one who get to clean up the gobs of crude oil that washes up on our shores and can turn a living doing that, wearing plastic suits. Or use their fishing boat to skim oil from their once fished waters using expensive fuel. Or wait in line for handouts from relief groups, in their cars, burning gasoline. As Pogo so succinctly put it in 1974 “we have met the enemy and he is us”.