I have had the opportunity to travel
throughout Texas and Louisiana. Some of the back roads in Eastern
Texas have working drilling operations going on and if you go West on
the few major highways you can see the remnants of old oil fields. It
is an ugly sight full of broken down equipment and machines left over
in a wasteland that was needed for storage and operations facilities.
Off the coast of Grand Island, LA you could see hundreds of well rigs
sticking up out of the Gulf like antennae on roof tops in the suburbs
before satellite dishes. The beach was not pretty like Florida with
grasses and dunes. It was dotted with harsh looking weeds amid
strings of black material that resembled the seaweed that washes up
in Florida but is nasty and not worth pulling apart to find crabs and
other marine life. In Alaska, I went to the bay where the Exxon
Valdiz caused the previous largest spill. Life is returning with
fishes and plant growth, but if you turn over a rock or dig into the
sand, you will still find globs of tar and a sheen to the water.
That was the past.
Television ads for promoting drilling
in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) used to show a field of
white and say “This is what it looks like 9 months out of the year.
What harm could it do?”
I liked to respond with “it will look
like an oil refinery 12 months of the year if you drill. Show us a
picture of that why don’t you?”
They have authorized limited drilling in ANWR now.
But it is not as bad as we thought. The natives have a great deal of
control over the spacing of the wells and the land footprint of a
modern well site is only about 1/10th the size of rigs of
the past. As technology advances to provide cleaner more efficient
methods of extracting oil and vehicles and housing for the operators
we see less intrusion, and wildlife co-existing with structures. With
the recent global climate changes the Caribou have adapted to using
the roads and pipeline alleys for better migration. Adapt and survive
is working for the ANWR drilling.
I went to a restaurant in Long Beach,
California that had a working oil well still pumping in the parking
lot. It was surrounded by chain link fence for safety, but there were
several similar fences in the area around homes and businesses. After
the rush is over and production commences, the rigs can come down and
the area cleaned up.
My Aunt had three gas wells on her
property in Big Run, Pennsylvania. The cows grazed next to the pipes
and the dirt roads leading to the wells in the woods were great
places to pick blackberries.
If the government drills responsibly
it is much better than the oil sands operations in Alberta Canada
that I saw. It looked like the strip coal mines before we passed laws
to make them less damaging to the environment. We have come a long
way baby. It is more about responsibility before a project becomes a
disaster than whether it should be done at all.