June 15, 2010

Everybody needs somebody...to hate...

I'm a third (technically-but not officially-4th) generation Oklahoman. I'm also the product of three generations of family involved in the oil and gas industry - or Big Oil, as I fondly call it.

You know, those people that everyone likes to hate for charging so much for gas when at least 60% of what you pay at the pump is actually local and federal taxes, not profits for oil companies? Those people that everyone likes to hate for trying to drill in "protected" domestic areas rather than let our country become dependent on hostile foreign powers for our livelihood? Those people without whom life as we know it would not exist, since nearly everything we own, use and see is a petroleum product?

Yeah, those evil Big Oil people who are currently "destroying" the gulf. Or are they?

Let's take a step back and try to dispassionately assess the situation. You'll have to turn off MSNBC to do so, but it's worth it, I promise.

Now, since most of our largest oil reserves are protected as national parks or something or other, and as such are unavailable resources, we have two options for survival - and it is a matter of survival, since no amount of poison-filled lightbulbs or plug-in cars will be able to replace the way we function off of oil and gas at an equivalent rate for an equivalent cost of living. It is impossible.

Either A) we can rely on purchasing our oil and gas from foreign powers like Saudi Arabia (who then turns and uses the proceeds to fund terrorism) or B) we turn to other domestic sources - such as offshore drilling.

The company I worked for drilled wells inside city limits, which benefited the community in 2 ways -
1) we extracted a usable energy source and
2) we were able to pay mineral royalties to local property owners for the use of the land.

Basically, we were double-stimulating the economy. And while that may sound like a dream solution for energy problems, here's the rub: nearly every major (available) domestic source of oil has already been tapped. There are no more "gushers." What we drill are more like "tricklers" in comparison. Good for supplementing our current oil and gas usage and essential for keeping the local economy going, but not nearly enough to sustain a country on. And not cost-effective for major oil companies like BP or Exxon or any of the others to drill - only for smaller, locally owned businesses like the one I worked for.

Now, let's talk about BP. Big, bad BP. Did you know that BP did not own the rig that failed? That's right. BP is an energy company, and part of that company includes oil and gas exploration. They are not - repeat, NOT - a drilling company. What does that mean?

When a company like BP decides to drill a well, a many-month long process takes place. (How do I know? Because I've lived it. This is all first-hand knowledge, mmkay?)

First, they scope out some area. Now, based on what we already know about available domestic resources, it's not really worth the time and money for major corporations like BP to drill in municipal areas like my employer did.
Therefore, major corporations - bless them - are turning to alternate sources of exploration, like offshore drilling. So they hire geologists to do an analysis of the area they are wanting to drill.

Then they hire lawyers to write and up file all the appropriate permitting and zoning paperwork to get permission to drill. And (at least on land) they hire landmen like me to research anyone who might have mineral rights in the area they are wanting to drill - and in my case, I had to trace mineral ownership for tracts of land from present day all the way back to statehood. That's over 100 years of records and a WHOLE lot of math!

In the meantime, they hire a drilling services company to lease all the equipment and labor they need, including the actual rig. The drilling services company owns the rig, not the exploration company. The drilling services company's employees (or contract laborers) work on the rig, not the exploration company's. The drilling services company is legally, ethically and practically responsible for anything that happens onsite at the drill site. Finally, after weeks and weeks of jumping through legal loopholes, drilling begins.

Did you ever see Armageddon? Bruce Willis & Co. were working an offshore rig. Just for reference.

Now, let's talk about that spill. In the first place, had the media not been operating under the tired old "evil-oil-company" meme, proper attention would have been given and the appropriate blame placed on the drilling services company involved. Now, of course, you can't even find their name, because no one cares. Correction: I was just informed the drilling company who owned the rig was Transocean. We've been convinced that BP is the one at fault here. So fine, we'll just have to operate off of that (flawed) premise.

I'm not saying BP is 100% free of liability. However, neither are they 100% guilty, as we have been led to believe. That would be like suing Avis because your loved one was killed by someone driving a rental car. Doesn't make sense until lawyers or the media get their hands on it. And that's what has happened here. But anyway....

Plugging a hole in a rig pipe isn't easy on land. It's even more complicated underwater. Not only are you having to deal with the rush of fluid coming out of the pipe, you're also battling atmospheric pressure from the water interfering with diving and repair equipment. And since offshore oil rig spills rarely happen, it's not as though you can just place an ad in the paper for someone with experience in this area.

When was the last time you heard about an oil spill of this magnitude? 1979. At that time, a Mexican oil rig failed and there was a massive oil spill, even larger than the current one. In places, the oil was 15 inches deep in the water.

Someone posted on my facebook that the reason they were mad was that this oil spill was "destroying an entire ecosystem." Really? Is it?

Do you know what an ecosystem is? "
Ecosystem: consists of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving, physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water, and sunlight."

I have yet to see an oil spill that big. So if someone tries to tell you that the oil spill (the poorly-politically-moitvated-named BP oil spill) is "destroying an ecosystem," ask them to define "ecosystem."

Now, someone's going to say, "What? You don't think this is a horrible disaster? You don't think BP needs to pay for this? You don't care about all the fish and fowl dying out there covered with oil?"

Um, where did I say that? I didn't. Neither has anyone else. It is important to keep in mind, however, that major oil spills have happened before. And we have yet to have a species of animal go extinct because of it. Let's keep it in proportion, guys.

Also, here's something you may have not considered: oil is a natural product. It is not manmade or toxic. It exists in nature, with nature. And it leaks into the ocean all on its own from underwater pressure releases. And guess what? Nature deals with it. Microbes in water break down oil naturally. Oil evaporates - over time - off of the surface of ocean water. In fact, in the 1979 oil spill, a hurricane blew 3,900 tons of oil onto Texas beaches. Overnight, half of it had disappeared - naturally. And in less than a year, the fishing grounds in the area had been completely replenished - naturally.

The Earth was made to be resilient. Regardless of how and when BP finally chooses to act, the Gulf will recover, and history shows that it will recover completely.

Which means that the only real battles we have left to face are whether or not the government should use taxpayer dollars to fix a problem that A) is legally liable to private companies and B) will eventually be repaired through the natural processes of the earth. I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions on that front.

This may have been really long and boring to a lot of you, and if so, if you aren't really interested in what's going on with BP and the oil spill, that's fine. But I hope you'll take away something from my larger point here, which is this:

It's always best to do personal research. The media has an agenda, and has for many years. I'm not saying "don't trust what you see on TV." Trust, but verify, as a wise man once said. We shouldn't just accept what newscasters or news show hosts say at face-value. Those guys read teleprompters; they aren't scientists or business owners or experts in any field, except maybe sports analysts. It's always worth the effort to do independent research.

And the first person who tries to pull that tired old "war for oil" crap in the comments, be prepared for a b*tchslapping. You have no idea what you are talking about. You cannot name one military engagement that has benefited either the oil and gas industry or the public at large with regards to oil prices and availability. That's because it doesn't. And that's why you should absolutely and totally disregard the recent media obsession with claims that Afghanistan has trillions of dollars in minerals under the soil. It's a red herring. Maybe the minerals are there, but America will never and should never have access to them. It's a ploy devised just as the "War for Oil" lie was back in the 90s to try and turn public opinion against the war and against our troops. Ignore it.


  1. Great post!! I wish I was able to put my views into writing as well as you do.

  2. this is fantastic!!!mi totally agree with you and im glad you put it all out there!

  3. oh you go girl! This is written so well!

  4. I love your perception. I almost accepted a job offer with BP, but in the light of the disaster, its not the best route to go.

    And true, the ecosystem will not go extinct in the aftermath of this disaster, but the money that will be used in cleaning up, the up cost in living in those areas, the job lost is what I cannot seem to come to term with. In the 21st century, we should be able to have some safety guidelines that could have stopped this problem. I took safety classes in college pertaining to oil industries and BP is one of the companies that have loose safety guidelines. In most cases these disasters happen on days they happen to be celebrating safety milestones.

    BP needs to suffer for this lack of oversight! They need to repay the American public, and they need to introduce better safety regulations to prevent such disasters in future. The disaster of 1979 was caused by an indicator that only records a limited amount of oil in a tank (again, no oversight and precautions).

    Thanks for bringing light to the situation girl. We need discussions like this every now and then.

    And about the 1 trillion in Afghanistan, I dont buy it. The U.S will not put lives of men at stake for 1 trillion dollars. Like you said, its red herring. And besides, it costs more than 1 trillion to facilitate these wars, so who is the media kidding. And besides it not America's minerals, and we have no rights to it.

  5. Great post Jaci! I already knew that it wasn't possible that BP were 100% to blame for this, but I didn't know the details of what went on. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Wow....that was amazing. Thank you!!

  7. Fantastic!

    I have no other words. Brilliant.

    *high five*

  8. Couldn't agree with you more. I think it's irritating that even our PRESIDENT is blaming BP when it's not completely their fault. I, like everyone else, got fooled into believing that BP was entirely to blame. You're right: oil is natural, and God created the earth to be able to deal with these sorts of accidents. I mean, this could have happened without us even drilling there! And, if we were allowed to drill in parks and such we wouldn't need to drill offshore in the first place. {I totally understand why parks are in place, and I'm in favor of that but it is kind of frustrating.} I hate that the media is solely responsible for, what, 90% of the public's knowledge.People will just blindly believe whatever information that CNN, NBC, ABC or CBS put out there for us. As always, thanks for putting everything in perspective!! =)

  9. Awesome post!! I couldn't agree more!

  10. you've once again shown yourself to be my hero. Wonderful, wonderful post. Wish all Americans could be as level-headed to actually research and believe fact vs PC fiction.

  11. I have been having SO many arguments/discussions with people about this but have not been able to articulate it as wonderfully graceful as you have. HUA, AMEN, AGREED and everything else :)

    I was wondering, its cool if not, if I could post and share the link to this post on FB?


  12. You hit the nail on the head! I couldn't agree more. Seriously! I wish more people did their research before opening their mouths and spew out nonsense.

  13. Okay, finally had the time to read this fully. Thanks so much! I'm certainly not an expert and I appreciate your take on things. I haven't been listening too much to the news (there's no interest for news-viewing from my almost two year old, so we opt for Curious George instead...), but I am skeptical of most of the things I hear. I appreciate your taking the time to write all of this out!


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