Monday, December 20, 2010

Lessons From California’s Oil Legacy: Why it is safe to Drill baby Drill


My favorite movie is There Will Be Blood about an early 20th century oil man’s quest to beat out his competition at the cost of everything most people would find meaningful.    One of the characters of the movie is the oil industry itself.  I am constantly fascinated by the recreation of early drilling techniques, from manually scooping it out of a hole with a bucket to more efficient steam pumps that would just dump the oil into a field.  All of this work would be extremely controversial due to its environmental impact by today’s standards. 
The United States was once the world leader in oil production, with fields primarily in California and Texas.  I remember seeing the pictures of field upon field with massive oil derricks erected, such as the one pictured.  Yet, not even 100 years later, the legacy of the oil industry is dwindling.  More importantly, the environmental impact is unnoticed.  I mean, if you think about all the precautions that yesterday’s oil business did not have to take compared to today’s, you would have thought California and Texas would have become gigantic Chernobyl’s.  Quite the contrary, as they are amongst the most desirable places to live in the country. 
What lesson can we learn from our early oil days.  The lesson is that the impact of such endeavors is actually minimal.  And when you factor in today’s efficiencies and standards, it makes little sense as to why we make drilling so difficult in the United States.  Places like Anwar and our Gulf coast are ripe for oil production.   Instead, we push oil companies deep out into the ocean where drilling is risky, as we have seen this past year with the Gulf oil spill.  But that is often how the law of unintended consequences goes.

9 comments:

Kansas Bob said...

Maybe the smog issues in California have caused oil production there to pause?

jrchaard said...

I think the smog was from exhaust and not oil drilling

Kansas Bob said...

You don't see a link between the two?

jrchaard said...

No, not a single one. What's your point.

Kansas Bob said...

no oil = no emissions

jrchaard said...

That is true everywhere, not where oil is produced. I'm talking about the impact of drilling.

Kansas Bob said...

Not sure that you can logically separate exhaust fumes and drilling. One is the source and one the symptom. Maybe if KC had the smog that LA has one might not like the drilling of wells that much? But feel free to be illogical. :)

jrchaard said...

Bob, my point is this, we cannot open new wells because of the environmental impact the DRILL has. Exhaust is drilling neutral. Whether the oil all comes from somewhere else or not, the cars still exist creating the smog. So, you can't ban drilling because of car fumes. If you want to cut down on fumes, ban cars. So who's illogical now smarty pants

Kansas Bob said...

My comments were simply to say that smog infested skies might create a bias against oil companies. Of course those derricks are quite ugly for such a beautiful state. :)