Wednesday, April 28, 2010

so which... has the better record, rig or mine? Honest question.

Honestly, I can't answer that, and I wish I was up on more of offshore oil rigs versus coal mines so that I could answer our family friend.

I agree with Clay that we don't know much at all about even the locations of our offshore wells in the Gulf, and we should. Much more emphasis is put on learning about how we obtain oil these days than on the details of keeping that first strike producing that precious black gold...wait...I say "these days"? It's always been that way. Most beginnings of something as monumental as our chief source of energy take on the gravity of your basic origin myth. If we could combine the story of Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden with the first discovery of crude oil in this country, then the divinity of this enterprise would be firmly established - to the orgasmic delight of many right-wing pols - and drilling away to our government's and our energy corporations' hearts' content would be happening apace, with no regard for the effects on the environment. Bottom line, you know. We must have our gasoline. Just. Drill.

So we're drilling anyway, believe me. The Gulf of Mexico is teeming with oil platforms and rigs just like the one that blew up and capsized not far from Venice, Louisiana, injuring nearly a couple hundred people and causing eleven deaths. It's amazing that more blowouts aren't happening, that more people aren't hurt, but the industry is pretty well regulated on the production end of things (Update, 4/29: Oyster asks in the comments:
"You mean the oil industry's voluntary safety/environmental regulations?" Well, crapola. Another reason why we need to be better educated about this.) . So the oil companies have accelerated the transformation of the Louisiana coastal wetlands into Swiss cheese-y dead zones with their pipelines to the refineries from the offshore wells. Bottom line, you know. We must have our gasoline. Just. Drill.

So now, it turns out, things have gotten worse than ever as far as BP's now-kaput Horizon Platform goes. The oil hasn't been fully contained and the resulting slick is slated to reach our coast by the end of this week. The best thing anybody can come up with in terms of recovery right now is to set the slick aflame.

It's a serious problem...and the very prospect of it wasn't taken too seriously in the first place. It's one thing to have leaky foreign tankers causing this, another entirely to have a homegrown potential source out of control. More than just the lives lost and the lawyering-up survivors' futures are at stake - an already fragile coastline, its undersea life, and its wildlife are going to be oily, dying masses at our doorstep. An effort to keep our dependency on crude oil going is now going to be dealing a serious blow to the source of nearly a quarter of this country's seafood. If/when the prices of oysters, shrimp, and fish go to the moon throughout this country, blame BP.

But I worry the most about the fact that no one's come up with anything better than burning the stuff to get rid of it. Bleak jokes about it all are flying fast, to be sure, but what isn't funny at all are the many amputations the oil industry keeps performing on this state - and how they are getting away with it all. This state is too dependent on it, to the point where I hope that they'll be able to absorb the oystermen, the shrimpers, and the fishermen into their workings, or that they'll at least pay them some major reparations for their lost livelihoods.

Yes, that's how bad things are here.

WWLTV The Coast Guard is reporting that there is a new leak from the spot where the platform exploded and sank in gulf. BP says no oil leaking

And the denials go on.


Maitri said...

You have to be more specific. Better record for explosion or environmental impact?

I would say coal mining has a worse environmental impact considering groundwater and soil toxicity implications. But, as exploration and drilling get tougher, the risks increase exponentially, as you see RIGHT NOW.

In terms of lives lost, there are considerably more fatalities in the oil industry than in coal mining. From 2001 to 2010, the mining industry had 313 deaths [source MSHA]. In contrast, there were 404 oil & gas fatalities just between 2003 and 2006 [source CDC], while there were 128 coal mining deaths in that same time frame [source MSHA]. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2008, 120 O&G workers died vs. 30 coal miners.

Keep in mind that the BLS considers oil & gas drilling a form of mining, so when you look for stats, make sure that you search explicitly for Oil & Gas versus Coal Mining.

oyster said...

Fine post, but I quibble with this part:

"the industry is pretty well regulated on the production end of things"

You mean the oil industry's voluntary safety/environmental regulations?

Leigh C. said...

Thanks for that, Maitri. I'd RT'd GulfSails' tweet about the greater hoo-ha that was made over coal mining deaths than over offshore deaths, and my friend asked me that question concerning safety.

And erster, man, it's so nice to learn that that stuff that could, like, save lives and keep the environment happy isn't regulated. My condolences to your bivalve relations who are about to be slicked all to hell. We live in a stupidly governed state and country where some of this shit is concerned.