Exploitation. Suffocation. Remediation. Frustration.
It’s been two weeks since an onshore pipeline burst at Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara, leaking close to 100,000 gallons of oil, 21,000 gallons finding its way into the ocean causing a large cleanup effort of tar on the beach for many miles to the south. This situation has caused alarm among environmentalists but, strangely, conversely, it has bolstered the state of denial about what our oil dependence is doing to our environment. Worse, for some, it seems that the possibility of gas prices going up due to the spill and the cleanup is more critical than the cost of our dependence reflected in everything else.
The conversation/debate over oil has been hard and most of the time uncompromising. Sure, many have changed their ways by buying gas efficient vehicles, using mass transit or riding their bikes to work. Some have committed to minimalist lifestyles using as little plastic as possible. Of course, it’s not altogether practical to live totally without petroleum-based products at this point in time, but we have come a long way from the who-cares-about-the-environment style of living. But still, we have this oil spill. We have dead birds and dead dolphins on our shores, and some maintain the notion, “Eh. It’s the price we pay.” Unfortunately, it’s not the price “we” pay. It’s the price helpless animals pay. It’s the price our ocean pays. It’s the price that eventually will equate to a worse quality of life for every living thing, including humans who aren’t even born yet.
There is plenty of legislation out there to regulate, restrict and even ban oil operations. Some has passed, much has failed, the most valid argument against anti-oil legislation being job loss if we shut down drilling, fracking, etc. But out of necessity comes invention. It’s not as if new jobs wouldn’t be created if we got serious about abandoning oil dependent lifestyles. And certainly there will be ways to figure out substitutes for petroleum-based products.
The real problem is not lack of alternatives or jobs in alternative energy. It’s an attitude problem. We don’t want to change if we are not the ones actually suffering. And with that, perhaps only when gasoline hits $20 per gallon will we think hard about our choices not to embrace alternatives when we had the chance. Too bad that time won’t come fast enough. Who knows what disaster awaits us. It’s been over five years since the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the aftermath is wretched. People are agonizing over a few dead dolphins washed up on local shores — how about 1,200? That’s what the states bordering the Gulf have experienced, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
It’s unfortunate that we haven’t done more to reign in the oil industry. While we are more conscious of our oil-product-related use, it’s simply not enough. In 1980, the U.S. consumed 16.8 million barrels per day. In 2014, it went up to 19 million barrels, according to the United States Energy Information Administration. In the meantime, the price of crude oil is roughly $60 per barrel while the price of gasoline is inching close to $4 per gallon. Several years ago, it was $100 per barrel while gas prices were at $4 per gallon. So not only are we complacent about change and the effects of oil on our environment, but we are clearly being duped by the industry and seems as though it just doesn’t matter.
It’s time to wake up and with a true attitude adjustment.