Big Oil

Originally Published in eFlourishing Issue 13, May 3, 2010

A few days ago, British Petroleum lost the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Lawsuits have been filed, and many are probably justified. The loss to BP, just in terms of oil not produced, is about $600,000 per day.

The Deepwater Horizon disaster will undoubtedly cause companies working offshore to amend their safety procedures. Who can afford not to learn from their own and others’ mistakes? Nevertheless, this disaster will give the environmental activists plenty of ammunition to rouse the hoi polloi for years to come.

Remember though, nearly everything you enjoy in your life is connected to oil. As Robert Bryce says in his new book, Power Hungry (Public Affairs, 2010), if oil didn’t exist, we’d have to invent it. Thanks to oil, and the bright boys and girls who work with it, we have shatterproof glasses, ultra-durable synthetic rubber tires, medical implants, bacteria-resistant refrigerators, HDTVs, and Smart Phones, just to name a few sophisticated, but commonplace, items. You can find hundreds of other things made of oil, almost without trying. 

Did you know that almost a third of all global oil production comes from offshore drilling platforms? Or that multinational companies are mostly prevented from accessing the onshore oil reserves controlled by OPEC and government? That means that deep water exploration and drilling is what’s left for them to help meet a growing global demand for oil and the oil-related products we can’t live without.

There is no need to feel sorry for these companies, but realize that theirs is a demanding job, and that disasters like Deepwater Horizon are extremely rare. Unlike natural disasters, like Eyjafjallajökull, the recent volcanic eruption in Iceland, oil companies provide us with basic materials for an incredible array of products, enhancing virtually every aspect of our daily lives.  The benefits that accrue to humanity from oil production far outweigh the cost of the occasional blowout or spill. Moreover, the victims of the Deepwater Horizon accident will recover damages from the culpable parties. That’s why we have a civil court system. So, if you’re tempted to join a crusade against offshore drilling, keep in mind that big oil and your high-tech 21st century lifestyle are joined at the hip.  

[All information from www.robertbryce.comPower Hungry by Robert Bryce, Public Affairs, 2010, www.wsj.com, and www.nytimes.com.  Subscription may be required.]

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