You might remember last year I was talking a lot about credit and how that is the lubrication of our economy. When the credit markets dried up a year and a half ago nobody could seemingly buy anything. Our governments went to great length to infuse the economy with government stimulus to keep us buying. It certainly looks like it worked. Doing almost anything without lubrication is always harder. Credit was no different.
Most of the time lubrication is not associated with credit, it’s associated with oil. With all the moving parts we have in this world the commodity called oil tends to be the sexy one as nobody wants to do without it. So when the Transocean Deepwater Horizon drilling rig sank on April 22 after an explosion and fire two days prior, I started thinking about allthat oil in the water and whether we want those risks as a society. We want the lubrication for just about anything but extracting the oil needs to be done in a safe manner.
It is turning into quite an environmental mess off the coast of Louisiana. Pres. Barack Obama visited there the other day and it seemed every other Presidential phrase was BP is going to pay for this! Oil is reportedly leaking from the well at a rate of 5000 barrels per day but there are some other estimates that put that number up to 25,000 barrels per day. In the warm waters of the Gulf BP is doing all he can do to minimize the spill and hold off the environmental and economic damage in the region. However, this is not a good news story. How could it be?
The oil spill in the Gulf made me think about the same type of thing in the Canadian high Arctic. Like most Canadians I have never been there but for what a reason I think it is Canadian as a hockey puck despite the fact that many other countries claim the polar region. You might ask why it is so important to get more ice and snow in Canada but at the end of the day these countries are scrambling to beat a UN deadline on polar claims. You might remember somebody told Jed as black gold in them their hills. That’s exactly what some people are saying about the high Arctic, claiming it means we can extract the oil under the surface.
So what happens if we have an explosion or a sinking or a crushing of an oil platform in the high Arctic such as the one they had in the Gulf? Well, it would be a bloody disaster and I think everybody would agree to that. You can almost feel the jitters in Canadian political circles today while talking about these offshore oilrigs. With a world having an insatiable appetite for oil the trade-off between lubrication and conservation certainly lies in the balance.
There is lots of blame to go around here with regard to the oil platform and the resultant spill in the Gulf. However, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for no more offshore drilling unless you would be happy with paying about $200 per barrel oil? I think you get the picture. There are rigorous tests made on offshore platforms as well as environmental assessments and a whole host of other criteria to try and make this type of drilling safe. Even BP, the company responsible for the cleanup has people that know what they’re doing. However the cats out of the bag and the finger pointing will go on for years.
The answer of course might be weaning ourselves off oil itself. That might involve some new technology but in lieu of that it would certainly be a giant society headshake. For instance just today the Ontario environmental Commissioner Gord Miller criticized the province of Ontario for not doing enough to encourage Ontarians to use less gasoline and other fuels. In his opinion the Ontario government is focusing too much on electricity. Meanwhile, every morning there are lineups of people in drive thru lanes across the province burning fuel waiting for a cup of coffee. For the life of me how would we explain that to aliens landing on earth?
I suppose for every convenience there is a cost. Societies embrace of lubrication from oil is certainly one of those things. The explosion, fire, sinking and resulting oil slick disaster taking place now off the coast of Louisiana should serve as a warning beacon for that cost. Idling for that coffee at Tim Horton’s doesn’t come free. There are those out on the offshore drilling rigs happy to help make it happen. Lets just hope the cost of it this time in both environmental and human terms can be minimized.