Drill, Baby, Drill! (To Save the Environment)

by William Yeatman on February 17, 2009

in Blog

When is it OK for an oil slick to coat a pristine beach?

When it’s a “natural occurrence,” of course!

My boss stayed at a hotel in Santa Barbara, and on the bed stand of his room, a pamphlet read:

“Tar found along local beaches is the result of natural seeps in the ocean that leak oil and natural gas into the Santa Barbara Channel. Like the La Brea tar pits on land, natural cracks and faults caused by ancient earthquakes allow oil and gas to escape from the ocean floor. The seepage then floats to the surface where some evaporates, some degrades and the rest thickens into floating balls of sticky tar. Tides, currents and winds can wash the tar onshore.”

That’s not all!

To hammer home the naturalness of the oil slick that coats the hotel’s beachfront, the pamphlet further noted that, “The Chumash Native Americans put tar seepage to work 5,000 years ago. Besides waterproofing baskets and bowls, they used a mixture of tar and pine to seal their canoes.”

So Captain Hazelwood did the Eskimos a service by providing them with plenty of sealant, right?

That was a cheap joke, but there is an actual policy point here.

If you can’t distinguish between a “natural” oil slick and an anthropogenic oil slick, and you think that all oil slicks are bad, then you’d want to do something about it. Well, it so happens that there is an easy fix for these “natural” oil slicks: drilling. By removing the oil, it can’t seep out and coat beautiful beaches.

So let’s drill, baby, drill! (for nature, that is)

Geophys55 February 18, 2009 at 5:20 am

Mr. Yeatman,

I've tried before to explain thisto people (but they don't want to learn):

Misconception #10. Any oil in the ocean is from a spill.

Come and listen to my story ‘bout a man named Rudesindo Cantarall. In 1971, this fisherman complained to PEMEX (the National Oil Company of Mexico) about thick tar that was fouling his nets in the Bay of Campeche. The oil people were puzzled, having no pipelines or drill rigs in that area. He took some PEMEX geologists to the spot where it was happening. What they found was natural seepage from what turned out to be one of the largest offshore oil fields ever found. It became the economic heart of Mexico’s oil industry is only now waning. Alas, Rudesindo did not retire to Acapulco Bay amongst swimin’ pools and movie stars, as we might like to believe. He died in 1997 in poverty and obscurity.

Seeps of petroleum happen anywhere petroleum occurs in abundance. It is not in the least surprising that someone would decide to drill where seeps occur. Venezuela is replete with such oil seepage and natural gas eruptions. I myself have seen these with my own eyes. In the Gulf of Mexico oil seeps out at a rate equal to 2 “ExxonValdez’s” per year (Science Daily).

So, when you see an oil platform and blame it for the tar balls on the beach, you have quite probably put cause and effect backward. Petroleum, after all is a naturally occurring substance that sometimes comes to the surface, as at the La Brea tar pits, to pick a well-known example

Bob R Geologist, Tuc February 18, 2009 at 6:46 pm

This whole AGW nonsense can be traced back to the compulsion Greens have to blame mankind for disturbing the natural condition of the Earth. Their idea is that, if left to its own devices, the Earth would produce a perfect habitat for us. They have no time sense at all beyond the human calendar. The realities are that the Earth is just a tiny part of the cosmos and thus is subject to the laws of nature. Geology is all about deciphering these laws and the fact that Earth is controlled by cosmic processes, stability is impossible. The Earth is always changing, we call it Gelogic Processes that are slow and inexorable. Climate is but one of many and the idea that man can control them is most presumptuous.

We have been in an interglacial period for the past 14,000 years, the Holocene. The many weather changes of warming and cooling have been documented by studies of several ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica showing that there is nothing abnormal in our present 150 year warmup since end of "The Little Ice Age." The proof that we are in an unprecedented warming is a deliberate lie to frighten people into believing the preposterous claims of Anthropomorphic Global Warming and are readily apparent in scientific studies of past climates. No one can assure us that we are going to be in a warmer climate or to fall back into another 100,000 year period of continental glaciation, which would be far worse for mankind.

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