Thursday, May 19, 2011

My Big Oil History

When I was a kid, my parents, like all parents, asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  My response was "I want to be a hermit".  As I grew older, I lost that ambition from the list of things I wanted to become.

My days as a youngster were filled with the outdoors.  I would spend hours in the woods behind our house, exploring and searching.  I practiced my outdoor skills and set up an outpost in an old log cabin that had been abandoned.

When the bugs pushed me from the woods, I headed for the mighty St. Lawrence River.  I fished and swam all day, every day, until school started in the fall.  Then school was just an interruption in my time in the woods.  It was a great way to spend a childhood.

In June of 1976, the tugboat Eileen C was pushing the NEPCO 140 barge filled with crude oil up the St. Lawrence when it ran aground.  It backed of the rock and continued, as it leaked oil into the river.  Four miles later, it ran aground again.  All told, some 300,000 gallons of oil leaked from the barge, covering an 80-mile stretch of the river.  I lived in the middle of that stretch.

That summer, there was no swimming, fishing or anything other than oil clean up.  Clean up of the shoreline, the docks, the boats and everything else that touched the water.  But it was the wildlife that was the worst.  The waterfowl, animals, birds and amphibians that were affected was beyond belief.  But it wasn't just that summer.  We pulled crude off rocks in the islands for a long time.

So I have a connection with Big Oil as well as with the residents of the Gulf.  While 300,000 gallons doesn't compare to the volume spilled as a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, I can understand.

Today, oil companies are fighting to retain their subsidies and tax breaks and attempt to gain access to additional drilling sites, similar to the site of the Deepwater Horizon platform, while we try to see if we can keep schools open.  Oil companies report record profits while people I know couldn't afford to heat their homes this past winter.

The government says there's no money, yet recently that same government voted to continue handing oil companies tax breaks and subsidies.  If you look at the politicians that voted to keep giving these companies their benefits, you'll notice that a lot of them have received substantial contributions from the oil companies.  The 67 co-sponsors of the bill to expand oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and open the coastal waters of Virginia to exploration received a combined total of over $8.8 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry during the course of their careers.  Makes one wonder about the motive behind the vote.

I'm not naive and I don't think we can stop using petroleum tomorrow, but I do think there needs to be a plan that's better than the one we have now.  Sometimes the life of a hermit doesn't look so bad.  Just saying...

1 comment:

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