Yesterday I was on the phone with my Rabbi, who was asking me for data bout the BP oil spill and wanted to know whether there was any connection to peak oil. I told him that there certainly is – the BP oil spill is in many measures a consequence of a society under deep pressure to develop every conceivable source of oil, at great monetary, energy and ecological cost. The connection to peak oil is obvious – once upon a time, one dug a well in the ground and oil came spurting up – the version of oil prospecting one can still see in Bugs Bunny Cartoons today.
Now increasingly, the world’s discoveries, which are coming at a rate that in no way compensates for the drastically higher rate of consumption, are often deepwater sites that are enormously costly to develop, politically contested or ecologically sensitive sites we wouldn’t have considered before. Now instead of spurting out, we use ever more expensive technologies to extract oil deep in rock or to pump seawater to keep up pressure in aging oil fields. In the end, the Deepwater Horizon disaster, for all of the regulatory failures and failures of BP itself, is most of all a consequence of our desperation to keep the oil flowing – and the fact that we are living with the consequences of being nearly 50 years past the peak of discovery, almost 40 years past the peak of US production, and probably five years past world conventional oil production peak. And the reality is that unless we learn to use vastly less oil, the pursuit of compensatory resources from ever-more-sensitive and ever-harder-to-get-to sites will result in more disasters – period.
I admit, I didn’t expect to see one quite so quickly though – and we don’t know whether what just happened in the Gulf is an equivalent event, or whether this too is a result primarily of our drive for more, more. But here’s what we do know, via the
AP and the New York Times:
An offshore petroleum platform exploded and was burning Thursday in the Gulf of Mexico about 80 miles off the Louisiana coast, west of the site where BP’s undersea well spilled after a rig explosion.
The Coast Guard says no one was killed in the blast, which was reported by a commercial helicopter flying over the area Thursday morning. All 13 people aboard the rig have been accounted for, with one injury. The extent of the injury was not known.
Seven Coast Guard helicopters, two airplanes and three cutters were dispatched to the scene from New Orleans, Houston and Mobile, Ala., Ben-Iesau said. She said authorities do not know whether oil was leaking from the site.
The Department of Homeland Security said the platform was in about 2,500 feet of water and owned by Mariner Energy of Houston. DHS said it was not producing oil and gas.
It is too early to know what the results of this explosion will be, and I’m just grateful that this time the workers have survived. But again, I think it bears reiteration – you can tighten regulations, you can certainly reduce the number of accidents, but the danger to us and our planet is a consequence of the way we consume resources. The problem cannot in any way be outsourced. I hope we dodge the bullet this time, and there is no spill – but we won’t dodge it forever.