Re: BP Oil Catastrophe
Originally Posted by limerickman
...Big oil doesn't give a **** about the health and safety of the environment.
If it did, the cost of a litre of oil would be vastly increased because the cost of sourcing the oil and protecting the environment would make it so.
Human race needs to ween itself away from the oil tit.
I've got a bit of time, so I'll throw a rambling, random rant in (It's pretty long, so don't read if you fall asleep easily)...
I agree with all that you say, Lim. Despite the feel-good nature of the modern push for triple bottom line reporting, we all know that (in the '3 P's' of TBL) people and planet are only going to be valued after sufficient returns are made on the profit front.
Big Oil is no different to all (well, many) of the other industries out there - Shareholders are in the first row of the Stakeholders seating, whilst village fisherfolk and frog-eyed owls are somewhere down the back of the auditoreum. I understand that it isn't very planet-wise, but I'm not sure why anyone would expect it to be otherwise.
Those of you who've never worked on a drilling rig (and I certainly can't blame you for that) may have a limited understanding of the extent to which 'most' Oil Co's and Drilling Co's go now in order to maintain safe operations - Considerably more effort than when I first ventured into the arena back in the 1980's. Obviously we're still far from perfect, but we continue to get better. In Australia in 2003, the offshore industry was responsible for 416 litres of oil released to the environment, whilst it produced 63 billion litres of oil (APPEA, Oil Spill Prevention and Response), compared with an annual 20 million litres released via terrestrial run-off from sewage and urban catchments (Environment Australia, State of the Environment). Yes, that's right. The Australian population manages to spill 20m litres / yr without even requiring a drilling rig - All we need is a drain or a dunny.
Hydrocarbons are yummy things that make our lives comfortable. Until we're prepared to suffer a little, not much change is likely to occur. In Australia, a Country with large alternative energy potential (solar thermal, solar photovoltaic, wind, tidal, hydro, nuclear, CBM, HDR geothermal, and even some conventional geothermal [one of my colleagues is currently managing Australia's first conventional geothermal power generation project]), public support for cap and trade emissions controls withered when, with some of the cheapest electricity in the developed World, the big stick of higher electricity costs was waved by the Coal Co's - We all want less emissions. etc - we just don't want to pay a financial or lifestyle cost for reducing them...
I spent 2 years of my life managing an operation exploring for (and establishing) conventional geothermal resources in Papua New Guinea. With the path laid for expansion of the existing geothermal power generation network (They already had around 100MW of generation up and running), last I heard they were going to give it a miss, preferring the low cost of having coal supplied from Australia. Energy users (and that applies to most of us) are cost-sensitive and, until the $ incentives (positive or negative) exist to suggest otherwise, energy users will continue to choose the incredible flexibility and value for money that hydrocarbons present as a fuel source. Think about it next time you turn a light or a computer on - It's just too damn nice, and too damn easy...and too damn cheap.
I have worked in Angola, and in other parts of Sub-Sahara and Saharan Africa. Where I have been, controls on Operators have improved over the last 10 years. Production drilling where I worked has similar pollution constraints to carrying out the same operations in Australia or Asia. In our own case, our controls and reporting remain the same wherever we operate, unless the host Country has even tighter rules (than the USA). I can't vouch for others, though.
This also extends to compliance with the USA's Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which introduces another problem. That is (at least in my opinion) that the wealth generation is often concentrated into the hands of a very few, and that wealth is sometimes used for purposes that are contrary to providing benefit to the wider population. When I see people having trouble just surviving (food & water, shelter, health, education), while a member of 'the family' drives a supercar on the only 4-5km of ashphalt in the Country, or uses their private A320 Airbus for shopping trips, the balance appears a little out of whack. Still, it's part of what you and I paid for when we drove our cars to the shops, or brushed our collective teeth with those plastic toothbrushes.
As to how to get the World to wean itself, pricing is the most directly effective method, other than naturally-occuring supply-limiting. The problem with this (in developed Countries, anyway) is that local economies tend to experience relative suffering (eg cost of local production, which relies on more expensive energy, rises in comparison with imported goods that do not have similar levying applied), which remains one of the arguments used in defeating Copenhagen and Kyoto targets. Not that different to the Oil Co's, the populations of the concerned Countries are the Shareholders who don't want to see their 'profits' (GDP) impacted by concessions that may not be shared by others (eg the "Why should we enforce a target when China and India...etc" - Which is interesting, as China is a significant user of alternative energies [China @ 8.3% in 2009 (Reuters) vs Australia @ 5% (Australian Government)], possibly owing more to strong demand than to a decided green bent). I'm not saying it's a good argument, but it seems to be an effective one in ensuring that not much happens. Personally I'd prefer us (Australia) to take our licks and commit, but that's just me, and I may not stand to suffer as much as some others.
Basically, until the people of the World are prepared to take on some pain, don't expect the weaning to progress at a fast rate.
The best bet, at least in my mind, is for each of us to take responsibility for our own share of the demand to the extent that we feel able. Myself? I've started riding a unicycle (not particularly well), saving the environmental impact of that training wheel I've been used to on my other bikes.
Hmmm, I seem to have wasted a fair bit of e-paper writing all that. I'd better go for a ride to recoup the losses.