As we took off, the wife pulled the postcards out her bag. Her husband and I were seated on either side of her, and I glanced at the postcards as they both pored over them, occasionally asking me questions. She pulled out one postcard that showed a train, and I noticed her studying it intently. Finally she turned to me and asked, "Where do the people ride?" I asked her to repeat the question, not because I hadn't heard her clearly, but because I was baffled by the question.
"It's a freight train," I replied. "People don't ride them. They're for cargo."
She looked at me as though I had just landed from Mars. Meanwhile, I'm thinking, "People ride trains?"
I'm kidding. I knew people ride trains, but it doesn't happen much in this part of the world. We're not big on mass transit. We don't even like to carpool. Come on, I might want to leave before you, and I need to have my own car.
All of this to explain that I am of two minds on this whole BP business. I think we should be looking for alternative sources of energy. I think we should be green. No matter what anyone thinks of Al Gore, I think we should be conserving energy for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with climate change.
But those alternative sources of energy are still largely Plan B, and we don't have a Plan B in place. We talk about wind, but the financing for that has dried up, along with a lot of other things. We talk about natural gas as an energy source for cars, but we're long way from making that practical.
As for oil, we are where we are.
I'm from a part of the world where many people I know are connected to the oil industry, from independent producers to those who provide equipment for off-shore drilling. Several members of my extended family are employed in various facets of the petroleum industry. It's not just about gasoline and motor oil.
Products from petroleum are diverse, including plastics, textiles, contact lenses, and artificial limbs. Vitamin capsules, tape, shampoo, and house paint are also derived from petroleum. As one Facebook friend has continually reminded another in a series of
We are where we are.
Much of our way of life is directly connected to oil. So while I have never been a fan of off-shore drilling, I've never been fully opposed to it either (although I have always been opposed to drilling in ANWR.) The "Drill, baby, drill" mantra appalled me, as those who were pushing it seemed to think it was a joke. While I don't agree with their attitude, I have seen off-shore drilling as something we need to do, mostly because we don't have a Plan B.
So when President Obama announced an expansion of off-shore drilling at the end of March, I thought it made sense. Has that changed since the BP rig explosion? I don't know. I don't see a simple solution.
We are where we are.
Those two Facebook friends who have spent the last few weeks engaged in a passionate dispute over the topic haven't answered any questions for me. One is ultra-conservative, and the other is ultra-liberal. One has worked in the oil industry, the other has worked in education. I have to tell you, while I tend to be left of center on many topics, and right of center on a few others, I don't think either one of them has any answers. I think they are both right about some things, and I think they are both wrong about others.
That's the problem with so many things right now. Everyone wants to solve problems with knee-jerk reactions, and hardly anyone wants to meet in the middle with a practical solution.
But we are where we are.
I understand the frustration with the government over this, but I'm not sure what the government is supposed to do to stop a leak once it has started. (And excuse me, but aren't these the same people who want the government out of everything in favor of the free marker?) Sure, the Army Corps of Engineers should surely be able to help figure out what to do, but I'm not sure the government has the equipment needed to fix it. I don't recall any of the politicians arguing for off-shore drilling ever saying anything about the government's role in cleaning up any spills that might occur. These same people who argued that we should allow drilling in ANWR never told us anything but how safe it is.
It seems to me that the role of government should be to demand that safety precautions be in place to prevent accidents like this in the first place. Do other countries require things that we don't? Were there things we could have done before this accident occurred that we didn't do?
In the midst of the mess, I hear arguments from both sides bring God into it. One side refers to Genesis and says, "The earth is here to provide for our needs, and the oil is there for a reason." The other side refers to Genesis and says we are charged with taking care of the earth.
I agree with both. We need to take care of the earth, but the oil is there for a reason. Even so, I have to wonder, why is it so hard to reach? Is it because God wants us to recognize that we need to be getting serious about Plan B? Is it a heads up that we need to conserve as much as we can?
I don't think it's a coincidence that this happened just as President Obama announced the expansion of off-shore drilling. I don't agree with those who say it's a warning to stop off-shore drilling altogether, but I do think it's a warning to proceed with extreme caution.
I believe it's a heads up to get on with finding alternative sources of energy. We are where we are, but oil is not an unlimited resource, and we have to stop behaving as though it is. We need to start thinking about what changes we need to make as a nation to be ready for whatever comes next. We need to be investing in research and putting the best minds we have to work on this issue.
We have to demand that more safeguards be put in place to keep this from happening again. If politicians tried to tell us off-shore drilling was safe because there hadn't been an accident in 40 years, then we need to go at least 100 years without an accident before anyone tries to bring up the idea of drilling in ANWR again.
We have to quit behaving as though we own the earth and remember that we're just leasing. We owe that much to future generations. We might even have to consider carpooling. =)