Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A California root canal

Treating California like a giant cavity on the molar of the United States, our dental team of politicians and Presidential candidates, chant, “Drill, drill, drill!”
While assuring us, “This won’t hurt,” they stuff our mouths with cotton wads of justification about ‘dependency on foreign oil’ while keeping us from pointing out that they’re working on the wrong tooth.

With a media frenzy citing hourly price fluctuations of sweet crude, we seem to be willing to “swish and spit” our environmental concerns right down the porcelain bowl.
It’s true that almost all of our oil comes from overseas. But then, we haven’t been the most appreciative of their liquid gold.
Cheney’s got some borscht stuck in his teeth right now, as he threatens the Russians over some trumped up war in Georgia, while Iraq still sits on 115 billion known barrels of oil...five times that of the total US capacity. Unfortunately, our Dentist in Chief seems to have hit a few nerves in the Middle East during his Presidency, so heaven only knows when we’ll see a return on our trillion dollar investment.
Oh, and there’s South America, where we demand extraction from Mr. Chavez…but without Novocain. And I’m a little cynical about the increased aid to Africa, since it’s being mostly directed to those countries swimming in ‘liquid gold.’
In the US, lobbyists for the oil companies use a razor-sharp pointed probe, like dental assistants pointing our all of the environmental restrictions to our elected officials. But there haven’t been any new or significant limitations on drilling in the past five years or more, so why the panic pricing now?
Spoiled by decades of relatively low prices, Americans are feeling the needle. Suddenly we decide that it’s OK to risk the environment by drilling in Alaska and off of our shores for the meager oil available, even with no guarantee of affecting the market price. Let’s forget that it will take seven to ten years to extract, at a cost of billions, so that politicians can point to their new ‘crowns’ and get themselves re-elected.
Here’s a different solution that might just hit you like a blast of laughing gas…let’s try building a new refinery. In a recent article by Thomas Elias, he notes that without new sites to turn the oil into gasoline, this “limited refining capacity leads to high gas prices and big profits,” according to a memo uncovered at Texaco (now owned by Chevron.)
It’s not like it goes from the pipeline hose right into the Hummer.
Like having a bowl of candy in the dentist’s waiting room, Big Oil is going to make sure refinery margins stay minimal, ‘driving’ the cost of gasoline upward. That’s why, even when they oh so benevolently export more oil, we often don’t see a resulting drop in price at the pump.
Without new refineries in the US, where will this Alaskan petroleum and offshore oil from California and Florida have to go in order to be turned into fuel…and better yet, how will it get there? Currently, we send it to refineries in Japan, Singapore, Australia and Indonesia, and then bring it back in the same giant tankers which we accuse of ruining our air quality and killing our marine life in the shipping channels off our shores.
And don’t even get me started on how much petroleum we could save (actually, about eight percent of the world’s production) if those same hydrocarbons weren’t being turning into polymers so our ‘disposable,’ convenient, and safety-saturated society didn’t have everything imaginable contained in some form of plastic container.
There are ways to reduce our dependence without drilling, and they know it. So before we let the politicians pull every last tooth from our head, let’s tie a piece of string around this massive molar of misinformation, tie it to the doorknob and give it a good yank.

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