Perspective on the Oil Spill
The Gulf Oil Spill, a result of a pipeline blowout at the Macondo well, is spewing thousand of gallons of oil/day into the Gulf waters. The ecological (as well as economic) disaster is epic.
But the sight of a gushing oil well still intimates a sign of good news in the American cultural lexicon. From old-time James Dean movies to The Beverly Hillbillies, the visual image of a gushing oil well has stood for economic riches, abundance, and might.
In fact, the world’s largest oil spill to date, the 1910 Lakeview Gusher in Kern County California, was momentarily celebrated for what lay beneath it. But that was a different era. An era when the Energy Return on Energy Investment was roughly fifty barrels of oil extracted for every barrel used in the extraction. (Today we find ourselves at between one and five barrels of oil extracted for every barrel used in extraction).
Unfortunately, the on-going Gulf spill saga is representative of a much larger problem our country is facing in this current era – the 21st century. That we are still powering the vast majority of human activity with the same, toxic substance that we were more than one century ago is shocking. Add to that the long list of environmental and human disasters that were a direct result of extracting oil, and the level of shock grows.
While the Gulf Oil spill has only leaked half of the total oil of the Lakeview Gusher, we should guarantee its notoriety by ensuring that it goes down in the history books as the last great oil spill because humankind made a concerted effort to greatly scale down (and eventually wean itself off of) oil extraction.