At the end of last month, an oil pipeline ruptured in central Arkansas. According to CNN, 12,000 barrels of oil spilled into the state. Homes were evacuated, and residential streets were filled with flowing, black oil.
The culprit behind this lack of pipe maintenance is none other than the infamous ExxonMobil.
Put yourself in the shoes of one of the victims of this accident. Imagine the river of black filth running on and on through your streets and home.
The most frustrating part of the spill is the response of the government. Government leaders, the ones who pledge to uphold liberty, are often stunningly uncaring when it comes addressing the errors of oil companies, and this is no exception.
Exxon won’t have to pay a penny toward the fund used to clean up oil spills because the black rivers aren’t technically oil. This is because, according to the Internal Revenue Service, “tar sands” are not the same as “conventional oil.”
Despite this, Exxon said it will do its best to take care of everything. According to RT news, Alan Jeffers, Exxon media relations manager, said Exxon is “paying all valid claims relating to the spill and providing interim housing for people from the homes which the city of Mayflower recommended be evacuated following Friday’s spill.”
That sounds awfully responsible. It also sounded responsible when Exxon promised to make safety a priority after the Valdez incident years ago. That incident would have originally cost Exxon $5 billion, but the rate was finally reduced to a mere $500 million in court. I wonder what Exxon will consider to be “valid claims” this time.
The Arkansas attorney general was repeatedly told by Exxon that “inspections were up to date and showed no cause for concern,” according to an NPR article. Look at how that turned out, though. According to one article, the nation’s pipelines on average have 280 significant spills each year.
The relationship our country has with oil is a strange one. We see it as essential to our daily lives. Our food, transportation and even our plastics all depend somehow on oil.
And yet, most of us recognize the harm oil can do to the environment. Oil can be very toxic. Spills can cause widespread harm to wildlife and commerce, and using oil as fuel releases greenhouse gases.
Some places, like cities, are even built with the expectation travel will primarily take place in a car. Not only are roads inaccessible to other vehicles, but the cities are built so far spread out that it’s hardly feasible to even live in such a place without a car. We all need to get from place to place. Yet, it seems impossible to give up oil. What could be the solution?
We must admit to ourselves we are truly doing a moral wrong when we use oil. We have to remind ourselves what we’re doing can hurt us.
The next step, I think, is to try to wean ourselves off oil. The less we use, the better. Carpooling is better than driving alone, busing is better than carpooling and biking is even better. If more people bike, roads will be much safer for bikes.
If you’re really ambitious, look into converting your car into a completely electric car. Think of where your food is produced and how it’s transported. Think of how much money we can save, as a country, if we would stop with these oil wars. No more would there be the need for fighting and digging around in the sand.
Most of all, think of what would happen if we all really wanted clean energy — if we really invested our time, money and minds into it. Imagine a future where we are so efficient at extracting energy, we would actually greet hurricanes with open arms! We just have to do it.
Brandon Lee Gagne is an anthropology senior at UF. His column normally runs on Fridays.