Looking Closer at Oil
There are a lot of things that I don’t know.
I don’t know what it’s like to be a rancher, I have no idea how to crochet a colorful scarf, and I couldn’t even imagine how one makes a computer. Or yet, figure out how 1s and 0s make actual programs.
I was okay not knowing these things, my daily life was not dependent on this. Though there was one thing I thought I knew. Something I used every day and though, uncomfortable using it, I thought I understood the dirty-ness of oil.
Where it came from, how it was extracted, and why our oil was dropping in price.
Going to Vernal opened my eyes to the reality of this industry. I’m writing this because I wanted to open your eyes as well. Because there is A LOT of things I do not think you (or I for that matter) know about … how the world gets oil.
A resource that I wish was becoming extinct.
I’ve been traversing the Rocky Mountains for weeks now and what I see scares me.
We are destroying our land.
I get it, I’m not naive to why oil is important. We need it to drive, to become less dependent on foreign nations, for plastics, for petroleum jelly, heck for lubricating your squeaky door. Oil is an important resource.
But what’s going to be the cost for our future?
What’s Up with the Town?
In Vernal Utah, the town is run off of oil. Seemingly built in a day, Vernal is the result of our country’s dependency on crude oil. Every cent ever spent in this town comes from the oil and gas industry…as our dependence on oil plummets so does this town’s livelihood.
Vernal has bumper stickers that say, “I Heart Drilling”. Cafes are dedicated to serving smoothies if you donate to their,”Support Coal and Oil” fund. There are parties dedicated to natural gas burns. Why capture the resource, when you look much wealthier burning it?
Local laundromats have washers and dryers segregated. Those who work in ordinary jobs and those who work for oil industries. They’re called greasers. A coined name brought back from the 50s.
Greasers are just that. Workers whose clothes are covered in oil, in soot, and reeking of natural gas. These people’s hands are stained black with shoes well worn in. I stare at them, hoping to see a monster of humanity. A person who gets high destroying nature.
But the more I look, the more I just see people working. Trying to make a living. One guy teaches his daughter how to fold clothes as they wait for their laundry to dry. I want to hate them, for their living goes against every fiber of my being. I just….. can’t.
Following a Pipe Dream
When you’re driving through the Rockies you will see pipes everywhere. These pipes aren’t buried and they traverse the land parallel to the roads we ride. If there’s a dip in the mountain side, these pipes have bridges built just for them so they can make it across. They house oil and gas, carrying it from one extraction site to the next.
I watch out of my window as animals sniff these pipes, walk over them, and prairie dogs scurry back to their homes underneath them.
These pipes are unnatural. Even in locations, I wouldn’t think possible to get to by truck, these pipes have found a way. You cannot look anywhere without seeing one.
Recently, Ford did a commercial near Badlands in Utah. Badlands is a mountain area that has a lot of cool rock formations. However, the area they filmed, houses a plethora of oil extraction sights for miles. A sight that would make their consumers unhappy.
So what did Ford do?
They photoshopped the picture to get rid of every oil sight, every pipe, and every dirt road leading to it. It looks like untampered land. It looks like the area near Badlands in Utah is still a beautiful, natural, and untouched rock area. But this land is far from being just walked on. The land that is used to power what they are selling, oh the irony.
The day is lit up by natural gas burns. These pipes of fire are taller than our average trees. I can see this fire for miles, for at one point, I was more than 150 miles away from one.
Well Oiled Machines
As for the oil extraction machines… they look like giant drinking birds. They dip their heads towards the ground, eventually moving back up, over, and over, and over, and over again.
The most interesting part is that these machines emit H2S. A poisonous gas that first takes your sense of smell and then kills you. My partner and I wear detectors that once start to beep, you better run out of there as fast as you can. The gas will take you down quickly.
It’s gone off three times.
The machines are loud, dangerous, and an unnatural part of our world.
These machines work in a continuous cycle, seemingly never ending. But it will one day, eventually end. But for now, the hum that they emit travels for miles, disturbing the animals, plants, and the beauty of nature around them. When critics accuse wind farms of disturbing nature, they have never heard oil rigs.
There are man-made ponds called evaporation tanks. Not really ponds because there are no fish and you can’t swim in them, but they are shaped similarly. They are called evaporation tanks, large areas used to house chemicals in water. The water is supposedly evaporating into the environment, leaving behind the chemical salt residue. Is this safe? To me, it looks like a boil on the earth. Very unsightly and upsetting to see.
I can’t understand how we became this way. What are we doing? Is this making America great, greater, greatest again? Is this the path that the new president thinks will keep us alive?
My eyes have blown open to what this industry is really about. I hope yours have started to widen as well. Like I said before, I do know that this town and millions of others depend on oil. But I still have barely made a dent into what truly goes on in these oil hells.