Here are a few notes for the young, new media covering the Gulf of Mexico oil-drilling tragedy.
--First, it’s not a spill; it’s a leak. When the oil gushing from Macondo is stopped, what has escaped can be defined as what has spilled. Until then, it’s a leak.
--And, concerning Macondo, that’s the name of the well. It’s the name of the oilfield development, to be exact. It’s the Macondo project. The well is not called the Deepwater Horizon; the semisubmersible that was drilling the well for BP Plc was named Deepwater Horizon. The operator of the development is BP; the operator of the semisubmersible was Transocean on hire by BP.
--Crawfish and catfish are not at-risk marine life. These are freshwater dwellers, and most commercial supply of these is from commercial ponds far inland. Prices for these could, of course, grow if supply of Gulf seafood is diminished and more consumers turn to crawfish and catfish to supplant their fish dishes. But prices for these would not grow due to new scarcity directly as a result of the Gulf leak. Any price hikes for these in the name of the leak is unreasonable.
--Finally, the Gulf leak will not end the use of fossil fuels—unless the world decides to forfeit incredible luxuries and quality of life that hydrocarbon-based fuels provide.
A “green TV show” producer called recently to do a “pre-interview” before a live segment. Print and radio journalists often receive these calls from TV producers, and often they are surreptitious screen tests to determine if the non-TV journalist might be a candidate to recruit for a TV post.
Often, they’re actually talking to journalists who are expert in their fields to have more talking points later on their programs and to be prepared for some hard answers.
“Will this spill (sic) result in the end of the use of fossil fuels?” she asked.
“No,” I replied. My response was more elaborate and articulate (of course) but it was essentially “no.”
After some silence and she stuttered a bit, I asked if she was okay. She stuttered a bit more and asked me if I said “no.” I replied that I did.
“Um, uh, um, could you elaborate on that?” she asked. I already had (really, I did), but it seems what I said was as startling as suggesting there may be life in other solar systems out there.
“Okay, well, think of air travel,” I explained. “Air travel provides great luxury and quality of life. Aircraft is fueled with a petroleum-based product: jet fuel. Air travel is not possible with coal; it’s too heavy and provides relatively too little energy, or Btu content.
“It is too dangerous to fuel an aircraft with nuclear power; a crash would result in nuclear explosion or release of radioactive materials.
“Wind and solar are too unreliable a fuel for air travel and, again, does not provide enough Btu. And, hydropower is out, since waterfalls don’t happen on planes.
“This leaves natural gas and crude oil. It may be possible to fuel and lift-off aircraft with natural gas or CNG or LNG. It is a reliable fuel stream. I’m not sure of the weight/Btu ratio or the safety rating, though.
“So, this leaves crude oil, or the petroleum-based product that is jet fuel, a super-high-octane, lightweight, constant-streaming fuel.
“That’s just one example of the luxury and quality of life crude oil provides the world’s constituents.”
I received an e-mail later that day that too many interviews had been lined up for the segment, thank you, and I’ll be contacted later for a future program. I’m not sure if the air-travel example will be brought to broadcast in the future, but there is a young TV news producer out there now who may have greater appreciation for hydrocarbon-based energy.
Meanwhile, I think I failed the screen test….
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