Slightly more than a month after the worst oil spill in recent California history, the State Lands Commission held a public hearing in Goleta to discuss a proposed plan by the Venoco oil company that, if approved, would nearly triple their daily oil production from an offshore rig in the Santa Barbara Channel. The new oil would be pumped through the same decades-old Plains All American pipeline that recently spilled more than 100,000 gallons of oil onto coastal lands and into the ocean near Refugio State Beach.
Outside the hearing, dozens of demonstrators gathered on a hot, sweaty Wednesday afternoon to voice opposition to the Venoco proposal and to advocate for a transition away from dirty oil and fossil fuel production and toward a clean, renewable, and safe energy future. (See photos, below. A couple images from this story were recently published in The Guardian.)
Inside, the public hearing was packed to capacity. And it was there, I listened to some of the most ridiculous and twisted ideas I’ve heard in quite some time.
Chris Peltonen, the Venoco Project Manager, argued that allowing the expansion of drilling is “necessary” in order to “safeguard” the environment. The industry narrative suggested that increasing drilling in offshore oil fields would reduce pressure in the fields and this would reduce oil and gas “natural seepage.” The Venoco spokesperson then made the claim that increasing drilling was the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). Wow. WTF?! Roughly 600 pounds of CO2 are emitted by burning the gasoline and diesel fuel produced from one barrel of oil. Venoco currently produces 3,600 barrels of crude oil per day from its platform near Santa Barbara. If the proposal was approved, Venoco’s production would increase to 10,000 barrels a day. Assuming all of the gas and diesel derived from this crude was burned, daily GHGs emissions from the use of Venoco’s oil would skyrocket from 2.1 million to more than 6 million pounds of CO2 per day. How and why would any person believe the industry narrative that increasing oil production would “protect” the environment by “reducing” GHGs?
The second absurd point argued by Peltonen was that enabling more drilling for oil was an “economic justice” issue. He suggested that allowing Venoco to increase oil production was the best way to guarantee low-cost energy for the poor. Again, WTF?! What aspect of increased oil production would benefit the poor, exactly? Numerous studies have shown that it is primarily low-income communities who suffer disproportionately from the negative externalities of energy production – including serious health issues arising from water and air pollution. In addition, it is well understood that the world’s less affluent currently are, and will continue to be, more adversely affected by the consequences of climate change – a situation exacerbated by producing and burning fossil fuels. Read more about that here and here.
There are two glaring reasons why we shouldn’t be expanding oil production generally and offshore drilling in particular. The first is that there is no safe way to drill, extract, and transport crude oil. Accidents, spills, and explosions happen all the time. Increasing drilling and oil production simply increases the likelihood of another major toxic spill on California’s coast. Second, scientists have warned us that in order to avoid the most most dire consequences of climate change, 75 percent of all remaining fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground, never to be burned. At present, we remain a society utterly dependent on fossil fuels. That’s a huge problem and is definitely not sustainable.
The above is an audio clip recorded at the demonstration. Hit play to listen.
The following jargon is mainly for the search engine robots. Read on, if you like. Drew is an Oakland Freelance Photographer and a San Francisco Freelance Photographer and a Bay area Freelance Photographer, a bay area conservation photographer, an Oakland wedding photojournalist and a San Francisco wedding photojournalist and a bay area event photographer and a Berkeley photographer; while he is based in the Bay area, Drew regularly photographs for clients throughout all of California, including Los Angeles, Lake Tahoe, San Jose, Marin County, Santa Cruz, Eureka, Santa Rosa, Mendocino, Monterey, Sacramento, Santa Barbra, and Napa, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Nevada, all across the USA and everywhere on Earth. He specializes in creative storytelling and artistic photojournalism, environmental photojournalism, conservation photography, environmental justice photography, and stories about human-earth relationships including urban farming, agriculture, water use, climate change, ocean issues, energy issues, pollution, and natural resource economics. He also specializes in editorial photography and lifestyle photography, portraits and headshots, corporate event photography, non-profit event photography, and branding photography for corporations, non-profits, and small businesses. You can view more of his photojournalism, editorial, and lifestyle work here and more of his documentary style wedding work here. The photos in this post are connected to the Refugio Beach Oil Spill and the Santa Barbara Oil Spill and the California Oil Spill and the public hearings held by the California State Lands Commission with respect to the Venoco oil company’s permit request to expand oil drilling and production.