An Opposing View

Published September 11, 2007

Our national priorities are horribly out of whack when it comes to BP, energy and the environment.

BP proposes to increase its refinery capacity 15 percent by tapping the practically unlimited oil available in the tar sands of Canada. This will have immense benefits for the country in terms of greater energy independence and increased availability of oil.

To achieve this goal, BP proposed to slightly increase discharges of sludge, which would not only be well within federal standards but would be miniscule in comparison to discharges of other industries. On the face of it, this would be a most healthy and desirable trade-off between energy and the environment.

However, our environmental friends oppose even the slightest increase in discharges, preferring to maintain the absolutist, tunnel-vision goal of zero increase in discharges, regardless of the obvious and major benefits that would accrue.

Now, BP is to develop technology at a cost of $40 million which will supposedly eliminate the need to increase the discharge of sludge. But what if it is only 95 percent effective? What if 5 percent still must be discharged into the lake? Will environmentalists once again rise up in outrage to oppose this development as well, while continuing to deny the people access to more plentiful oil?

Meanwhile, the City of Chicago pours millions of gallons of sewage, i.e., fecal matter, in the lake and no one even says “boo.” Isn’t this an increase in pollution? Does whether or not it is an “increase” depend on who is doing the increasing?

Yes, we want clean water to drink. But we also want plentiful oil to run our cars and heat our homes. Both these goals are part of the human environment, and can be achieved by constantly working toward establishing reasonable, life-supporting trade-offs between energy and the environment.

James A. Weber