It’s been a stressful summer in Ventura County when it comes to oil issues. First, in Ventura, on June 23, 45,000 gallons of oil leaked down a barranca from a pipe owned by Crimson Pipeline. After the leak, neighbors, environmental advocates and local politicians were outspoken about the perceived slow cleanup and about Crimson restarting the pipeline without notifying the city or neighbors, though that wasn’t a standard legal procedure. Panel discussions and Op-Eds followed, scolding Crimson Pipeline officials for their failure to prevent such a leak and their lack of transparency. Second, between Santa Paula and Ojai, a Silver Exploration-owned petroleum tank, which held 1,762 gallons of crude oil, exploded on Aug. 5. Though the fire put itself out, the cause of the explosion is still under investigation. Environmental advocates raised their concerns about aging infrastructure.
When it comes to problems caused by the oil industry, we are glad we have environmental stewards in elected officials to push for better accountability and regulations. It is unfortunate, however, that foresight seems to be lacking. Legislators are quick to react to havoc but don’t seem to have their noses to the ground when looking for ways to improve the laws in order to prevent oil leaks and other bigger disasters. Generally speaking, people aren’t upset with the legislators for their lack of foresight; they are upset with oil operators for their inability to predict failures in their prevention methods. It is hard to understand, though, that operators should be better able to predict future problems that they have not yet encountered. To error is human, unless you work in the oil industry. But what is more confusing is the outrage over oil leaks and whatnot while the U.S. consumption of gasoline is set to exceed the all-time high record this summer. Truck and SUV sales also beat records in April. While low gas prices are a boon to the economy, freeing up extra cash to buy other things, there are also consequences, specifically, that being the need for more oil.
While we support tighter regulations on the oil industry to prevent environmental hazards, we hope that oil companies take the initiative to ensure that such things will not happen in the first place. Planning ahead requires time and money; and if the oil industry isn’t going to do it, we look to our legislators to figure out the best practices for prevention, not just stepping up to the plate when something bad happens. On the other end of this scope, we all stand accountable for these problems. If we don’t scale back our demand of any product, do we really believe that the production will always be flawless? It certainly seems that way. As we move forward, it’s not just the oil companies and the legislators who need to learn from these difficulties. Each one of us needs to understand that our addiction to oil comes at a cost. Unfortunately, it seems that it will take a major disaster to hit home before we actually decide to change out habits. If that happens, we are all to blame.