Interesting article by a Texas college professor who points out that most Americans wouldn't recognize crude oil if it oozed onto their lap.
The author of the piece, Professor John Crisp, suggests that those people clamoring to drill offshore ought to visit the Gulf coast of Texas. There they can see a sample of real crude oil, the "gooey fluid" that's pumped out of the ground and shipped to refineries before it's distilled into gasoline, diesel and other hydrocarbon products.
Although I've never been, people who visit the shores of the Lone Star State can play beach blanket bingo with all of the sticky tarballs that collect on their feet and stain the sand toys. Tarballs are the gummy globules of petroleum residue, which range from pea-size to the circumference of a pancake. No day at the beach in Texas would be complete without the inevitable tarball removal process, which usually entails painstakingly scraping goop off the skin or even using turpentine to remove the gunk.
According to Prof. Crisp, "A beach littered with tar is an apt symbol of the pollution that's associated with our industrial life."
Apparently some tarballs occur naturally, but most result from leakage or discharge associated with the production process. So it's not just the oil spills from tanker accidents and storm damage we have to worry about; oil gets spilled at every stage of the process -- from crude moving from the oil field to the refinery to its transport through pipelines and pumping stations.
Just think about how dirty you get changing the oil in your car. Now magnify that by about a billion. Regardless of the technological advances that industry likes to tout, oil is and always will be a dirty business.
There's a reason that oil drilling is known as one of the ultimate Dirty Jobs.
All the same, I'll take my beach without the tarballs -- thank you very much.