Author Bio: Vonetta Logan is a financial news reporter for both tastytrade and dough (tastytrade's sister company). After being hired on to our team, Vonetta wanted to find a way to inform consumers and investors about the consequences/repercussions that current events and trends have on the financial space. 'Nailed It!' is a satirical segment created to do just that.
"Cleaned a lot a plates in Memphis, and I pumped a lot of 'tane down in New Orleans." Okay, that was totally Tina Turner, but I did build my own oil rig for this Episode of Nailed It!
Amazing what PVC and spray paint can do.
Oil is the one thing that affects us all. From how much we pay at the pump, to how much extra we have to pay for our favorite takeout Chinese food, our petroleum-based transportation sector relies heavily on an abundance of cheap fuel.
I will be the first to admit, before I started doing the research for this Nailed It, I didn’t fully appreciate the laborious process that gets oil from the ground and into my car. When gas hit almost $5 a gallon here in Chicago a few years back, I was like, “That’s it, I’m outta here.” Chicago has great public transportation. So when gas prices soared, I cut back on my consumption.
My boyfriend Elon Musk makes the nation’s hottest luxury trend, the Tesla line of electric vehicles. As oil prices took a plunge, so did Tesla’s stock. I find it hard to believe that we as a nation believe $2 gas is here to stay.
Yet, sure as you can time the release of a naked Kardashian photo to the start of their new season, Americans flock to huge SUVs every time gas gets cheaper. The focus shifts from green energy to guzzling gas.
While this will come as a shock to no one, I am politically liberal. (What? No? Get out of here!) Yes, really. Believe it or not, I try to put all of my beliefs aside as I delve into an issue so I can look at it from both sides. Do I think we should be able to get gay-married to trees? Yes. Do I support the drilling of oil in our national forests and oceans? Nope-ity nope.
But I do have to say I was conflicted with what I learned about the current shale boom in the US.
My only experience with fracking has been the creative swearing I use when I’m around my mom so I don’t get swatted with a kitchen spoon.
Actually I, like lots of people, became familiar with the term because of the 2010 documentary “Gasland.” Written and directed by Josh Fox, “Gasland” focuses on the communities affected by natural gas drilling. There’s one riveting scene where the tap water of a couple literally catches on fire because it is full of volatile gas compounds. Holy shitballs.
During my Nailed It! research I learned that horizontal drilling for shale oil has basically made us engineering geniuses. America is now the top producer of oil and natural gas in the world.
Innovations in shale well drilling means we are doing less off-shore drilling in the deepwater wells. Well, hooray for that! Just ask anyone who is still hacking up tar balls on our Gulf Shore.
Man, the struggle got real while writing this episode.
On one hand, I’m pumped that we can drill in a remote part of North Dakota instead of our oceans. That seems good, right? What else is there in North Dakota? Wall Drug? Sturgis biker rally? Wait, that’s South Dakota. Mt. Rushmore? South Dakota too? Damn, North Dakota - get on their level.
On the other hand, the amount of water needed to drill and fracture a horizontal shale gas well generally ranges from about 2 million to 4 million gallons, depending on the basin and formation characteristics. Also, fracking companies don’t have to release what types of chemicals are in their fracking compounds because it’s “proprietary.” So yeah, sorry our run-off leaked into your water table and you got awful sick, but we can’t tell you what’s in it, because SECRETS.
But then on the other hand, (yeah, I’m up to three hands now) jobs. So many jobs. Like, good-paying jobs with benefits and overtime and snazzy jumpsuits. The boom created at least 200,000 jobs over the last 5 years. But now there are layoffs worldwide because the oil patch is the new gold rush and it was funded by free cash handed out by the banks.
Oh man. I want to lie down again. But then there’s the tech angle. We’re getting better, smarter, and faster, and companies are becoming more nimble at cutting the fat and operating only the most efficient rigs. Also, we’re becoming more energy independent and less reliant on oil from… let’s just say “sketchy sources.”
So, it seems the responsible thing to do would be to try to drill for oil in as responsible a way as possible, while at the same time looking for reasonable and sustainable alternatives. But when oil’s up over $140 a barrel, no one can hear you over the sound of everyone making it rain, and that’s how we get tar sands.
Jee-zus are tar sands some nasty shit. It’s like what happens in an “End of the World” movie where we’re facing mass extinction and the president, played deftly by Morgan Freeman, assembles the nation’s best and brightest scientists and engineers and is like, “Look, we have to find some way to create a fuel source or our whole civilization is f&#%ed.” (Did you guys try to do a Morgan Freeman voice there? Yeah, me too.)
So what do they do? Cue montage! They come up with some crazy plan to basically squeeze infinitesimal drops of oil from sand, and yay, it works and the young engineer gets to tongue kiss the hot girl at the end, and boners for everybody!!! #oilbonerz
News Flash! We’re not at the point of being all out of options. Global demand for oil is down. Everyone, everywhere, is consuming less oil, so cooking up batshit crazy schemes that decimate the boreal forests of Canada seems like the literal stuff of fiction, but take a Google image search at what they’re doing up there, and it will bring tears to your eyes.
Pipelining dirty fuel across our nation, just to ship it, and it’s hella nasty by product of petcoke (read about it here) seems like a terrible, horrible, no good thing to do. We need to bring back the crying Indian ads of the 70’s. That was just for littering.
How about some oil in your water table? Okay, crying Native American just isn’t going to cut it. Sad model holding puppy?
Whatever gets people to care. Seriously, read more about the pipeline and its effects here.
Then there is the mindf%^&ery of how scary transporting oil is once it’s out of the ground. Basically our options are pipelines or rail. Keystone is terrible because of the type of oil it carries, but pipelines in general look like harbingers of freakin’ rainbows when you compare it to the shitshow that is oil trains.
While I was writing this story, an oil train derailed and burst into flames less than 200 miles from here. 25 million Americans live within what would be considered a containment zone of a catastrophic rail accident. We should stop making all those shows and movies about the zombie apocalypse and make it about the real talk we’re all gonna need when we can’t drink our water and our backyards are on fire.
Two shocking things that I will leave you with. 1. The railroad industry doesn’t own the railcars. The oil producers are the shippers, and they own the cars. Once they load them with volatile oil and gas compounds the rail companies, who own the tracks, can’t refuse the shipment. For funsies, go into a UPS store with a box that smells like gas and see if UPS accepts the shipment and takes liability for it. On second thought, don’t, just take my word.
2. There are NO engineering standards for railroad bridges!!! The federal government doesn’t even have an inventory of how many railroad bridges there are!!! And all railroad inspections that have been done aren’t publicly available, and towns and municipalities that are concerned about their local bridges can’t hire outside engineers to conduct an inspection because that would be trespassing. Ahahahahahahahah.
So every time a mile long train with over 100 cars comes barreling down a bridge that was a prop in "Stand By Me," we’re all supposed to do what? Hold onto our ankles and kiss our ass goodbye?
After screening this episode for Tom, he said, “It’s good, but it’s a little serious. Made me think about things too much.” For that I am sorry, ‘cause I too opened up a box of knowledge in my mind I wish I hadn’t. Unless you’re in densely populated China or in the California valley on an “air quality action day,” you don’t see pollution. And unless Halliburton has but a rig in your backyard, you don’t deal with fracking. But we shouldn’t continue to let out of sight be out of our minds.
I handle my environmental responsibilities like I do most things in my life. Half-assedly. I do consider myself green. I recycle almost everything I possibly can. But that’s surface-level stuff. I could walk and ride my bike more, but I don’t because have you seen my hair? It’s fabulous.
And if a hot man asked me to hop on his private jet for a quick jaunt to Paris? Damn skippy I’d do it. But I would like to plant a tree first.
Anyway, I don’t want you to be bummed out by this episode, I want you to feel more informed, and have a chuckle, but also start thinking seriously about what you can do, however small, to start making positive changes in your life. I don’t have kids. Probably will just leave a flock of Chihuahuas, but I care about what our future holds for our kids. Not the asshole selfie stick ones, but the curing cancer, innovative-thinker ones.
But shout out to Matt in graphics who helped me create awesome images for this episode.
In the mean time and in-between time, here are some fun links if you would like to learn more about oil, the environment, and our shitty roads: