Growing up in South Florida, I would spend many a high school weekend taking the one hour drive from my home in Miami to the Everglades National Park to do some fishing, hiking and generally watching out for gators.
As I got older, we would take the family on trips to many of the national parks to enjoy the peaceful serenity that only comes from unspoiled natural beauty. I won’t go into detail about the long car rides with three small kids in the car, but needless to say, the parks provided a much-needed respite from the noise and tumult of everyday life.
Fast forward many years to where I am now, 40-plus years in the oil and gas industry, primarily on the marketing and PR side, where I spent most of my career trying to explain to naysayers that drilling (and more recently, fracking) is a good thing for our energy independence, the economy, and our national security.
So you can see the quandary I have right now when a bill was introduced in Congress last week which would open up the national parks to oil and gas drilling.
Let me start with the downside of this, then I’ll explain the upside.
First off, why do we actually need to drill in the parks? Recent humongous finds in the Permian, the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska and elsewhere have proven reserves that will keep us slathered in oil for at least, according to industry experts, the next 100 years. And there are still millions of acres of undrilled land in the same regions that hold just as much promise, if not more.
Secondly, the national parks (in my opinion) are sacred ground. Not from a religious sense, but from the perspective I mentioned earlier. It’s a place where you can go and commune with nature in her most primitive state. Taking a kayak around the bend of a pristine river only to see a line of oil rigs is not my idea of a fun trip. And trying to enjoy the solitude of the Grand Tetons while listening to fracking pumps in the background hardly seems peaceful.
Make no mistake, I love this industry. I am all for the energy renaissance we are in the midst of right now, and I believe we should still go full speed ahead with exploration and production. But on private lands, and non-national park public lands. Not national parks.
Strangely enough, I’ve done a non-scientific poll among my many friends in the industry, and I have yet to find anyone in our industry who thinks this is a good idea.
We have good laws in place right now, and our new President has indicated that we will introduce more, that are friendly to our industry. But I don’t think looking for oil in our national parks should be one of them.
Oh, I mentioned earlier that I would address the upside of this subject.
I’ll do it as soon as I can think of one.