Drillers get a bad rap. Sure, there are bad practices in any industry. Think of the folks you might have seen, for example, not properly cleaning up minor fuel spills and things of that nature. But the vast majority of people working in drilling trades know just what the impact is of every aspect of their job, from siting to drilling to development. Not a lot of non-drillers understand that.
I asked columnist Wayne Nash about this (read the interview here). He’s worked for decades in all types of drilling, so he should know. Like any good driller, he swears by the necessity of drilling to get the things people need and want.
“If you can’t grow it, you’ve got to drill for it. If you think about minerals or energy, or water or anything else, we’re going to drill for it, which means there’s going to be a demand for drillers forever,” he says.
If you accept the necessity of drilling, we have to accept and manage the potential risks.
“There are different hazards to every type of progress,” Nash continues. “You look at automobiles. Lots of people get killed by automobiles, but we’re not about to ban automobiles.”
Most everyone, even without realizing it, accepts the necessity of drilling. Use a phone or a “green” car with a lithium-ion battery? Not only do those have lithium, they also have copper and aluminum parts. Quench your thirst with one of the many bottled waters on the market? That water was drilled for. The polymers that go into making the bottle come from petroleum.
Lithium, copper, aluminum, water and petroleum all have one thing in common. As Nash puts it, they can’t be grown. We have to drill for them. This is true for a staggering variety of the products and commodities that make modern life hum along like it does. And that’s what I mean when I say a lot of non-drillers don’t understand. Drilling sounds dirty, and it can be. When non-driller civilians think of drilling, they think of the dirt and mud. They think of oil bubbling up out of the ground and finding its way into the nearest fresh water.
What they don’t think of is the conduit under that six-lane highway that brought the Internet a little closer to their suburban home. What they don’t think of is the high-cap well feeding the center pivot that watered the produce bought at Whole Foods.
Now, some people don’t accept the necessity of drilling. In our talk, Nash (who’s not one to mince words) likened those folks to animals with rabies. “Some environmentalists don’t like anything, no matter what,” he says. “If you really dig into their philosophy, they’re just against progress.”
I think there’s some truth to that. I also think a lot of people say they’re against drilling, but would wince if you ask them to sacrifice their mobile phone or their car to live in a world without the risks drilling might involve.
Drillers get a bad rap, but they’re people just like everyone else. They live in the environment, just like everyone else. Heck, they probably work more outside in a month — in all weather — than some environmentalists do in a year. They have a stake in it, just like everyone else. They’re just a little more realistic than a lot of folks. They know many of the vital products and materials we use every day don’t grow on trees. They know the risks, take the steps needed to mitigate those risks and get the job done.
What do you think? Do you shake your head whenever you see a protest over a drilling project? What is the happy middle ground between the drilling industry and safeguarding the environment? Share your thoughts. Send an email to email@example.com.
Stay safe out there, drillers.