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I’ve been researching the oil and gas industry lately.  This industry has a negative stigma attached to it as being very environmentally insensitive.  Granted, oil spills and gas leaks aren’t helping the industry’s image.   I do believe it is the responsibility of every energy source – including the oil and gas industry -- to be concerned about the environment.  But perhaps the oil and gas industry isn’t receiving the credit it deserves.

Why the sudden appreciation?  A friend of mine in the oil industry pointed me to Chesapeake.  This oil company has put in extensive effort to drill oil in the safest and most environmentally-friendly way possible--and that’s not an oxymoron.  The industry is progressing in such a way that fewer oil wells have to be drilled.  Instead, oil wells are dug vertically and then turned horizontally.  This reduces the number of oil wells that need to be drilled.  For a clearer picture of these horizontal wells, check out Chesapeake’s videos.

When I visited Chesapeake’s YouTube site, I read lots of negative comments.  That’s not uncommon for a YouTube video, but these comments really showed how people feel about the oil industry.  Many of the comments proclaimed that the oil industry is a dirty business and should be replaced with “green energy”.  I can understand this argument, but it doesn’t acknowledge our current state of available energy resources.

If you look at the numbers for world energy consumption, it has gone up 5% just this year alone.  And if you look at how much energy is being used per energy source, oil is used for 37% of our energy.  Many of the YouTube commenters passionately oppose Chesapeake and the entire oil industry. (Exxon’s name also comes up quite a bit in these comments, as you could probably guess.)  Many comments vehemently claim that because of oil and gas drilling, the land has become polluted with natural gases.  Again, every energy source should be environmentally responsible and from what I’m seeing, Chesapeake is taking responsibility.  They even take the time to gracefully respond to the negative comments on their YouTube channel. 

Between the allegations against Chesapeake is a call for more green energy.  This could potentially mean increasing hydro, wind, and solar power.  Solar only accounts for 0.5% of our current energy consumption while hydro and wind are also low.  But I don’t think all green alternatives are as green as some environmentalist make them out to be.

In the U.S., we’ve dammed many waterways and created man-made lakes to provide energy.  We’ve probably endangered some species in the process.  In many countries, building dams relocates people from their homes and displaces communities.  In China, where energy consumption is steadily rising, dams have wiped out some of China’s history by destroying old villages.  

Wind power is an expensive way to gain energy although arguably, so is oil and gas.  I’ve driven through many wind farms where several wind turbines weren’t working due to not being properly maintained.  Wind turbines are also known to kill birds that fly into them.

As an alternative to petroleum, I would suggest nuclear power as a form of clean energy.  I’m familiar with the nuclear industry and it’s one of the safest sources of energy we have.  I know this is a hotly-debated topic, but nuclear energy is really no less safe than other forms of energy.  We’ve run a little wild with science fiction depicting nuclear energy as this scary time bomb.  Sure, accidents can happen, such as the horrific accident in Japan recently.  We can’t predict weather disasters, but we can insist on high standards for maintaining of our nuclear plants worldwide. Another benefit of nuclear energy is that it does not emit smog. 

I wish the oil and gas industry didn’t have the negative stigma attached to it.  Living in Austin, it feels almost sacrilegious to say good things about the oil and gas industry.  But I really want to give credit where credit is due. 

Your comments are much appreciated.  And if I’ve ruffled your feathers, tell me!

Curt Finch is the CEO of Journyx.  Follow Curt and his company on Twitter.

Last updated: Jul 8, 2011




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