Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Drill Baby Drill

I've written an in-depth feature for this week's Scene: Drill Baby Drill.

I've previously noted on these pages that I worked for BP for years and that my husband is a pipeline operator. I put gas in my car and heat my home with natural gas. Most of us do; and many of us take gas and oil for granted. That changes when an oil derrick is erected next to your house.

Ohio is home to a great deal of oil and gas drilling. There were some 64,000 wells operating in Ohio in 2008. Courtesy of a practice known as "urban drilling" the wells are getting closer and closer and closer to the people--particularly where I live. The Cuyahoga Valley area has long been known for its rich pockets of oil and gas.

My family has lived in and around the Cuyahoga Valley for six generations. My great grandfather's farmland is now part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, so I feel a certain way about this place, from the natural habitats to the industrial underbelly of the city. After all, Dad was a machinist. I grew up surrounded by milling machines and lathes. But the wells? The wells are new.

When you purchase an older home next to an asphalt plant, you know what you're getting into; but when you purchase a brand new home in a suburban neighborhood and someone plops a tank battery and a wellhead next to it, that's a different story. You may hate it; or you may love it--particularly if you're reaping monthly royalties from that hole in the earth.

I urge every Ohioan to read my feature and the companion blog. The same goes for those in other states that condone urban drilling. I'm interested in everyone's thoughts on this topic. You can comment here or on the Scene pages (registration is a breeze), or you may email my editor Frank Lewis.


Anonymous said...

I can gather from your article that this is a state issue. My question would be why did your representatives let this happen? Who in your State House's made money off this deal. I guess blaming big oil would be the easy way out but any buisness will look for the cheapest alternative to creating its product. Are you suggesting that the federal government set the rules? That would be kind of like a Federal Convent plan and we all know how good the local convents work.

James Old Guy

Erin O'Brien said...

On January 21, 2004, the 125th General Assembly of the Ohio House of Representatives, composed of 63 Republicans and 36 Democrats, passed House Bill 278 (which usurped home rule and enabled urban drilling in Ohio) by a vote of 59 to 35. The State Senate (23 Republicans, 10 Democrats) followed suit shortly thereafter with a vote of 26 to 5. Ohio State Senator Tom Niehaus out of New Richmond sponsored the bill. Niehaus has garnered thousands in campaign contributions from the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.

Kirk Jusko said...

I did a post on the whole oil problem about a year ago on my own blog. One of the points I made is the car culture is something we were all born into, unless there's someone still alive who once traded in their horse and buggy for a Model T. When I was a kid growing up in the suburbs, my parents, and the parents of every kid I knew, had grown up in Cleveland, a big city at the time (believe it or not). It's not like that now. Today, ask a kid in the suburbs where their parents grew up, and it's likely they also grew up in the suburbs. I dare say quite a few grandparents these days grew up in the suburbs. Pretty soon we'll have great-grandparents who grew up in the suburbs. On Dick Feagler (a local TV personality) a while back, he asked how to get people to move BACK to Cleveland. I capitalize that word because I don't think Feagler realizes you can't move "back" to someplace you never were at in the first place. For most people under 60, they can only move there, or to any other big city, for the very first time. As someone who likes living in the suburbs, I'd be a hypocrite to encourage people to move to the city. But the suburban life most of us were born into does have its' costs. I don't know what the answer is. At least don't chop down any more trees for any more development. Isn't the world developed enough as it is? Especially as I drive through the suburbs and see more and more abandoned shopping centers.

Excuse this rant. I gulped down a giant-size Coke from Wendy's before I arrived here.

jonas said...


In the field of STS (Science, Technology, and Society), this phenomenon is called "technological momentum." I'm in the midst of helping teach 240 1st year college engineering students about it.

Here are a couple sources that deal with this stuff:

Needless to say, its something about which we're making student aware, so as to help them view the world with an at least slightly wider lens.

Anonymous said...

Interesting on the vote from the state of Ohio. Now how many are still in office that voted for those bills? Once again follow the dollars.

James Old Guy

Big Mark 243 said...

Some of this is chickens coming home to roost. America's appetitite for natural resources hasn't really abated. We still emit half of the world's green house gases and use up the same in oil.

The consumerism that grips our society continues to grow. Meanwhile, the resources we need to feed that hunger has become more and more scarce. The stuff that we did not mind wishing on others is now coming home to us.

What are we going to do?

Erin O'Brien said...

You go on and try to find a break down of names on that vote. If you can get it, you're a better man than me.

Now if you want to see some real comment wars, hop back over to the Scene article and take a look at how people tear at each other's throats over this issue.


Erin O'Brien said...

Mark: I save energy by sleeping with a Goat.

Glass Houses said...

I read the comment wars and I think it's interesting that people can find studies, reports, and information to back up either argument.

The same is true of the Bible. (Oh yeah. I went there.)

Anonymous said...

Bill Sponsors

Manning Willamowski Seitz Latta Grendell Lendrum Damschroder Reinhard Core Flowers Wolpert Buehrer Hollister Carmichael Gilb Schuring Hagan Hughes Clancy Cates Olman Carey Schmidt Coates Niehaus Schneider D. Miller Salerno Jones

Jacobson Amstutz Oelslager

This is an Ohio issue. I am not a resident of that state and I have my own issues in South Carolina . Unless it was a voice vote, someone has the record and it should be available. Some day I will write an article about how the much berated state of South Carolina runs.

John said...

It was early in the morning, it was 7 o'clock
there were 29 terriers drilling on the rock
and the boss comes around and he says stand still
and then come down heavy on the cast iron drill
and drill ye terriers drill
drill ye terriers drill.
For its work all day for the sugar in the tay
and drill ye terriers drill

Anonymous said...

Of course I don't live in Ohio so I don't know the facts but I've read your blog long enough to know you don't make casual accusations. I really liked it when you were accused in the comments of publishing "propaganda" and by extension opposed to drilling in ANWAR and encouraging dependency on foreign sources of oil. Usually a fairly reliable barometer of the truth.

As an aside I've been watching Ken Burns new documentary oh The National Parks this week. Oil is only the most recent example of industrial greed. There were serious attempts made to build hydroelectric plants in The Grand Canyon and closer to my home timber industries worked frantically to clear cut the old growth forests of The Smoky Mountains before development was halted. Gravy Sucking Pigs are neither a new nor endangered species.
"a noise so stentorian it could make Dick Cheney cry" tells me this ain't no ordinary journalism.


Erin O'Brien said...

Sheesh. The only thing the Scene comment section needs is James Old Guy gassing on about how fat I am.

Erin O'Brien said...

Oh hell, I've got to tell this story because it's just too good not to: when the well was going in next to my house, the noise was UNBELIEVABLE. I thought for sure it would end at 10 p.m. It did not.

I called the cops and they told me they had no jurisdiction over the installation, that local noise ordinances did not apply to wells, and they could do nothing. I called every councilman and the mayor, mostly leaving messages on answering machines.

The horrible noise went on all night and ended about 7 or 8 a.m.

The mayor called me the next day. "You said 'goddamn' seventeen times in your message, Erin," he told me.

"Sam," I responded, "I earned every single one of them."

Once known as The Badger said...

...and anyone who thinks by "Drill, Baby, Drill" anywhere and everywhere that somehow gas will be cheaper at the pumps is in for a rude awakening. It won't be. It won't ever be. Drilling locally with government incentives will just make the profits that much fatter for the oil companies. They are not "American" companies. They are their own country, so to speak. Many are no longer even headquartered in the U.S. (Halliburton, for example). People who spout this kind of rhetoric are ignorant or cynical or both.

Erin O'Brien said...

This is getting curiouser and curiouser.

Kirk Jusko said...

I commented on the oil problem in general, rather than what Erin was specifically writing about. I guess you could say I was hijacking the comments section, as Erin once put it. Let me hijack it just once more. Read THE SHOCK DOCTRINE by Naomi Klein. I believe you can draw a straight line from the Chicago School of Economics and the oil pump next to Erin's house.

Kirk Jusko said...

That should be "TO the oil pump next to Erin's house."

Anonymous said...

Guessing or gassing?

Diane Vogel Ferri said...

Erin, congratulations on getting the cover of Scene! great article. My parents' neighborhood has had some of the same controversies and scares in Mayfield Village.

John Ettorre said...

Nice piece of work, Erin. You did a phenomenal job of reporting.