When is it OK for an oil slick to coat a pristine beach?
When it’s a “natural occurrence,” of course!
My boss stayed at a hotel in Santa Barbara, and on the bed stand of his room, a pamphlet read:
“Tar found along local beaches is the result of natural seeps in the ocean that leak oil and natural gas into the Santa Barbara Channel. Like the La Brea tar pits on land, natural cracks and faults caused by ancient earthquakes allow oil and gas to escape from the ocean floor. The seepage then floats to the surface where some evaporates, some degrades and the rest thickens into floating balls of sticky tar. Tides, currents and winds can wash the tar onshore.”
Believe it or not, it gets better.
To hammer home the naturalness of the oil slick that coats the hotel’s beachfront, the pamphlet further noted that, “The Chumash Native Americans put tar seepage to work 5,000 years ago. Besides waterproofing baskets and bowls, they used a mixture of tar and pine to seal their canoes.”
So Captain Hazelwood did the Eskimos a service by providing them with plenty of sealant, right?
That was a cheap joke, but there is an actual policy point here.
If you can’t distinguish between a “natural” oil slick and an anthropogenic oil slick, and you think that all oil slicks are bad, then you’d want to do something about it. Well, it so happens that there is an easy fix for these “natural” oil slicks: drilling. By removing the oil, it can’t seep out and coat beautiful beaches.
So let’s drill, baby, drill! (for nature, that is)