Episode 59 Transcript: The Oil Industry
CLARICE: Good morning, everybody.
MARISA: Good morning, Clarice. I’m Marisa Desautel. This is Environmentally Speaking. I’m an environmental attorney in Rhode Island.
CLARICE: And I’m Clarice. I’m coming in with questions, comments, topics that we want to talk about. And I think we mentioned this in an episode a while ago, but the fact that we record in the morning makes me want to greet all of our listener with a nice good morning, but good whatever time of day it is for you.
MARISA: Good morrow.
CLARICE: The pinkies out podcast.
MARISA: What are we talking about?
CLARICE: Oh, oil. And our favorite topic, oil spills. Nice and dark.
MARISA: Yeah. Why are we talking about this? Because Clarice and I are friends besides being co-hosts and she sent me this hysterical – was it a YouTube video?
CLARICE: Yeah. It’s a clip from, I believe, an Australian show. And if I’m saying it wrong, somebody write in. Yell at me. It’s fine. Clarke and Dawe and it was these two comedians poking fun at politics and how politicians answer questions and kind of skirt major issues. And it happened that this skit was an environmental issue and it was just – it’s so close to reality and it’s so funny and upsetting all at once.
CLARICE: I think you thought it was an actual interview.
MARISA: I thought it was real.
CLARICE: They do a really good job.
MARISA: And I said to you, this is my life every day. But I didn’t realize it was a spoof. So the skit is these two gentleman and they’re on a set of your typical Sunday morning political pundit type of program. One gentleman is a representative of the oil and oil shipping industry and the other gentleman –
CLARICE: Oh, he’s a senator.
MARISA: Oh, he’s a senator.
MARISA: That makes it even better.
CLARICE: Yeah. It’s so funny.
MARISA: The other gentleman is the host of the morning show and they’re having this insipid conversation about oil spills and what goes on as a result of issues with oil transportation. And, honestly, there’s no way I can do it any justice, so I’m hoping you can include it in the show notes.
CLARICE: I am happy to. The video is only about two minutes and it’s a good laugh. Now that you know it’s fake it’s a good laugh.
[0:02:49] MARISA: Yeah. Well, I only made it through about 20 seconds and I had to turn it off because I thought it was real. Now that I know it’s not I’ll go back and watch it. But that video segued into what I thought was a timely topic for today dealing with the oil industry. There has been quite a bit of recent news coming out of California about fossil fuel campaigns that are attacking specific California oil drilling laws. If you are a driver in this country, you know that the price of gasoline has gone up exponentially. It hasn’t really come down a whole lot. It’s moved around a little bit, but it’s still high. As a result of that, the fossil fuel industry has been handed cash from record profits. I mean, fossil fuel companies are just rolling around in cash.
CLARICE: Just kiddie pools full of money.
MARISA: Yes. Yes. Exactly. And like the GEICO commercial with the cash just kind of flowing behind them.
CLARICE: Yes. Yeah. Yeah.
MARISA: So what are they doing with that money. Take a guess.
CLARICE: Oh, God. I’d love to say putting it into some charitable work, but I’m going to go ahead and say maybe using it to find new places to drill for oil. Are they using it like exploratively like a research thing?
MARISA: I’m sure they are, but.
MARISA: Yeah. The information that’s making the news is that the fossil fuel companies are pouring their record profits into lobbying efforts at all levels of government to try to change laws or get issues on the ballot in California that would provide them retroactive protection from recent progressive environmental laws in California. I’m talking about California and not Rhode Island because you might know California is a very progressive state when it comes to environmental statutes. They’re always pushing the envelope and they’re at the cutting edge of new state law and new regulation. What do we think about this?
CLARICE: Just to give our listeners a little bit of background, before we start recording we take a couple seconds to set up and talk about what we’re going to talk about. And when you had started the sentence of – when you had started telling me the topic about a California law relating to oil I was so like, yes, this is going to be a great topic. California has found something protective of our environment. They’ve come up with some new idea or new law to help us out. And then it swung the complete opposite direction. So I’m just a little – I do have a couple questions.
[0:06:14] MARISA: Okay.
CLARICE: And I think the first one I want to start with is you had mentioned the idea of retroactive protection.
CLARICE: And I’m instantly thinking of – and I think this is more of a colloquial phrase – the idea of being grandfathered in to a law. Is it similar to that?
MARISA: Yes. Yes. Without getting too specific because, frankly, I’m not familiar with the specifics, the oil industry including Chevron – I guess they’re at the forefront of this campaign – they’ve spent already this year $8 million to preserve a legal loophole that allows for oil and gas companies to drill using really old approvals or permits without environmental review or any expiration dates. So there’s some legal loophole in California that allows for fossil fuel companies to act like it’s 1920 and mine or drill or otherwise try to get their hands on oil without having any kind of environmental oversight, no environmental justice considered, and no expiration. They just want to continue this in perpetuity, so that’s what they’re spending their money on, $8 million.
CLARICE: How does this exist.
MARISA: It’s humanity.
CLARICE: How does this exist.
MARISA: Well, and the corollary to this is you’ve got offshore wind interests that are Goliath. I mean, they’re almost as big if not bigger than the fossil fuel companies in terms of the opportunity for revenue. I’m sure that offshore wind interests are trying to figure out how to compete or will be trying to figure out how to compete in the very near future with oil interests because they’re both sources of energy obviously. They both have a huge opportunity for profit. The fossil fuel companies has been around longer, however, they are a nonrenewable source of energy. So the push in America has been to move away from that source of finite energy and to move towards renewable including these federal lease areas for offshore wind development. It’s interesting to me that the fossil fuel companies are throwing this amount of money at lobbying efforts instead of looking at, all right, how do we grow. How do we adapt. How do we become part of the modern market.
[0:09:34] CLARICE: Well, I hate to say that’s the one thing I’m not surprised by because looking in the past that’s what’s been so successful for them. That’s been something that’s a tried and true practice and has worked over and over again, so it’s almost this idea of, well, if we sink enough money into it we’ve gotten what we wanted in the past. Let’s just keep going. But it’s a bummer.
MARISA: Don’t you think that’s really shortsighted?
CLARICE: I didn’t say it was a good idea.
CLARICE: I’m just imagining that is their idea.
MARISA: You know, how can that be. I’m getting a little existential on you here. I’m a small business owner and as a small business owner you’re constantly thinking about what’s my next move. Is what I’m doing right now sustain able. How am I going to grow. How am I going to change. How am I going to stay relevant. But it seems to me that these fossil fuel companies are doing the exact opposite. They’re so firmly entrenched with this idea that they – it’s like they can’t lose and I don’t know how you can have that perspective in the face of climate change and global warming and clearly countries are moving towards new renewable goals.
CLARICE: I’m wondering if it’s need based because if we think about it oil heats our homes, makes our cars go, transportation, all of that. Planes need oil. It’s the idea of like major forms of transportation are still so heavily reliant on oil. It’s almost the idea of it’s a necessity. I don’t need to change.
MARISA: So when you just said maybe it’s a need, I immediately had this vision of some oil executive saying, I need it, I need – but, no. You meant there is still such a heavy reliance on fossil fuels.
MARISA: But why not also invest in retrofitting airplanes? Why not also invest in looking at – maybe not electric cars because that’s a topic for another day but renewable solar charged vehicles? Electric vehicles are still reliant upon the grid which is reliant upon fossil fuels, so I don’t know that that’s the answer. But if you’ve got $8 million, you’re just going to throw it into one initiative?
[0:12:28] CLARICE: Yeah. You could do a lot with it.
MARISA: I agree.
CLARICE: You might not be able to – and I understand the project and the ideas that we’re talking about at this scale may take more than $8 million, but I think you could get a good start at least.
MARISA: Yeah. And you could go to the federal government and say, work with us. I mean, that’s what these offshore wind companies are doing. They’re building offshore wind farms on federal property in the ocean. Why couldn’t oil companies try to move towards that paradigm. Maybe there would be an opportunity for federal support. As of right now the fossil fuel companies are just like this with government and it wasn’t like that in the past. I just think there needs to be a consideration of some more flexibility in that industry.
CLARICE: That would be ideal. And as soon as you said flexibility — and going back to the electric cars, I recently learned this week that the Hummer has come back but fully electric.
CLARICE: For those listening, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Marisa look more confused. I can say I think as much as we dislike the Hummer the idea of it doing a complete 180 – I mean, shouldn’t that be the poster child for the oil companies if Hummer can make changes?
MARISA: Is it hybrid? Is it oil and electric?
CLARICE: No. It’s electric.
MARISA: I have these visions of abandoned huge SUVs everywhere, just people running out of – they don’t plug it in long enough, or they don’t plan their mileage adequately and there’s just going to be like these burn out skeletons of Hummers on the highway. And I got a lot of onomatopoeia going on in my head today.
CLARICE: I like how you went to the end of the Hummer’s charge and all I could think of was, what noise do they make. Yeah. I’m thinking of those like wind up car toys, but that’s a total tangent. So disappointing news out of California.
MARISA: As usual, disappointment.
CLARICE: Yeah. Let us know if last week’s episode about cemeteries was more uplifting than this one.
MARISA: I have to say I really enjoyed last week’s episode.
CLARICE: That was fun.
MARISA: I’m wondering if we can come up with some topics that are similar as far as the human interest element is concerned.
CLARICE: I love that.
MARISA: And I would love some input and feedback. If there’s a topic out there that people are interested in learning about that is a little more – I don’t want to say entertaining but has more of a human interest side to it instead of such doom and gloom about current events, I’d be interested.
[0:15:42] CLARICE: Yes. Let us know. You can reach us on the socials at Desautel Law, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. You can send us an e-mail at Help@DesautelESQ.com. Let us know if there’s something. Maybe it’s an environmental topic of your town. Is it, like you had said, a human piece, something a little different. We want to know about it. I will say, though, the cemetery topic might not make the best dinner conversation.
MARISA: Definitely not.
CLARICE: Yeah. I learned that one the hard way, so learn from me, guys.
MARISA: Well, thanks, everybody.
MARISA: See you next time.
CLARICE: Have a great week.