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More From South America. Global Warming Is A Hoax – And Refineries Are Beautiful

This is the latest installment covering my extended trip to Argentina and South America to fly fish. One of the wonderful things about fishing is the camaraderie you potentially experience with other fishermen you meet in the lodge. There is an intrinsic “Zen” to the sport of fly fishing that tends to draw like-minded people. During the first phase of my trip to Argentina and South America I had hit the “lodge lottery”. Not only are the PRG facilities and staff terrific, but I was lucky enough to fish with a group of fun and compatible guys. “Star” and the Hollywood lawyers and I were well aligned politically, so there was always good natured agreement during dinner time conversation. This was a relief, as I have been in other lodge situations where the personalities were not so compatible, which can really detract from your trip.

A couple days before I was scheduled to leave the lodge, Star and the Hollywood boys left to go home, and a new group moved in. There were several women in the group, and I learned they were in a women’s fishing club that frequently came to fish with PRG. They were all attractive, personable, in-shape women in their 60’s and 70’s, and they had just finished fishing a few days at PRG’s northern operations. The guides told me they had very solid fishing skills.

The trouble began the first night at dinner, when I was seated between two of the new guests, both women from Texas whose husbands worked in…..you guessed it…the oil and gas industry.

Now a caveat here…. I have nothing against Texas or the oil and gas industry. OK – maybe that’s not quite true. But I do understand the need for oil and gas. At least some oil and gas. And as far as needing Texas, well, I have to think about that one.

In any case we were all talking about our home towns as you tend to do in these situations, and I was giving a bit of a verbal tour of Portland, Oregon, largely heralded as the “greenest city” in the country.

“Do you have electric cars there”, one of the women asked.

“Yep, quite a few”, I answered proudly. “Portland is huge hub for green energy development, so we also have major solar and wind power installations, and many of the green companies have their headquarters there”, I continued.

I had not considered the fact that there are people that are actually pro-pollution, so I was surprised when one of the women said “Aghhh, electric cars….I hate them. They are so ugly”.

“Talk about ugly”, the other woman said, “I think windmills and solar panels are ugly”, she said with a disgusted look on her face.

“Really”, I said surprised. “What do you prefer, refineries?”

Both women beamed. “I love refineries”, one of them said earnestly. “Have you ever driven by one at night? I love to see them lit up. I think they are beautiful.” Her friend nodded in agreement as if we were discussing a new grandchild. “We don’t need all that green stuff”, she said. “There is enough oil and gas to last us a thousand years, if that Obama would just let us drill.” She spit out “that Obama” as if she was referring to a fungus one might develop between their toes from wearing damp waders too long.

This should have been my signal to politely leave the table, but I had never actually been with people that thought refineries were attractive and were openly pro-pollution. Growing up in Billings, Montana, a city anchored on all sides by filthy refineries spewing out noxious fumes all day long that frequently left the town smelling like a late-night fart, the words “beautiful” and “refinery” were never used in the same sentence. I pointed out to the Texans that I had grown up in a refinery town. I told them how last year an Exxon pipeline in Billings had burst under the Yellowstone River, polluting Montana’s pristine waterways with oil slicks that spread for a hundred miles. I explained how my uncle had worked in the refinery for 30 years, and how I suspected that he had contracted the cancer that killed him from working in the noxious environment. They were unmoved. “Well, I think they are pretty”, one of the women repeated, “and besides, those ugly windmills kill birds”.

Later in the trip in Chile I would have a similar encounter with another lodge guest. At my first evening in Rio Cincos Lodge I sat down to dinner shortly after arriving to meet the other lodge guests. We were just at the salad course when the two men to my right began arguing. One of the gentlemen was a proud member of the Tea Party, and was taking the other guest to task for his more liberal leanings. I seldom get the opportunity to really talk to a Tea Party member, so I had to ask the big questions…

“Do you believe in Global Warming”, I inquired.

Tea Party man looked at me with steely eyes and delivered the stock answer. “I think there might be something happening in the environment, but I don’t believe that people have anything to do with it. It’s just cyclical”.

“Hmmm. So you don’t think that covering the earth with billions of people that cut down the trees, cover the ground with pavement so water can’t circulate into the system, and rip fossil fuels out of the earth to burn them and pump smoke into the sky could possibly lead to climate change”, I asked.

No answer from steely eyes, but he is starting to look pissed. I kept going.

“What if you’re wrong”, I asked. “And I guess what I really don’t understand”, I continued, “even if you don’t think global warming is real, why wouldn’t you want to move on to green energy sources that don’t pump garbage into the atmosphere and would free us from foreign oil. Plus, you would actually create an entirely new economy that could really lead to job growth – something even bigger than the internet boom. You’re obviously a guy that likes the outdoors, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. Don’t you prefer clean air and water?”

Tea Party dude now just looks confused and annoyed and didn’t answer.

“How about evolution”, I asked. “What’s your position on that equally controversial subject?”

This time he feels compelled to respond. “I believe in God. That’s it”, he says matter-of-factly. He then gets up and leaves the table.

And then I mysteriously felt a little bad. Even though I obviously didn’t agree with Tea Party Dude’s politics, I thought he actually maintained “lodge decorum” by walking away before the situation elevated. Perhaps I was overly aggressive. The last place we need politics is in the fishing lodge.

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7 Responses to More From South America. Global Warming Is A Hoax – And Refineries Are Beautiful

  1. Jill Taylor says:

    You are a natural debater (weren’t you on the debate team?) so no surprise it’s difficult finding worthy opponents. I’ve given up trying to talk sense into my Fox News-watching relatives so have a ‘no politics’ rule when they come over which seems to be working. That said, it always raises my blood pressure when I meet ‘educated’ people who don’t believe in evolution, carbon dating, birth control or human-induced climate change.

  2. Scott says:

    The problem with refineries is that they are very old and very few new ones have been built. We have about the same refining capacity as we did in 1981 with a refinery reduction of 54%, but the population has gone up 84MM people or about 35%.
    So while the Blackberry I still carry is more advanced than what NASA used to send us to the moon, they have been allowed to update themselves to use the new technology. Refineries (and I have worked at one) have the footprint to be better and smarter, but there needs to be pressure and financial incentives to rebuild those units and use the technology out there until we can find a better solution. I don’t think Ethanol is a viable choice either, but perhaps CNG is. Finally, I would like to see a tariff for each barrel of distillate exported. As far as wind energy, Texas produces more MW than WA, OR and CA combined.
    Glad you had fun on your trip you 1%’er and given the Choice between PDX and DFW, I will stay here and just visit the Lucky Lab when I go up to see my daughter.
    http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/wind_installed_capacity.asp
    http://205.254.135.7/totalenergy/data/annual/txt/ptb0509.html

  3. Bizzy Life Author Avatar Tim O'Leary says:

    Scott – great stat on Texas – and it is great to see them embracing alternative energy! I’m more of an Austin guy myself.

  4. Libby says:

    Oh Tim! You have to be kidding? It would be easy to ignore your insults, but I found your public blog so mean-spirited and inaccurate that I had to respond. I hope your readers understand just because you put quotation marks around words does not mean the other person actually said them.

    Why blog? Why lie about conversations with others in your blog? Who are your readers? Does it make you feel important? Or smart? Or more successful? I was flabbergasted to read your made-up conversations with “Texas Women” in order to make us look foolish.

    • Your blog’s bias becomes apparent in your third paragraph, “The trouble began the first night at dinner, when I was seated between two of the new guests, both women from Texas whose husbands worked in…you guessed it…the Oil & Gas Industry.” You go on to say you have “nothing against Texas or the Oil & Gas industry. Ok – maybe that’s not quite true”. Seriously? Not quite true???
    • You did not discuss Portland, Oregon with me and certainly didn’t ask me anything about my hometown. If you had, you would know I’m not a Texan but am from Louisiana. I married a man from Texas and have enjoyed living there for the last 30 years.
    • I am not pro-pollution. What does that even mean? I get the impression from your blog a “pro-pollution person” means anyone working in the Oil & Gas Industry.
    • You claim I said, “there is enough Oil & Gas to last us a thousand years”. A thousand years!? Here’s another example of you putting words in my mouth; I would never claim that, nor does the industry. My quote was – “new technology used to drill oil & gas in shale can produce enough energy to last seventy five to one hundred years.” Your response was – they (as in Oil & Gas companies) are lying to derail the green energy movement.
    • You say you “understand the need…for at least some Oil & Gas”. I guess just enough Oil & Gas for you to travel the world? Enough for the private car that picked you up at PRG to drive you to Chile? Enough to charge everyone’s electric car? Enough to make the tires for the cars? Or make the windshield wipers? Enough to supply the antifreeze to keep your Montana and Oregon cars from freezing? Or to pave the streets you drive on? Or to make garden hoses you water your yard with? Or to make the carpet you walk on? Or to make the sunglasses you fish with? Or to make the Pepto Bismol you drink when your stomach gets upset? Or the life jacket you wear? Or your rain jacket? Or the family photos you enjoy? Hardworking Americans in the Oil & Gas Industry are very familiar with people like you.
    • “Do you have electric cars there?” Seriously, in quotations? The “Texas Women” know Oregon has a large population of “greenies” who love their electric cars, solar and wind power. It is understood. And the “two Texas Women” didn’t ask it. You may have brought up the subject, but we didn’t.
    • You never mentioned the Exxon pipeline spill in Billings MT. If you had you may have been surprised to find out that I am quite well read about that spill and very upset about it. But you didn’t ask nor did you discuss it with us.
    • Part of the refinery comment was accurate. The “refineries are beautiful at night” was intended as a lighthearted joke that obviously slipped past you. It was said to redirect the conversation from your political agenda. I prefer to keep the evening fun and non-political. Montana’s Ruby Springs Lodge, taught me years ago, a fishing lodge is not a place for political debate. The guests are there to enjoy themself and not to be insulted for their personal beliefs.
    • After the refinery comment you said, “my Uncle died because of a refinery”. But that is all you said. PERIOD. No explanation, no mention of “cancer from working in a noxious environment”. I am a very caring person and I would have been moved had you bothered to discuss something so personal.

    Shame on you for blogging about your made-up dinner discussions with “Texas Women” in this mean-spirited way just to elevate yourself. Shame on your for blogging about the “Tea Party dude” and attacking him for his Christian faith. You obviously have no other method to get your point across. TIM O’LEARY – YOU ARE A WHINER AND A WEASEL!

    If interested here is a link to see what other products are made from Oil – http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/classroom/wwo/petroleum.pdf

  5. Bizzy Life Author Avatar Tim O'Leary says:

    Ah Libby – so sorry you took so much offense. This entry was certainly not an attack on you personally – and I will admit I don’t remember if it was you or your friend or both of you that expressed love of refineries and disdain for electric cars. In any case – despite our political differences I found you both to be very charming, and informed about the oil and gas industry, and you are certainly correct that we all use many products made from oil. I just look forward to the day when that is hopefully not the case. And one area we do agree upon – which both of us pointed out above – the fishing lodge is not a place for political discussion. My apologies for any contribution I had to breaking that good rule.

  6. Cathy says:

    Tim, I would like to echo Libby’s comments. There is not much I can add, except to say that I find it terribly unfortunate that you characterized us in such an unfavorable and stereotypical light. As Libby mentioned, your bias was evident. I am quite certain that had we known we would be quoted on the issues of energy, we would have been more serious on the subject. I know that I intentionally tried to keep the conversation light. After all, it was a lovely dinner with lots of wonderful wine and new acquaintances. I had no desire to delve into a serious political debate. I would like to set one thing straight however. We are not pro-pollution! That is why we are in favor of the use of natural gas, as it contributes to the reduction of GHG, is plentiful in this country (reducing dependence on foreign oil), is inexpensive and it’s production creates jobs in this country. Other sources of energy certainly have an important role to play, but we are not currently ready to convert to those sources as our sole supply of energy. Even you, Tim, acknowledged the need for oil and gas. So instead of characterizing those in the oil and gas industry as villains, why not all work together to solve the energy needs of our country. It seems like the civil and intelligent thing to do.

  7. Bizzy Life Author Avatar Tim O'Leary says:

    All great points Cathy – thank you! I certainly agree that oil and gas play an important role in energy policy going forward – until we have mastered the alternatives. And perhaps that is the point where we might disagree. I do not believe that fossil fuels are a viable long term option (either 100 or 1000 years) – but rather a bridge to a cleaner future. I also don’t want to see people in the oil and gas industry lose their jobs, but am confident that the new phase of energy will offer many opportunities. In fact, if supported and embraced, I think believe alternative energy could lead to a massive boom in our economy. Interesting to note that there are already more jobs in this country in the green industries than in the oil and gas industry.

    I also believe we can use products made from oil – while working towards better alternatives. I have a gas furnace – but I also have solar power. I am also installing a geothermal heating system – and I suspect that many of the components required a lot of oil to build. I certainly don’t advocate the complete abandonment of petroleum-based products, but rather a smarter utilization of the resource. I shop and buy products made from petroleum – and I also recycle.

    I also believe that, unfortunately, we will all experience the impact of climate change in different ways that will necessitate an even quicker adoption of green energy. All indications are that we are already seeing that impact.

    I apologize if you believe I made you or people in the industry out to be villains. At this point we all depend on workers in those industries, though I would say that there are those at higher levels in the oil companies that often make some very dangerous decisions that impact mankind to advance themselves financially. The oil and gas industry – like many other major industries – spends a lot to successfully lobby for programs and tax breaks that many would find very bad for society – but that is certainly not reflective of everyone in the business, and I don’t blame people for protecting their jobs.

    I tend to attempt to attempt to infuse my writing with a little satire and humor to make a point (which is not always apparent to everyone) – and I found the statements that “refineries were beautiful” and “electric cars ugly” to be too good to resist. If you were both making those statements in jest I did not pick up on it (as perhaps you did not pick up on my attempt to humorously use the statements to make a point).

    We certainly disagreed on many subjects. For instance, I do consider fracking a very dangerous extraction method that does pollute and has serious long term consequences for the environment, and though I think further development is needed, I am supportive of wind farms and solar energy. I tend to look at electric cars at this point as a move in the right direction as opposed to the solution, but I applaud that movement. But perhaps it is wrong to label someone “pro-pollution” if they do support fracking and don’t support other initiatives.

    In any case, I love your sentiment expressed above to “work together” to solve issues.

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