Recently, I witnessed a tattooed and relatively toothless cracker rig hand respond to a direct, maybe forceful order from a tool pusher by flipping him off, suggesting he do something anatomically improbable, and, while leaving 2 joints of pipe dangling in the air, flip open his cell phone to tell his lovely ol' lady to come and get him.
You see, this dumb SOB had two job offers in hand. Each offerin' more than I ever got paid with an advanced degree in a highly technical field. Two other hands walked off the drill floor with toothless cracker that day, thus shutting down my well until the night crew showed up.
An hour and a half later, an ol' girl lookin' peculiarly like Brittany Spears' fat, tattooed and painfully dentally challenged sister pulled up on location driving a beat up maroon Trans Am to pick up the three recalictrants. They drove off with several one finger salutes visible through the back window and driver-side and passenger windows from their intricately inked arms to the musical accompaniment of the "Stars of Texas" on the horn... apparently the only custom feature on the vehicle.
This, apparently, is a regular occurence these days. Bad work ethic and rock star attitudes combined with rock star IQs and rock star-like weaknesses for illegal powdery and leafy substances make current oil field work crews resemble heavy metal bands... with the unfortunate exception that they haveno discernible skills, like playing a guitar.
We have crossed over to the World According the The Lowest Common Denominator... a world where absolutely unemployable folks make more than college grads. Welcome the the US oilpatch circa 2006, where even our most loser kids can make a fine livin'! I will never tell my kids to avoid pot again! Pass the doobie, junior!
Particularly irksome is that these guys are making more than highly educated employees with masters degrees in major oil companies did in my day. Even in "todays dollars"! It brings to mind a story Allen Gilmer told me about the "tooth to tattoo ratio" metric his friend Glen Wilmar developed for crew efficiency when they were off galivanting around the country shooting 3-D seismic surveys for working interest.
Fear not. I have the answer to all our employment problems... Hippie kids. Yep. You heard that right. Bona fide, dope smokin', saving the environment, corporations are evil, 100% pure dee hippie kids... with names like Walnut, Echo, River, and Leaf.
I was in Oregon last year to attend a social event hosted at a McMinamans Hotel near Portland. McMinamans properties are old, refurbished buildings like libraries and Masonic Temples scattered around Oregon and Washington. The Portland version was a couple of hundred acres of what used to be a Poor Farm along with its old dormitory and storage buildings. The cool thing about it was that it had a 1) vineyard, 2) winery, 3) herb garden, 4) distillery, 5) about five or six bars scattered over the property, 6) three restaurants, 7) a brew pub, 7) an 18 hole pitch and putt golf course, and 8) a movie theater. All in all, it was a hell of a lot of overhead for maybe 90 rooms, yet this chain of hotels seems HIGHLY profitable!
All without illegal aliens (or undocumented workers, or income tax and document challenged Americanoids, or whatever you want to call them).
How do they do it? With interns and minimum wage workers with B.S. and M.S. degrees from our finest Universities... all brainwashed, yet very likeable moonies in the thrall of "working the bare earth with their hands" and manning the vats and distillation processes for the ideal of a 'sustainable' future. Just like our forefathers did 200 years ago when they were trying to provide a life that would free their offspring from having to work the land.
I really enjoyed sipping my home brew bourbon on the veranda as I watched the supple, well-orthodontiaed young folk work the fields, singing their folk songs... "Riding that train, outa cocaine...".
I felt nearly southern, really, except for the chill in the May air that would have been an unlikely respite in, say, Mississippi. No complaining about "living wages" or "company towns" for these idealists as they jammed into crowded dormitories... no, it was like summer camp for these American youth. It was in this context that I asked Butterfly, my bartender, what it was like living and working here.
"It's like, really cool! We are like, totally into sustainable agriculture here, and we know we are really setting a great example for how we can, like, all be more focused on not raping the earth, but nurturing it so it can, like, in turn, nurture us!" she bubbled.
Because she was so cute, and because she bubbled, I refrained from asking her about, like, work conditions and wages that would have sent Ceasar Chavez into a convulsive fit had they been imposed on United Farm Workers, nor did I point out that about 90% of the stuff they sold WASN'T grown, brewed, raised, or distilled on premise, but rather was purchased from evil mutinational corporations. However, it planted a seed in my mind...
Several months later, I had the chance to spend some time at Sundance, the resort owned in part by Robert Redford, and which lends its name to the eponymous film festival where 22 year old auteurs get awards for informing us how rotten the world is and how republicans and corporatey folks lie by putting it on celluloid for mass consumption... but only if it reaffirms what THEIR bosses biases already are... you know, the producers and studio heads! Very brave telling your boss that his ideas are dead on perfect, huh? So, namely, lotus eaters with low enough IQ's and gall enough to tell us that "Fidel Castro is a great man".
Usually these genius youth are arrested for drunkenly lipping off to Utah State Troopers on their way down to Deseret to catch a private jet back to LA, jets apparently being a much better venue, at less than 1 mile per gallon, to ponder and commiserate the human condition and the evils of global warming.
It was here in Sundance where I once again faced the beauty of hippie labor...
A movie about "A Day Without a Hippie Chick" would show how "sustainable" and "eco-friendly" resorts would be brought to their knees if they all took the day off! Watch out economy!
Unlike McMinimans, which celebrates its eco-friendliness by manufacturing and serving a full spectrum of adult beverages, Sundance supports itself with "<film> <writing> <leftist politics> workshops" as well as running a nice ski area that transports, via high speed lifts, skiers in the winter and hikers and mountain bikers in the summers up into the Wasatch Mountain wilderness. These lifts, we are told, are run by GREEN energy, GREEN being some sort of quantum state that apparently prohibits carbon and oxygen atoms from binding in some cases, or is ascertained to be "sustainable", another word for "perpetual", according to my dictionary. Apparently my two years of college chemistry, grudgingly taught by a Nobel Laureate, was not advanced enought to introduce me to these exotic quantum mechanical phenomena. Perhaps that was covered in the Junior year.
In Sundance's defense, they do go to some pain to point out that the electrons they use are actually BROWN, but by paying more for them, they help develop and subsidize GREEN electrons in other places thus preventing the release into the atmosphere several tons of CO2 every year. Where I got confused was that Biomass (scrap organic material, presumably like crap, and paper, and pot, but somehow NEVER like, tobacco), and ethanol (made from corn and taking 1.8 gallons of diesel per every gallon of ethanol to create) are GREEN, just like solar and wind. Like I said, I missed advanced chemistry. Coal, oil, and natural gas, all lower in CO2 output than GREEN biomass and ethanol, are an evil BROWN.
I suggested to the nice lady working the desk at the Sundance Insitute that if they were REALLY buying GREEN energy, it was only fair that they be restricted from receiving any power during peak use times, since, as GREEN purchasers, they are really only buying expensive base load electrons. Wouldn't want to dirty their soul with that filthy BROWN peak load electrons on hot and cold days!
Another thing I liked about Sundance is its many million dollar+ homes and dearth of pesky condos. Compared to Park City, Sundance is an idyllic spot. .. Except for no pool and a bar that didn't open up until 5:00 p.m.
In fact, I think I am probably a Redford Environmentalist. I like mixed use, pretty and tasteful, and expensive as hell in order to attract people willing to pay enough to keep me from making the whole mountain condo! It really reduces to a simple state equation... Sensitive, rich, hypocritical celebrity = infinite <oral genital manipulation performed on male sex organs>. That is my kinda calculus!
In any case, it was finally my chance to ask about pay scales and benefits!
"Our Society uses more than its fair share of resources, so working with the environment through the Sundance Institute is a great way to give back", said one earnest young man, although it wasn't immediately clear to me how waiting tables at an overpriced restaurant saves the Earth.
"It's not right that my generation has so much, when so many have so little", said a serious dreadlocked blonde hottie, although that seemed a bit off point to me as well. Dad must be bummed that he worked so hard for such an ingrate.
It was then when it hit me. The answer to our oil and gas industry employment problems. Hippies! Progressives! Whatever!
All we need to do is change our name from Petroleum Producers to "Remediators of Evil Petroleum" and we are golden, baby! We would no longer "produce hydrocarbons to create energy for the world", we would "remediate toxic accumulations of hydrocarbons trapped in the colon of Gaia" or "Mother Earth", or whatever the current favorite politically correct cannibalistic Stone Age Tribe calls it!
Think about the potential environmental devastation we prevent when we "remediate" the potentially devastating lakes of oil and gas evilly trapped under National Parks, just waiting for an earthquake, or maybe a robot attack to bubble up and screw up the water supply for Bambi or the innocent fish!
The beauty? We will "remediate" for free! No cost to society for our beneficial Earth Colonics.
Like the waste dump operator who is celebrated for recycling trash into plastic bottles and SpongeBob Squarepants dolls, our remediatory productr can generate profitable products to help fund our idealistic venture... When we incinerate the evil hydrocarbons to make sure they never be used for evil corporate profit, we generate energy! Millions of Americans will get on board to help pay us to burn this evil liquid with mobile incineration machines, called "automobiles".
OK, some more OPEN CHOKE Mass Balance to help our concerned progressive brethren...
Natural CO2 flux (in gigatons per year)
Atmosphere, Terrestrial sources- 120 net (60 from photosynthesis, 60 from respiration)
Atmosphere, Oceanic sources- 90
2nd hand Anthropogenic CO2 flux
Fossil Fuel- 5.5
Tropical Land Use- 1.6
2nd hand Anthropogenic CO2 contribution = 3% of total.
So human beings, as a species, currently have a carbon output a little more than twice as much as their respiratory capacity alone (The total non-respiratory anthropogenic load is 20% larger than the respiratory load (6 gigatons to 7.1 gigatons).
Lately, the human population has doubled in less than 35 years. If we reduce fossil fuel CO2 load to ZERO, we make it up in respiratory CO2 in less than 35 years in more babies! That need to be fed! With no energy to do so! Wow! Like, how do we do that?
The simple arithmetic says that human population growth is a much greater contributor to CO2 load through just breathing than the fossil fuel load today. My plan to solve the CO2 problem? Breathe half as often. Maybe tax each breathe. Think of the efficiency to be gained there!
So... lets restrict sex. Fewer babies, and a lot less heavy breathing. That would be GREEN. And BLUE. as in balls. Maybe outlaw excercise... that heavy breathing is wrecking the atmosphere. Plus, over time, that will lead to a lot less sex anyway.