Tag Archives: petroleum


Twenty-two years ago the United States was in the middle of a debate over flag burning. Congress had approved the Flag Protection Act of 1989. Literally the minute it took effect on October 28, 1989, opponents challenged it by publically burning flags.

People were arrested and charged, but ultimately charges were dropped because the law had been declared unconstitutional. In the ensuing years, more public acts of flag desecration were carried out. Organizations such as the American Legion protested some of these acts, including an art exhibit called What is the Proper Way to Display the U.S. Flag? at the Phoenix Art Museum.

Some people reacted violently to these acts. A number of states even tried to pass laws making the penalty for assault negligible if the victim was in the act of flag desecration. These were referred to as “beat up a flag burner laws.”

At the same time this was happening, crews were cleaning up spilled petroleum in Prince William Sound. Countless animals had died as a result of the Exxon Valdez being introduced to Bligh Reef by its captain. Among them were at least 250 Bald Eagles, America’s other symbol of national pride.

Yet there was no patriotic outrage about this desecration. The people who showed the greatest concern for the deaths of these living symbols were not those screaming bloody murder about flag burners. Nobody introduced laws making assault of careless ship captains worry-free.

Maybe it’s because we all know we are guilty of causing the devastation in Prince William Sound. Our consumption of petroleum continues to be insatiable. Although there is new-found interest in alternative forms of energy, those entrenched in the oil business have motivation to keep it on top, and will doubtless do all they can to keep it that way.

I consider myself a patriot. As an Army brat and former Boy Scout, I learned about flag ettiquette and practice it to this day. We display our flag on national holidays, but not in the rain or at night. We don’t allow the flag to touch the ground. When our flag becomes too soiled and tattered to display, we will send it to an organization which will destroy the flag in a dignified manner.

I am also a lover of wildlife, particularly birds. The images of dead and dying wildlife, particularly Bald Eagles, in Prince William Sound brought tears to my eyes. I still cannot understand how this tragedy did not motivate patriots to do something big about our thirst for petroleum.

There’s no time like the present, Americans.

Anger, Part II

In the paper this morning: “blobs of tar washed up at an Alabama beach full of swimmers… the ominous arrival of the sticky substance at Dauphin Island, Ala.”

It took longer than I expected, and I didn’t expect it to be the first landing spot, but there it is. Our friends on Dauphin Island have suffered the loss of one home (totally washed out to sea by Katrina), and severe damage to a second (flooded by Ivan) in hurricanes, now this. I can’t imagine it won’t get worse.

This photo, taken in April 2005 shows Mississippi Sound, which is between the island and the mainland. Right of center is an oil drilling platform. To the left of it near the center you may be able to make out the profile of a ship, probably an oil tanker. Flying in formation in the upper right corner are a half dozen Brown Pelicans, one of the species most impacted by DDT and removed from the endangered species list just last autumn.


John SherffiusI’m angry at British Petroleum. That iconic “BP” logo that I first noticed in movies and images of motor sports events is now nothing more than a symbol of corporate greed and irresponsibility. Human beings died, now wildlife is dying and our tax dollars go to work to clean up “Big Petroleum’s” mess. We don’t even know what the scope of this disaster will be.
Five years ago I stood on a beach on Dauphin Island, Alabama watching Northern Gannets diving far offshore into Mississippi Sound. You may have seen film of them on Discovery or PBS in the past. They start the dive high above the water. As they near the surface they fold back their wings, extend their necks, and plunge dagger-like into the water in pursuit of their prey. This occurs in large flocks and is a spectacular sight to see. There was a photo in the paper the other day of a worker cleaning the oil from the feathers of a Northern Gannet. Dauphin Island is directly north of the source of the spill. Enough said.