We have met the enemy…

We have met the enemy…
Remember Pogo, the philosophy-filled possum that lived in the Okefenokee Swamp? For nearly four decades, he was brought to us daily in our newspapers' funny pages, thanks to the creativity and artistic talent of the comic strip's creator, Walt Kelly.

While listening to Denny Larson, coordinator of the National Refinery Reform Campaign, speak to a packed house in Vermillion Oct. 24, I couldn't help but think of Pogo's famous quote.

It first appeared in an introduction to Pogo Papers, a collection of the strips published by Simon and Schuster in 1952-53. The introduction states, in part:

"There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve, then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tiny blasts of tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us."

As years passed the final paragraph was reduced to "We have met the enemy and he is us," in a Pogo strip that appeared on the very first Earth Day in 1971.

Pogo, a fictional cartoon character, made this statement over 35 years ago. But he might as well be a living, breathing, flesh-and-blood person, er, talking possum.

I envy Pogo, if he is still alive, at least in spirit, today, pontificating on happenings across the nation and especially in our corner of the state.

He no doubt would once again conclude that yes, we have met the enemy and he is us.

Larson seemed to suggest that the 400,000 barrel per day oil refinery that Hyperion Resources may construct in Union County isn't needed, because existing oil refineries have been expanding their output.

Larson quoted Red Cavaney, president and chief executive of the American Petroleum Institute, who noted that over the last decade, we (the United States) have added the equivalent of a new 200,000 barrel-a-day refinery each year.

What Larson didn't explain is the reason this is happening.

For the past two decades, deregulation and low profits combined to push the oil-refining industry into consolidation, writes Mark Clayton in the Christian Science Monitor. Partly because of environmental regulations, it was cheaper to expand existing refineries than to build new ones.

In 1981, the U.S. had 324 refineries with a total capacity of 18.6 million barrels per day, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

By 2005, there were just 132 oil refineries with a capacity of 16.8 million barrels per day, according to Oil and Gas Journal, a trade publication.

But something happened that would have a profound effect on the way the oil industry does business.

We were visited by Hurricane Katrina. She shut down 20 percent of the nation's oil-refining capacity in a single day.

She boosted the price of fuel nationwide by more than 45 cents a gallon on average in a week.

And "tiny blasts of tiny trumpets" calling for new refineries were sounded at Capitol Hill.

Congress got an earful from industry officials who argued for tax breaks to bolster capacity and complained that environmental regulations and "not in my backyard" citizen movements had blocked efforts to build new refineries.

Many in Congress are pushing for refinery construction, even though many people see them as undesirable.

Pogo no doubt would acknowledge that those who dread the idea of an oil refinery in their backyards have legitimate concerns.

And, so do those who believe, for decades to come at least, we still will need to rely on oil and its products to fuel our automobiles, to heat our homes and to power our industries.

The Energy Information Administration reported today (Nov. 6) that the forecast for oil use growth worldwide in 2008 will hold steady, not decrease, at 1.5 million barrels per day. This is despite the fact prices have, so far, risen 20 percent.

The world currently consumes about 85.6 million barrels of oil a day.

Total U.S. petroleum consumption is expected to increase by 0.5 percent in 2007 and 1 percent in 2008, despite the higher oil and petroleum product prices. Continued economic growth and forecasted colder average temperatures this winter than last winter could combine to push demand higher.

Sigh … we have met the enemy …

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