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Pick your poison 

If you don’t hear from me for some time, it’s because I’m considering going back to school. Sure, it’s been awhile. And yeah, I was never very good at it to begin with, even before I killed the vast majority of my brain cells by snorting the dust bunnies lurking behind my couch. But I’ve got big dreams, and I think that graduating from middle school might help me achieve them.

Last time around, I was all ethical and cocky; I tried to do the work myself. This time, I figure I’ll just get Excelaron to do it. Or rather, Excelaron’s PR flaks, Barnett Cox & Associates. Sure, it won’t be entirely accurate. I’m pretty sure my report about the Civil War will be written from the perspective of the disenfranchised rich, white tobacco farmer, fighting militantly and patriotically to preserve his property. Because Excelaron understands that every struggle ultimately boils down to a question of rights—and, more specifically, your right as an American to make gobs of money at the expense of other people, not to mention the land. What were the slaves, after all, if not a natural resource of Africa?

How do I know Excelaron is willing to assist my scholarly impulses? In the first place, I’m pretty certain the list of things Excelaron wouldn’t do for money is shorter than the attention span of a caffeinated kitten stricken with ADD. Secondly, they’re already spoon-feeding the concerned public “right answers” about the recently completed Environmental Impact Report the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission is about to review.

And by “right answers” I mean three very selectively worded letter templates people are supposed to sign and send to the Planning Commission.

Does the mere idea of an independent thought give you hives? Does the notion of do-gooder Jack and Jill homeowners complaining about an oil field in their backyard make you foam at the mouth? Then sign here … and don’t worry, they’ve got a cream for those hives.

There’s a template for the mineral rights owner who would like to see NIMBY pipsqueaks basted in oil from their own backyards and lit on fire—for educational purposes.

“As a mineral rights owner, I have an intimate connection to Excelaron’s proposed oil evaluation efforts in Huasna Valley,” one letter template reads.

Awwww yeah. There’s nothing more intimate than an engorged wallet stuffed full of fresh green Jacksons rubbing against your … sorry, I lost myself there. The letter makes a valuable point. Some people—namby-pamby environmentalists—blabber on about humanity’s intimate connection with the land. But I prefer Excelaron’s interpretation of an intimate connection: money. Which is made from trees. So, really, our love for money is tied to a love of nature.

Screw those whiny neighbors boo-hooing because their ranch smells like elephant anus and grandpa’s asthma flared up so you had to put him in the hospital. Cry me a river, I’m sure I can suck the natural resources out of that, too. 

There’s a letter template for the history buff who prefers to lean on the colorful past to make a point about how “oil exploration has taken place in the Huasna Valley for more than a century.”

I hate to quibble with a team of PR bards, but I’m not quite certain that bringing up Huasna’s drilling history was the smoothest move.

If you’re not up to snuff on your Huasna history, here are the Cliff notes. This project was started by Grant Jagelman, an Australian oil guru perched in the upper echelons of the Australian Oil Company, and Will Divine, who tried to drill the valley way back when but failed. Now he’s some sort of reformed monk down in So Cal, or something. It’s weird, don’t ask.

After a bunch of finger pointing, the state picked up the tab to clean up Divine’s mess. You might think Divine being one of the founders of Excelaron would make Excelaron partly responsible for the cleanup, but you’d be wrong, you crackpot.

Excelaron also came in promising it would only drill four wells, even though the company was bragging to investors about way more. Then, after getting proverbially bitch-slapped by a bunch of farmers and ranchers known as the Huasna Valley Association, the company pulled out with its tail tucked tightly between its legs. Of course, a few months later it was back with plans to drill four “test wells”—and another eight down the line.

Somehow, though, they spun the whole situation like it was their plan from the start—that they were just responding to resident concerns. Semantics is, after all, worth its weight in oil.

They even manage to make the “you’re-so-broke-you-should-just-bend-over-and-take-it” argument: “At a time when San Luis Obispo County budgets are running in million dollar deficits, the Excelaron project is sorely needed.”

Obviously, poor people should just shut up and take what they can get, even if their rhododendron bushes are wilting and their white picket fence is brown.

Finally, the “I-promise-I-won’t-hurt-you-baby” assurance.

“How can you turn away a proven safe project that will improve the quality of life for many in our community?”

I was under the assumption that the project can only be proven safe when the drilling’s completed, there haven’t been any spills or fires, no one’s been hit by a crude-hauling truck, and the water table isn’t full of poison. Saying the project is proven safe because the company says it will be is like saying a gun is safe unless you go and do something stupid like shoot it.

Maybe school isn’t really for me. All that logic, all those pesky facts, having to write your own reports expressing your own ideas. Maybe I’ll just become an Excelaron PR drone. 

The Shredder’s in detention, so send your secretive notes to


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