Oil seems to be coming out of hiding. Its stark finitude, the prospect that it might run out, lends it new visibility.
This reminds me a little of some lines from “Two Legends” by Ted Hughes (from Crow):
Black is the earth-globe, one inch under,
An egg of blackness
Where sun and moon alternate their weathers
The sense I get at the moment is that oil is closer to the surface now than ever before, “one inch under”, or less.
I’m not just referring to the mining of oil sands or the process of fracking. What seems to be happening is that we are no longer able to ignore oil because one of many things oil has until recently been able to provide is an abundant and largely invisible supply of energy. But the strain of keeping up that pretense of discreet service is beginning to show.
For a while we became accustomed to think of oil as emerging from deep in the earth, often in the form of a powerful, black jet of crude: the “gusher”. Apart from many films, that is an image we get from Upton Sinclair’s novel, Oil! in which he often romanticises the technological achievement of drilling through rock to depths of about a mile and then lining and “capping” the resulting well in order to contain the oil under prodigious subterranean pressure.
However, despite the highly visible gusher which announced its arrival, oil was always meant to remain out of sight — in pipelines, barrels, fuel tanks, or in vast subterranean lakes — so that it could continue to work for us, without making a mess.
The images I’m using here are of an oil product fleetingly visible before it is covered “forever” by a thin layer of in-fill and — in this particular case — a scattering of wood chips.