The reason you should have so little patience and tolerance for the many zealots in our community, namely politicians and activists, has to do with the maxim, “Those who don’t make mistakes don’t make anything.”

Our increasingly urbanized populace is completely dependent upon the production and delivery of food and energy to a class of people who are consumers only — consumers who have neither the land, the knowledge, nor the resources to satisfy their daily needs. What’s worse is that the consumer class tends to pay heed to those who make a living condemning the producers in our society. These professional critics pose as experts and critics to the masses whenever the producers appear to err. Yet, having no real-world experience, the critics are basing their criticism on idealized, fantastical notions of how things should work.

Take for instance the recent pipeline break at Refugio. Certainly, the possibility exists that the pipeline operators were negligent in accurately inspecting and maintaining the pipeline. If that turns out to be the case, then by all means let them be punished and held accountable. But whether a pipeline breaks as a result of negligence or happenstance, do we shut down an entire industry because of it? The real-world reality is that our manufacturing and transportation sectors are relatively safe, but nothing in this world is perfect. It is a sad but tragic reality that we still suffer the effects of occasional airplane and train crashes, shipwrecks, car wrecks, factory explosions, gas leaks, sewage spills, bridge failures, and the like. If we held to the standard of zero tolerance for accidents, impacts and mishaps, we would all simply starve in the darkness.

We have all witnessed the politicians and the activists trying to exploit this crisis to their particular advantage, but what about their role in all this? Did not the Environmental Defense Center demand that we move our locally produced oil via pipeline instead of other means? And what about government’s culpability in this incident? Pipelines are regulated. Did the regulators blow it in their oversight role? Will they be held accountable? What about the response to the spill? Did not the government bureaucracy we have in place prevent an immediate local response because nobody had the permits or authority to respond posthaste? A couple of bulldozers and vacuum trucks on the scene could have prevented much if not all of the oil from getting to the ocean. Will any of these people, including the politicians who created this regulatory juggernaut and reprehensible time lapse, be held liable too?

The NIMBY industry lynch mobs notwithstanding, the fact remains, despite the rhetoric, our society needs the oil and gas we produce here locally because of consumer demands that continue to grow exponentially worldwide. And, our local schools, firefighters and other county services need the tax revenue generated by these producers. Calamities of any kind are truly regrettable, but only cynics count the cost, but not the value, of life in the real world.

Andy Caldwell is the executive director of COLAB and host of the Andy Caldwell Show, weekdays from 3-5 p.m. on News-Press Radio AM 1290.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara News Press.