The energy industry and supporters use intensely powerful rhetoric extolling energy independence for the United States as a major reason we need to open every available piece of public land to drilling and hydrocarbon extraction. But while these messages are delivered, incessantly repeated and picked up as mantra by the "drill, baby, drill" folks, energy in many forms has quietly become a top American export.
Fuel oil exports are up over 120 percent while natural gas exports are up 5 + percent. US News and World Report noted two weeks ago that for the first time since 1949, America has become a net exporter of petroleum products. Fully 20 percent of all American annual natural gas production will be shipped to India, Japan and China if the Department of Energy approves additional gas export terminals.
Industry framing touts increases in local jobs and improvements to local economies. They also promote the idea that resource extraction will increase our self-determination as well as free us from the caprice of those hostile or unstable governments from whom we import energy. As energy independence is the advertised reason for all this drilling activity, why then are we shipping the resource to fuel the growth of other economies and governments?
People living here are yoked with the downsides of the extraction process, while at the same time, a number of companies and a few individuals earn phenomenal wealth through export of those materials. While there may yet be cleaner, less damaging ways to extract the product, if America is to shoulder, or be forced to accept the pollution of its air, water and lands by energy resource extraction, then Americans alone should utilize the fruits of that extraction. Laws should mandate that energy gleaned from American soil must stay in America.
I do not oppose wise oil and gas development. To do so would be disingenuous. I put oil and gasoline into my car and I heat my home as well as cook with natural gas. The issues here are not about the resources themselves, but rather, are more about proper choices of places from which to extract them, their methods of extraction, disposal of waste and drilling byproducts and of bringing the product to which markets and how.
There have far been too many examples and suggestions of fouled wells and water from gas extraction processes and we must do better at protecting our more essential resources, namely those truly required to maintain life. Sacrificing precious water resources, particularly in the west, must be viewed with suspicion and alarm and always be cautiously considered. Given that each well uses many millions of gallons of water in the frack process, is this really a method that is viable long term for our arid region?
We have the responsibility to be proper stewards for special places like Delta County so that they can go on relatively undisturbed and so that future generations can enjoy them as we have. While our advanced society surely requires energy, we need to be conscious and deliberate with our decisions, eternally vigilant about our process and always deeply considerate of the future, both near and distant, in terms of what exactly we wish it to look like. Failure to do so will have unsettling consequences.
Mitchell Gershten MD
Paoniablog comments powered by Disqus