America’s Worst Idea – Fracking

Playing off Ken Burn’s title for his award-winning film about the National Parks (America’s Best Idea), I look at fracking as its polar opposite. The fact that it is in our repertoire of extraction technologies at all is another indication that we are still willing to let expedient methodologies lure us from harder decisions that truly turn us toward the cleanest forms of oil extraction.

Hydraulic fracking threatens watersheds and releases carbon monoxide gas (three times more heat-trapping than CO2). Below is a report from Cornell University demonstrating the increased threats to global ecosystems from fracking as compared to mining coal.

Howarth-EtAl-2011

We let this business opportunity drive another stampede to economic development and individual profit. Its true that new jobs at drill sites pay well. Desperate Americans and their families follow the gravy train to pull themselves out of poverty. They are not to blame.Shame on us that we provide opportunities that imperil workers, their families, and communities from the worst impacts of a highly polluting form of extraction. The National Academies Press just released a report on the health impacts of fracking on workers. Once again the technologies are in front of safety for workers; after they begin showing signs of health problems, then we begin to investigate.

Yes, going to natural gas as we make our way to alternative fuels that are not harmful to the environment is a strategy we have to use. But HOW we get there and HOW SOON we get there are once again subverted to benefit oil companies at the expense of everyone on the planet.

Human beings possess not only reasoning but the ability to realize when we have misunderstood something; gosh, maybe we could be wrong. The ability to recognize our mistakes and take a new path is commendable. There is too much staid language about energy independence at all costs that drives public opinion. Endangering our precious water sources, human- and wild- life while adding more heat-trapping gases into our atmosphere is not increasing national security. Don’t buy the rhetoric. Think for yourself.

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