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Dec 06, 2011
Sustainability and the Future of Energy
Late last week, my oldest son looked up at me from his cereal and excitedly asked if I think that there are aliens on other planets, and if they've ever come here. I told him, “I'm sure there are aliens out there somewhere, but I don't know if they've ever come here before.”
What I was thinking was, “I sure hope they haven't visited yet.” Think about it.
Imagine that a species from another world visits this planet and looks at what we're up to — out of curiosity or anything else. Imagine they see our world is rich in fresh water, with bountiful reserves of food in the sea, and large tracts of land for agriculture. Imagine they see the massive ball of energy that could be providing cheap, clean power to everyone. Imagine they see wind pummeling the seashores with nothing there to greet it but immense homes and shopping malls.
How embarrassed would we be? How primitive would we feel?
This is something that comes to mind a lot whenever I think about something like hyrdaulic fracturing, also known as fracking. This massive step backward in energy harvesting is just another way that we are stagnating ourselves as a country.
It's also another way in which my generation is attempting to rob my son's generation of something it needs in return for something it doesn't. While China is already surpassing the U.S. in solar and wind development, we're taking fresh water (something we need), mixing it with chemicals (which are toxic), and firing it into the ground to break rocks and release natural gas (which we don't need). Taking the alien metaphor out of things entirely, I can't personally wrap my head around it.
The industry says that fracking doesn't pollute the groundwater when it's done properly. The industry also says that there are massive gains to be made in terms of job growth and energy savings. It's funny how industries will always go on and on about how great everything they do is, and will rarely ever talk about possible negative impacts.
Well, here's the reality. These major contentions of safety, job growth and energy independence are a farce. In fact, independent organizations like Food and Water watch have looked at job growth in areas where fracking is already a norm, and have found that job growth was less than one tenth of what the industry touted it would be.
Furthermore, Bloomberg News recently crunched the numbers on U.S. energy statistics based off numbers from the Department of Energy, and you know what they found? In the first three quarters of this year, the United States was a net exporter of petrolium. This is the first time this has happend since 1949. By the looks of things, we're already pretty energy independent.
Finally, the water thing ... I mean, come on. Do I really have to go over why it's a bad idea to take fresh water, load it with noxious industrial chemicals, and shoot it into the ground near aquifers? I mean, seriously: let's be reasonable.
All this boils down to is a fairly basic premise: fracking is a joke. It's a really bad joke that is going to cost our children the right to clean water, and that will decimate untold amounts of necessary farmland. People will always need water. They will always need food. God willing, they will not always want natural gas.
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