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Carl Davidson's 'Keep On Keepin' On Commentaries

The Low Road to Ecological Perdition:
Greed Tries Turning Natural Gas 'Green'

By Carl Davidson
Keep On Keepin' On

It's hard to decide who has less shame, the Pennsylvania legislature's GOP-led majority or the natural gas industry.

The question is raised by a Sept. 2, 2011 report in the Pittsburgh Business Times headlined, "Gas as alternative energy? New PA bill says yes."

So we're now faced with yet another sweetheart deal concocted jointly by our two local big-time political hustlers. They want to declare natural gas as a 'tier two alternative energy' to get their hands on tax credits earmarked for real green startups. To add insult to injury, both are also blocking any extraction tax on the gas released from the Marcellus shale by the environmentally dangerous 'fracking' underground explosions.

That's like someone picking your pocket with one hand while attaching your paycheck with the other.

Let's get this straight. Taking any form of carbon from under the ground, burning it, and putting the resulting carbon dioxide in the air is not an 'alternative energy.' Claiming so puts you in the running for the George Orwell 1984 'War is Peace' award.

There's only one rational, strategic way to burn carbon for energy: set aside part of the profits from this decidedly un-green process to create the investment fund for true alternative energy systems. Over time, this will help phase out the burning of carbon as a primary energy source altogether.

Here's something most kids learn in their high school Earth Science classes, even if our paid-off politicians and short-sighted and carbon-addicted business leaders are in denial:

Alternative energies, for the most part, derive from the interplay of the Earth, Sun and Moon. That's solar cells and solar collectors, wind turbines, hydro power and wave generators taking advantage of tides and other ongoing movement of water. The few exceptions are geothermal sources, tapping into the heat below the Earth's crust. All these are practically inexhaustible and leave a relatively low ecological footprint. That's why they're called 'renewable' and 'green'.

When brought to scale and with the proper technology--almost all of which is already invented and in use in many parts of the world--renewable energies can provide almost all our needs, from running heavy industry and powering land-based transportation to turning on your porch lights. We'll still need a small amount of hydrocarbons to power aircraft, but even that can be reduced with electromotive high-speed rail.

What's more, making the transition to clean and green energy requires a massive but productive increase in modern high-tech, high-value-added manufacturing and the jobs that go with them. That's why Leo Gerard of the United Steelworkers has been hammering away at their importance for years now.

That's also the high road to economic and energy development for creating new wealth here at home.  But our legislature or at least a majority of it, along with the speculators bound up with the Marcellus Shale, want to take us down the low road to less sustainable low-wage growth and disaster-threatening ecological perdition.

This bill is simply the latest case in point. It's time for the Blue-Green alliance and a job-building, progressive-minded majority to expose these shenanigans, get rid of the shale-related corruption and organize the independent political clout to put us on a proper clean and green course.

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