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Fracking Pond

It was a relief to hear more than a passing reference to climate change in President Obama's State of the Union Speech, including promises of more support for wind and solar power. But the oil industry heard nothing to even cause even a smidgen of concern.

Asking Congress to "get together to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change" should have been marked in the transcript as a laugh line.  And the presidential promise to "keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits" was an emergency alert for communities under siege from natural gas fracking and states--particularly California--whose dwindling supply of clean water is being sucked away by both oil companies and climate change.

While the president pledged support for "research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and our water," technology is only as good as the corporations willing to pay for it as well as put safety above profit. What citizens want is information and a say in the process. Right now they have precious little of either. 

So the citizen's challenge to President Obama and Congress has to be this:

  • We want knowledge and the oil industry demands secrecy about its drilling, its safety procedures, the toxic chemicals it injects into wells and the effects of drilling on land, water and air.
  • We want responsibility and the oil industry wants deniability about chemical and methane seepage (to protect it from liability for the damage it causes, from poisoning our water to killing farm stock after leaks from wastewater ponds like the one pictured above).
  • We want advance information about new drilling and the industry wants no discussion with communities before the drill bits hit the soil; dangerous fracking gets far less advance scrutiny than solar and wind projects.
  • We want the environmental and quality of life effects of drilling measured and balanced before deep new fracking and injection wells go up next door; the industry calls such requests "job killers.

Judy DuganPresident Obama rightly praised the growth of cleaner cars and called for more conservation and greener buildings. He left no wiggle room in his speech for climate-change deniers, not with American coastal communities being submerged by rising seas and ever-more-frequent giant storms like Sandy. Yet that firmness doesn't track with his praise for clean-burning natural gas. Any clean-air benefit in combustion has to be balanced against the high volumes of methane--which is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide--in the gas fracking process.

He praised growing North American energy independence--yet such "independence," in a global market like oil, will do exactly nothing to reduce U.S. gasoline prices. And the worse cost is the acceptance of filthy tar sands oil from Canada, which pollutes at every stage from extraction to refining.

Everything in politics is a tradeoff, and President Obama has at least put energy conservation and climate change back on the national radar. What we need to see now is a commitment to saving our air, land and water for generations to come, rather than accepting the false "job killer" mantra of industry and its empty promises to put safety over profit.
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Posted by Judy Dugan, former research director for Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing an effective voice for taxpayers and consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This is the end of a diary in que for Sunday (0+ / 0-)

    The economy we have is locked into well established patterns of resource depletion, needless consumption, and deadly waste production.  Clearly we do not want that economy to grow.  We do not need growth we need change.  We need to build a sustainable system and to create jobs for both the unemployed and those who now work in places that are doing us harm.  If people are to live a decent life they need to earn wages to make that possible.  Excess profits and needless consumption can be eliminated to make this happen.  Manufacturing those things we need to last and in a form that is repairable is imperative.  Growing food in sane ways locally whenever possible is also a part of such a transformation. Such measures would include green energy sources and life styles that cut back on energy and other resource consumption.

    No, it is not possible to ask a sitting president to start such a revolution.  Yet if you understand what is really needed the kind of theater we are given in our political world is not even close to satisfying.  We need  better weathermen to tell the people which way the wind is blowing.  And we need them soon.

    An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

    by don mikulecky on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 11:37:00 AM PST

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