I am just ornery enough to think if Lisa Jackson pissed off the dirty energy industry she must have been doing a terrific job as director of the EPA. However, she will be stepping down after four years of scrutiny, second guessing, and downright nastiness from people like the Koch brothers surrounding her attempts to put teeth into environmental protection. As a recent Yahoo news story tells us:
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The past four years of U.S. environmental regulation was marked by a crackdown on emissions that angered coal miners and power companies. Over the next four, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency will have to decide whether to take on an even larger industry: Big Oil.
Following Lisa Jackson’s resignation on Wednesday, her successor will inherit the tricky task of regulating a drilling boom that has revolutionized the energy industry but raised fears over the possible contamination of water supplies.
The battle between the dirty energy industry and environmentalists has been going on for years and centers around the untenable dichotomy: either jobs or the environment. One gets tired of pointing out that we can protect the environment while at the same time we create jobs. But, while true, the statement falls on deaf ears, since when Big Oil says “jobs” it means “profits.” It is clear, however, that clean energy can provide thousands of jobs. It already does. Despite the lack of any solid support from the government, the solar industry, for example, already provides more jobs than the coal industry.
But Big Oil has poured billions into fracking in an attempt to extract cheap oil and gas from underground. It has a vested interest in continuing to exploit the earth and those jobs assuredly are at stake. The problem is that the fracking process contaminates millions of gallons of water — which is going to become increasingly precious — thereby rendering it useless for human or animal consumption. Jackson has said in public that the process can be made safe, but studies now underway will prove whether she was just saying what she was coached to say. In any event, Big Oil has put the screws on Jackson and waits to see who President Obama will nominate for the position she vacates to take a well-earned vacation.
Speculation is that Obama will be reluctant to nominate an environmental “hard-liner” because of the precarious condition of the economy and the fact that the energy industry is one of the few bright lights on the economic horizon, and oil is one of the few bargaining chips this country has to play in the international game of survival poker. But Jackson’s experience has shown that even a strong person may wilt under the constant attacks of the monied special interests who pull the strings in Washington. Compromise is possible if the person heading the EPA is tough enough to stand up to Big Oil with its bottomless pockets. A weak person in that position will almost certainly prove to be ineffective — and that is something future generations will live to regret. This may prove to be another example of short-term thinking directing political decisions; money provides the fuel. It’s getting to be a tiresome story.