Trumping The Environment

A recent online story about a Reuters poll that reflects the views of many Americans with respect to the environment is of considerable interest. It said, in part,

Some 39 percent of Americans would like to see the E.P.A., the nation’s top environmental regulator, “strengthened or expanded,” while another 22 percent hope for it to “remain the same,” according to the poll. Just 19 percent said they would like to see the agency “weakened or eliminated” and the rest said they “don’t know.”

Among Republicans, 47 percent wish for the EPA either to “remain the same” or be “strengthened or expanded,” while 35 percent want it “weakened or eliminated”.

The online poll of 9,935 people was conducted Dec. 16 to Jan. 12 and has a credibility interval, a measure of accuracy, of 1.1 percentage points.

“Trump is a businessman, and that’s all he thinks about … what will make money,” said Terry Cox, a 61-year-old resident of Tennessee who voted for the New York real estate mogul in November’s election. “But I’m hopeful there’s a limit to what he can do when it comes to weakening protections for wildlife and the environment.”

There are a couple of things that are of interest here. Let’s start with the most glaring, the quote from the Trump supporter who also is opposed to weakening protections. Where the hell has this man been the past few months??!! There’s no way his man will support a stronger E.P.A. He wants to eradicate all government controls and has nominated a candidate for watchdog of the E.P.A., Scott Pruitt, who claims to be a strong advocate of the E.P.A. but has repeatedly sued the agency and other government entities over environmental rules and regulations, at times in direct cooperation with fossil fuel companies. Moreover, according to FactCheck:

He falsely said in May that scientists “disagree about the degree” and “connection” of global warming “to the actions of mankind.” As we have written time and time again, the vast majority of climate scientists believe global warming is real and human-caused.
He also said the Clean Power Plan will “significantly” increase electricity prices. Whether the price change is “significant” is a matter of opinion, but the Energy Information Administration estimates that prices under the plan would range from a 7 percent decrease to a 7 percent increase between 2025 and 2040, depending on the region.
He implied in April 2014 that’s there’s no evidence to support a link between fracking and water contamination. There is some evidence to support a link in certain instances, but not enough to definitively conclude that contamination is widespread, as we wrote in early December.

Those who are bent on increasing the size of their investment portfolios and bank accounts couldn’t care less about wildlife and the environment. Trump himself has said that global warming is a fiction invented but he Chinese to cripple the American economy. In fact, he has never given us any evidence whatever to base any hope on his having a change of heart — about anything. He is convinced he knows what is best for the rest of us and is determined to bring about his dream for America, to make it “Great” again — whatever that means. He aspires to be Dictator. And the only “limits to what he can do” will not come from this Congress unless the voters of this country scream their collective voices out. But if anything will wake Americans up to what this man is committed to doing to the earth, it just might be the steps he will soon be taking to dismantle the E.P.A. and open public lands to oil exploration. We shall see.

The problem is the poll reflects what might be called a relaxed concern on the part of a great many Americans. They want tougher controls on Big Oil but they don’t want it enough to elect the men and women to Congress who are willing to take a stand on those issues. They respond to poll takers in the “correct” way and then go back to their television sets. Their “concerns” don’t translate into action.

Terry Cox is a case in point. He says he “opposes weakening protections for wildlife and the environment,” but he voted for a businessman who is probably the most anti-environment presidential candidate we have seen in recent years. Americans have consistently responded to polls in a manner that shows a genuine concern about their environment and even about wildlife. But consistently, they have failed to vote out of office those who are hell-bent on attacking the environment and eradicating protections for wildlife. I suppose you might say they pay lip service to the notion of protection but don’t really know what that entails. For men like Terry Cox is it merely a hope. A forlorn hope, I would say.

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Half-Truths About Fracking

I will quote a recent story from Yahoo News (culled from the AP) in its entirety:

AP Wirephoto  (Thanks to Yahoo News)

AP Wirephoto
(Thanks to Yahoo News)

RIFLE, Colo. (AP) — Three hours west of Denver, across the Continental Divide, the Rocky Mountains begin the long transition into high desert plateaus.

This sparsely-populated land is dotted with ranches and small towns that were once local hubs for mining the rich minerals found under the earth.

But over the past few years, this town and others have become increasingly a local center for the natural gas industry. Off the highway outside town in all directions, one can see evidence, large and small, of the latest local energy boom, from natural gas extraction all the way up the chain to refining.

Hydraulic fracturing — “fracking,” for short — pumps millions of gallons of water mixed with fine sand and chemicals deep into oil and gas wells.

The water splits open oil- and gas-bearing rock. Specially formulated fracking fluids help carry the sand into the newly formed fissures and keep the cracks propped open.

The rapid growth of the oil industry in the region has brought opposition from those who warn of environmental costs. In some places the practice has been blamed for air pollution and gas leaks that have ruined well water. But federal and many state regulators say the practice is safe when done properly.

To begin with, note the brevity of this article, given the immense complexity of the subject! Have we really become so stupid in the minds of the media that they think we can’t handle a lengthy article giving full details of a story that has major implications for all of us? In one brief sentence, almost in passing, the article notes the “opposition from those who warn of environmental costs” and assure us that “regulators say the practice is safe when done properly.” This is supposed to inform us about the millions of gallons of water that are used in this process that are rendered too contaminated for human or animal use thereafter — at a time when continued drought threatens the farming industry and farmers in Kansas are already importing water from Florida. Further, the snippet ignores the growing concern about the health of those who live in the region of the fracking operations who are beginning to experience a number of alarming symptoms — not to mention the carbon dioxide that is being expunged into the atmosphere, in North Dakota in particular, from fires triggered by the process. As we learn from Robert Krulwich, who reports for N.P.R., “When oil comes to the surface, it often brings natural gas with it, and according to North Dakota’s Department of Mineral Resources, 29 percent of the natural gas now extracted in North Dakota is flared off. Gas isn’t as profitable as oil, and the energy companies don’t always build the pipes or systems to carry it away. For a year (with extensions), North Dakota allows drillers to burn gas, just let it flare. There are now so many gas wells burning fires in the North Dakota night, the fracking fields can be seen from deep space.”

North Dakota Aflame From Space

North Dakota Aflame From Space

(As you can plainly see, it makes for quite a spectacle when viewed from outer space: much of North Dakota seemingly on fire!)

In a word, the photograph showing the hard-working oil man set against the snowy mountains says more than the article below it: it’s man against nature with no thought for the morrow. We destroy the land, water, and air in the name of creature comforts — ignoring the reasonable alternatives of conservation and clean energy. And we sum it all up in a few words with a photograph that will suggest to many (who will miss the metaphorical implications) the jobs the oil industry has promised in order to help our economy get back on its feet. I don’t buy it. A half-truth is worse than a blatant falsehood, and this story and photograph tell a half-truth. What they ignore, or what is merely implied, is of major importance and will go right over the heads of most readers — if they bother to read it at all.

Mitt’s Energy Plan

Mitt Romney recently revealed the energy plan he would pursue if elected President. From an environmental standpoint it is a disaster, which is no surprise. After all this is the man who just raised $7 million in one day from Big Oil. Bearing in mind that this plan was revealed in a speech by a politician running for public office, we can take it with a grain of salt. None the less it reveals his mindset at present.

His plan involves opening federal lands to oil and gas exploration — leaving drilling permission to local states (thereby reducing considerably the effectiveness of the E.P.A.); it will allow drilling for oil off the East Coast of Virginia and the Carolinas; it will promote the Keystone Oil Pipeline, which Mitt has pledged to complete if he “has to build it with [his] own hands.” As a recent article in the Washington Post put it:

Getting there, Romney argues, will require three big things. First, the United States will need to open up more federal lands and waters to oil and gas drilling. President Obama, he says, has been far too sluggish on this front. Second, the federal government will need to give states more power to approve permits, in order to speed up the rate of drilling. And third, Romney would focus on building pipelines like Keystone XL and partnerships with Canada and Mexico to take fuller advantage of those countries’ oil resources. (Remember, Romney is promising “North American energy independence,” not U.S. energy independence.)

The plan, which touts “energy independence” for North America makes no mention of clean energy. In fact, it would eliminate subsidies for wind and solar energy, thereby discouraging alternate energy development. And there is no talk whatever of such cutting-edge projects as research into nuclear fusion or harnessing energy from the ocean tides. Mitt’s plan is all about “jobs.” He claims that his plan would create 3.6 million jobs. Here we go again.

To begin with, this plan commits the fallacy of bifurcation: either we create jobs or we save the planet, we can’t do both. Bollocks! We can do both. As I noted in a recent blog, The Union of Concerned Scientists has proposed  “a national renewable-electricity standard that ensured that utilities obtained at least 25 percent of their power from wind, solar, and bioenergy by 2025,” insisting that this would “create 297,000 new jobs, $13.5 billion in income to rural landowners, and $15.3 billion in new local tax revenues.”

But more importantly it is generally agreed that the 3.6 million jobs promised by this politician is an inflated figure. The actual number of jobs would be much lower. Further, jobs created during an oil boom are temporary and are almost always created at the cost of jobs elsewhere: people leave lower paying jobs to take the high-paying, albeit temporary, oil jobs. So the word “create” is being used in a very creative way here.

The truly disturbing thing about this plan is that it is completely out of tune with the times. For one thing, as the Bloomberg News reported recently, the U.S. is closer to energy independence at present than Romney would allow.

The U.S. is now closer to energy independence than anyone who waited in 1970s gas lines could have imagined. As Bloomberg News reports, oil imports fell to about 45 percent of U.S. demand last year and are expected to fall to about 42 percent this year, down from a peak of 60 percent in 2005. More than 80 percent of the country’s demand for power is now met by domestic sources. . .

Furthermore, this plan focuses on “jobs” and “energy independence” at the expense of the planet at a time when we should be concentrating on ways to protect the earth from further deterioration at the hands of greedy humans — while we might at the same time actually be creating jobs in the clean energy industry. Thus it would appear as I suggested in an earlier blog, this election is not about choosing between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Despite the fact that Barack Obama has been somewhat disappointing, he has not mounted an attack on the environment and he has not targeted social programs that benefit the poor. We do have a real choice.