(Originally published at http://thecollectivereport.weebly.com/)
As we progress further into the 21st century and witness an era of new and more “exotic weather,” the extinction of animals and habitats, and the growing temperatures, the debates on climate change have seem to only dumbed down. By the end of the Bush II era, people overall, 60% of the population, believed that climate change was happening and humans were responsible for its dramatic increase. Although in the last several years, due to lobbyist, political will power, and the introduction and growth of the tea party, there has been a dip in the public’s overall perception of global warming being real, let alone an issue.
The conflict of Climate Change stands as is with science, a majority, 97%, believe it’s happening and man is part of the cause. Then there are those who have been subdued to believe otherwise. While the public is beginning to shift their views back to believing, corporate lobbyist and politicians continue the struggle to have us think otherwise.
As companies use words like “natural gas” and “clean coal” becoming the rally cry for clean energy, we are stopping and delaying the expansion of real clean energy like electric, wind, and solar. Nuclear power plants are also seeing its comeback as safe and clean alternative through the misguided documentary Pandora's Box. Even as we're still witnessing the fallout from the Fukushima plant. Yet, the issue being least discussed, but deserves the most attention is the effects of prolonging the inevitable, which is at the heart of the climate change debate, moving to actual green energy.
In a lot of cases, climate change comes off as hyperbole, a theory that is predicated to happen with the potentiality of being derailed or altered with practiced trends. Scientist alert us that we're surpassing the point of no return, but the real consequences of our current actions is what land we're already destroying and the water we're consistently polluting, especially with the expanding regions suffering droughts.
The discussion of economics and job creation, whether through the XL pipeline, the “clean” coal plants, or the growing and very profitable industry of hydraulic fracturing are having a very negative impact on our country right now. Aside from the short-term jobs that might be provided through either one of these processes, it's overlooking the bigger picture, which is a livable habitat. Without that, there are very few things, if any, for people to enjoy the benefits of such processes continuing.
Let's start with the coal-mining in the case of Mountaintop removal. Either way you look at this, it comes down to the realization that there is no such thing as “clean” coal. Clean coal is just a marketing gimmick for corporations to delude the public into thinking coal can be somewhat sustainable and environmentally friendly business. Mountaintop removal
is the process of placing explosives inside a mountain and literally blowing it up. This process is much easier and more cost-effective for coal companies to retrieve the coal. At the same time it's very destructive as you're literally blowing the
tops of mountains off which creates a very dismal sight as well as creating runoff that blocks up creeks, rivers, and kills all
wildlife in sight, which these companies have no incentive and are given a pass by regulation allowing them to neglect clean up.
Hydraulic Fracturing (fracking) has exploded onto scene with wells popping up all over the US. The controversy over the procedure got national attention with the release of the documentary Gasland, which is the exploration of a man's journey to discovery what this new fracking phenomenon was. Most people will remember the infamous scene showing a resident who could light his faucet water on fire.
The debate and serious concerns over the process have grown, while more and more wells keep popping up in Texas, California, Oregon, Washington, New York and throughout the Midwest. In many cases residents aren't even aware it's happening in their state, or figure it's too far away for them to be impacted. Yet, this is one of the few processes that can override both the Clean Air and go Clean Water Act. Even to this day, it's not publicly known what all the chemicals used in the process are. The procedure itself contaminates water multiple times. It uses freshwater to be injected into the ground to break up the shale. Then the water is disposed in large vats that occasional leak into the soil contaminating
ground water below. When extracting the gas it can leak into ground water sources nearby when it's being broken up
from the shale. Reports have told of cases of hydraulic fracturing being responsible for poisoning people's ground
water, causing rashes, burn, and irritated skin, making people sick, killing or severely deteriorating the health of farm animals, ruining or contaminating crops, and even in the mid-west to cause earthquakes.
The biggest promotion for fracking by politicians and pundits is to become less dependent on foreign oil. Yet, at the same time, most of the places that are fracking are exporting the gas outside of the US. As for the jobs that are created, in most cases the company contracts out and brings in outside parties to the local communities where they're fracking. As was seen with the former head of Chevron, a company that partakes and promotes fracking, he joined protest movement once he saw fracking appear in a neighborhood where he held property, claiming that its value would depreciate. So, even the people pushing the process are aware of the damages that are being forced on the public.
The debate continues over whether to approve the XL pipeline, and the Obama administration inaction is only more discouraging. The main debate over whether the pipeline should be approved or not is about the jobs that it will provide. And any jobs that it would create would be short-term. There is also the controversy over the backers of the pipeline itself, none other than the Koch brothers. The two brothers who will stop at nothing to deny real clean energy a chance, especially in their home state.
Within the last two years, scientists and environmentalist have found other reasons to be weary of having such a pipeline
exists; to pull all that oil out of the ground and use it would be game over for mankind in climate change terms. This again, becomes an abstract idea, that a country that only lives in the now, can't relate with and see no existing threat. Yet, there are other very real consequences with the approval of the pipeline. The oil would be transported through populated communities and wildlife habitat. This can be deadly given the current history of transporting oil on a train through these regions.
Train derailments have happened, four times in the last year and a half, just in the US. The most deadly derailment and
explosion of oil being transported was in Lac-Magnatic, Quebec, which killed over 40 people. Three of the derailments that occurred in the US happened in populated communities. One derailment had the same explosive effect as the derailment in Lac-Magenatic, but fortunately occurred outside of a populated town. In all cases people had to be evacuated from their community and the emergency response crew, train operators, and townspeople were unaware of the flammability and danger of Bakken crude, which was the oil being transported through the cities. This type of oil is taken from North Dakota and transported all over the US. Bakken crude is produced at such a quick pace that drilling companies have little incentive to separate out the volatile gases – this makes it more combustible and have higher vapor pressure – which is otherwise standard industry practices.
In addition the railroad industry have been given a pass – after much lobbying effort – to make their own routing decision for these dangerous transports without public disclosure after the US government attempted to reroute hazardous material around downtown or populated areas. When taking into account of the four accidents that have happened in the last year, the lack of funding to properly maintain all railways, along with the weak containers – referred to as Pepsi cans – the Bakken crude is held in, it becomes very easy to be a little apprehensive about these trains passing through
your neighborhood. The explosion in Quebec should be, if anything, a warning of things to come if we don't change the policy and safety of the railway and the containers these oil companies use. Taking a quick look at this map and you can see if it runs in your area.
It should not really come as a surprise that these companies are allowed to continue their reign and dominance over the
energy debate. Yet, the real issue again is not about the abstract of what these companies can do in the long run. What they're doing now and participating in now, and pretty much since their inception, have been damaging the world and
habitat for millions of people. You don't have to look further than a decade to realize the political oppression oil companies like Chevron and Shell imposed on Latin America and Asian countries.
BP is the most recent company with a get-out-of-jail-free card. As of May, they were able to begin drilling again in the gulf, an area that is still seeing the effects from the disaster that happened in 2009. Although the clean-up effort has been praised by the company and government as a god send, the fishing community has still yet to recovery, and marine life is suffering as with the recent study on the effects with dolphins losing their teeth and dying off in large groups.
These are the topics that aren't being debated when we talk about climate change, and if they are, it's a side note. And when I mean discussions and debates, I mean through the media. No one is championing against these companies, or these continued practices because most major news outlets are sponsored in some way or another by oil, gas, or coal companies. Yet, we as the public need to confront these demanding issues now before our communities become unlivable wastelands in name of either arrogance, or of blind greed.
There is light at the end of the tunnel. Protest against fracking, coal mining, and the potential go ahead of the XL pipeline, have been gaining momentum. There has been a historical number of people demanding these actions stop or at the very least be regulated. As described earlier, in most of these cases it’s a lack of understanding of the processes and the deception that corporations use for the sake of profit. We as a public should become more aware of what is happening in
our local community and when we can, support the growth of solar, wind, and electric.
In truth, people are having a positive role. With the recent indiegogo campaign to run a test trial of solar roadways; they doubled their original goal of 1 million. So, the trends may be changing, but we shouldn’t let our guard down as more leases on land to use for fracking, mining, and drilling continue to expand. We just need to work within the public domain in creating a sustainable lifestyle and future that helps the environment and thereby building a stronger sense of community. Otherwise we can expect more spills, more “accidents,” more pollution, more death, and fewer places to call