Today, the streams of my boyhood home in Ohio flow with more toxic chemicals than they used to, thanks to Youngstown becoming a popular destination for oil and gas development wastes. When the underground injection of “frack fluid” was shut down after being linked to earthquakes there, a local waste hauler just dumped his loads into a storm drain. (He didn’t have an abandoned coal mine handy, like his counterparts in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky.) This incident points out a sobering fact: the shale patches in this country are much larger and more numerous than the coal patches.
And we will exploit them until all recoverable petroleum reserves have been brought up and sold off. That objective is nearly complete for New York’s conventional oil and gas reserves. Thankfully (for us), most of that was done in the westernmost counties.
Now we live in a gas patch, and the sacrificial lambs for new development will be our own children and grandchildren. This isn’t about national energy security; the methane isn’t that precious, or they’d capture the gas which comes up with the oil in Alaska and North Dakota instead of flaring it off. No, it’s homage to the petroleum gods, praying that if we let them do whatever they want, our prices won’t go up.
So, if we can’t kick our addiction to fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy, can we at least deal with our hypocrisy? Our grandchildren – asking “Why did you hate us enough to sell off all the easy energy under our feet and leave this horrific mess in its place?” – deserve an honest answer.
We didn’t hate you, dear ones; we loved you. But we loved cheap energy more.
RON BISHOP, PH.D., is a lecturer at the State University College at Oneonta.