The documentary "Gasland" first aired on HBO on June 21, just weeks after the worst oil spill in the history of the United States. I'll warn you: watching it will infuriate you...that is if you care about individual human beings over the profit of the fossil fuel industry. Basically, the documentary highlights how natural gas drilling, specifically a process called fracking, across the U.S. is poisoning people's water supplies (in some cases resulting in water being flammable coming straight out of the faucet) and air quality resulting in the deteriorated health of those living near a natural gas well.
One of the key premises of the documentary is the fact that the natural gas industry was able to exempt drilling fluid used in fracking in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Guess who helped push through that act? Dick Cheney, ex-CEO of Halliburton. From Wikipedia on the topic of fracking:
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempted hydraulic fracturing from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Reports of ground water contamination have questioned whether the exemption is appropriate. A complete listing of the specific chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations are not currently made available to landowners, neighbors, local officials, or health care providers. This practice is under scrutiny as well.
While watching "Gasland" and the continuing news of the Gulf Oil spill, and thinking about America's relationship to fossil fuel, I can't get one line of the rapper DMX's song "Let me Fly" out of my head:
I sold my soul to the devil, and the price was cheap.
I understand that we need energy. I understand that we can't currently meet our energy demand through renewable energy. But when our society signed a contract with the fossil fuel industry, I don't think that we meant to sign away our freedom, our health, and our environment. Sure, everyone wants something for the least amount of money as possible. But I don't think anyone wants to cheapen the American way of life for the purpose of a little lower cost fossil fuel. We need fossil fuel to run our current economy, but we don't need to whore out our environment and well-being so a few "suits" in the energy industry can line their pockets a little more.
When is society going to wake up and understand that the health and well-being of many Americans is being undermined by those in the fossil fuel industry who care about profit more than they do safety?
For an example of how some in the fossil fuel industry are putting profit ahead of society and environment, I made this convenient little list (and remember, this is just a tiny sampling):
- Mountaintop coal removal: Desire for cheap coal results in the demolition of million-year old Appalachian mountains damaging streams and rivers with runoff in the process.
- TVA Coal sludge pond spill in Tennessee: Poor engineering of the sludge pond's dam and negligence in its upkeep resulted in the largest spill of its kind in U.S. history damaging the surrounding area, destroying the property value of land owners, and resulting in health complaints by neighbors
- BP Gulf Oil Spill: Poor safety standards and lack of a safe shutoff redundancy, coupled with a complete lack of preparation in the event of a spill result in the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
- Natural Gas Fracking damaging air and water supplies: Drilling fluid used in the fracking process and lack of concern about people living around natural gas wells result in water supplies being ruined, unhealthy air quality, and the sickening of many living around natural gas wells.
Luckily it seems that with enough public outcry, regulators will eventually put the safety of people over the profits of drillers. In April of 2010 regulators in Pennsylvania blocked Cabot Oil and Gas from drilling in the state until it cleaned up areas it has already destroyed. Cabot is one of the gas companies featured in Gasland.
Mapawatt Blog is about helping people live more sustainably by implementing energy and water conservation strategies and adopting clean energy, but even the most efficient home is worthless if it is spoiled by a mountaintop vista that is mowed down by a coal company, a coal sludge pond spill, an oil spill, or a ruined water supply due to natural gas fracking.
Natural gas is one of the cleanest fossil fuels we can use. But as a society, we must ensure that it is procured in a manner that doesn't harm the environment and the people who live around natural gas wells. To our "leaders", to those we entrust our freedom to, I must ask, "What the frack?" To readers, I say, "Don't let your future be dictated by cheapskates."