The following is in reaction to the public comment session on fracking held Jan. 6th in Long Beach, CA. For more information and context.
It was like listening to an intervention — one by one by one, representatives of organizations, businesses, doctors, scientists and citizens stood at the microphones and expressed their outrage, concern, and proof that the practice of fracking was dangerous to individuals and their communities. Their comments were aimed at regulations surrounding fracking in California, only the formal document provided for public comment didn’t label it “fracking,” instead it was called something less inflammatory per se – “SB 4 Well Stimulation Treatment Regulations.” Really? Well Stimulation? Oh that sounds so much better, almost like a feather softly tickling deep inside miles of drilling shafts and bringing the motherlode of natural gas to the surface. One attendee congratulated the document’s writers for the “verble hand job” of turning fracking into something more mutually enjoyable.
While that moment earned a chuckle out of the audience, the bigger laugh of complete disbelief and irony came in response to the “job stimulation” rhetoric offered by a lawyer who just wanted to “put the 38.1% of California Hispanics to work.” He ignored prior testimonies of how fracking uses up and destroys what little fresh water we have, sets off earthquakes, and adds asthma causing particulates into the air… as just a few of its drawbacks. His “job offer” was both ignorant and insulting — the good news, Hispanics get a job, the bad news, their job slowly kills them and their families. What’s the next job option, drug dealing for dollars? It has the same outcome, high profits for owners at the top with no regard for the workers or the surrounding society it impacts.
No 6-year-old wants to be a drug dealer when he grows up and no rational adult wants to contribute to the fracking industry either, not when we have safe, non-polluting options that our cities can roll out first and develop into a safe solution. What about instilling AB 43 that was signed by Governor Brown in September 2013. Under AB 43 the City of Chico in California is considering a solar installation on city land which would reduce utility costs by 50% for over 6,000 households, create 142 jobs (54 permanent), generate about $240,000 in revenues for the city, and reduce CO2 emissions by ½ million tons over the life of the project. All good.
Chico has many cloudless days, but what about areas that aren’t so sunny? In Germany, which is much like Michigan in cloud cover and snow, solar has replaced the need for 22 nuclear reactors and half of that is locally owned. In Spain, wind outpaced nuclear in its power needs. Along with conservation and passive heating/cooling building techniques we can work our way off destructive fossil fuels and their gathering processes.
Take a step further back and and an even a bigger social disconnect is seen — no 18-year-old flips through their college curriculum options for classes that will teach them how to destroy the planet for the sake of a job. They want the skills and knowledge to work with sustainable products and companies or create their own solution.
Pouring a little gasoline on a fire may keep us warm, but does little to save the house that’s burning down. Fracking is like pouring a little gasoline on our energy problem and Universities know it. It’s why the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) promotes conservation and renewable energy as part of their campus operations and are working those practices into a new “sustainable” education model. What happens on campus, spreads to the community — Chico (the city) works with CSU Chico campus to improve the entire region in an impressive symbiotic relationship.
Fracking is a filthy energy solution that creates a long-term mess that we may or may not be able to clean up. The human spirit wants to build something innovative, safe, and scalable without destroying the very ground, water, and air that allows us to thrive. At the same time we want to grow a safe financial portfolio, too. To do anything less than sustainable is – well – not stimulating nor worthy of anyone’s career.