Monday, June 7, 2010

Random Thoughts of a Pending Summer

Just saw the film "Gasland," an indy film by Josh Fox about the mad "gas rush" to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale deposits under portions of 37 of these United States. It is very, very scary. Gas exploration companies are sinking these wells EVERYWHERE they can get a public or private lease, and thanks to some act of Congress, they are exempt from the national Clean Drinking Water Act, the Superfund bill, and a host of other pieces of legislation designed to protect the environment. The EPA and local and state environmental agencies are "looking the other way," either because of declining numbers of staff, or because they are "in bed" with these guys. Another issue the film raises is that these wells use a process called hydraulic fracturing or "fracing" to extract the gas. This process utilizes a raft of chemicals that are toxic, and there is already a long history of polluted ground water and well water at homes all around these drilling and extraction sites. When the gas companies are done with a well, they just simply walk away, leaving the resulting toxicity up to us, the tax payers, to clean up, as they are exempt from the Superfund Act, as previously stated.

You will want to see "Gasland." Be watching for it on HBO. After its "grass roots" tour of the U.S., it will be featured there this Summer. By the way, one of these Marcellus Shale wells just exploded in Pennsylvania recently, spewing gas and toxic chemicals into the air for over 16 hours. Apparently a "blowout preventer" valve failed. Sound familiar? We had better do something about this stuff, friends, for--unlike the off-shore oil wells--one of these babies is headed for a pasture land or forest near you.

One this theme, I am really starting to panic about what we are doing to the environment. Yes, I know that for decades we have been sounding alarms about this: land fills, water pollution, poisoning the air, etc. But this stuff is becoming small potatoes next to the blatant disasters of late, such as the BP incident and now this rampant raping of our lands to get natural gas. Screwing in a few fluorescent bulbs won't fix this. I wish I could give you more suggestions than the standard "write your congress person" kinds of things, but we do have to do something. The big push for oil and gas is on because we Americans are energy hogs. We need to find ways to use less and trade off for other sources of energy (yes, I know--MUCH easier said than done). I saw a documentary on PBS the other night about a community that, thanks to conservation and wind generated power, has broken its dependency on oil. It still boggles my mind that, as soon as gasoline prices drop a few cents, sales of massive SUVs and gas-hogging pickup trucks soar. It is too bad that the only way to get us to buy more fuel efficient vehicles is either to price gas so high we can't afford to fill the tanks of our behemoths, or have the government force the automakers to build more efficient ones. Wouldn't it be nice if we would just simply be concerned for our world and its environmental health and do the right thing?

Well, that was some rant, wasn't it? I am serious about these concerns, but am I serious enough to do more than blog? I hope so. It is just that I feel a bit helpless against Goliaths like BP and Halliburton (they make all of the fracing equipment for the gas industry). Still, someone has to start slinging the small stones...

Hope you have a great Summer, people. Again, don't forget to see "Gasland." You will love the part where Fox pits footage of industry spokesmen (and yes, they are all men) saying that "there is no evidence of well pollution in our process" against shots of land owners near the gas wells literally lighting their well water on fire at the kitchen tap!

Still, I wish you Shalom, my friends!

Dr. Jeff

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