Drilling and the race card


I'm old enough to remember the great civil rights struggles of the 1960s, as well as the organizations that led them, like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Student Non-violent Co-ordinating Committee, and the Congress of Racial Equality.

They accomplished much, and even though our next American president will be an African-American, there is doubtless more to do. But I didn't know that had much to do with natural-gas drilling in sensitive areas of the West until I received several press releases from C.O.R.E.

Here's the opening paragraph of one from Dec. 19: "Hollywood actor Robert Redford's recent headline-grabbing campaign to restrict supplies of clean-burning natural gas from Utah will end up hurting poor families in Chicago and across the West and Midwest, charged Roy Innis, Chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality."

It went on quote Innis as he charged that Redford could afford "to heat his 13,000-square-foot mansion in Utah no matter how high home heating prices get. But grandmothers on a fixed income and single mothers dependent on public assistance in Chicago cannot. They count on energy production in states like Utah to continue so that their home heating costs stay as low as possible."

The real issue for the Midwest isn't exploration and drilling, which has declined along with energy prices in recent months, but pipeline capacity. For consumers in Illinois, it doesn't matter how much natural gas is produced in the Rocky Mountains if there's no way to get more gas to the Midwest. And with the recent financial crunch, investors have been backing out of such projects.

Further, there's an issue with C.O.R.E.'s finances. Back in 2005, Mother Jones magazine reported that ExxonMobil was donating considerable sums to CORE, which might explain why the organization is trying to turn expanded natural gas drilling in the West into a civil-rights issue.

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