Energy without hypocrisy

  • Paul Larmer

 

I have a confession to make: I like natural gas. Every morning at five minutes before 6:00, I wake up to the gentle whumph of the gas heater kicking on in the family room. I then get out of bed, tap on my son’s door and call, "Time to get up," and plant myself in front of the miraculous dancing flames that never consume the glowing fake logs. The warmth allows me to imagine that I never crawled out from under the covers.

Natural gas is also nice and clean. There’s no sooty mess like you get with a woodstove or with coal-fired beasts like the one I fed every day in the basement of our last house.

But my enjoyment of natural gas brings up a conundrum that many an oil company executive has eagerly pointed out: How can someone who uses natural gas be anything less than a hypocrite for opposing drilling in the West? Don’t we have an obligation to produce as much energy as we can here at home?

Hypocrisy is a dogged companion in this world, where the simple act of buying shoes brings up a moral dilemma of international dimensions. Anyone who maintains a strict, don’t-drill-in-my-backyard stance while warming their bottom, or firing up their vehicle with the dregs of the Carboniferous period — or, for that matter, complaining about this country’s political dealings in the Middle East — keeps good company with hypocrisy.

But to be opposed to drilling in the West’s few remaining pristine landscapes, or in places where drillers might encounter the dangerous remnants of a nuclear blast, as writer Jennie Lay explores in this issue, does not make one a hypocrite. Nor does insisting that the industry tread as lightly on the land as possible.

As numerous reports have highlighted, the vast majority of the West’s oil and natural gas reserves are available to industry, whether on private or public lands. Some 90 percent of the 270 million acres managed by the Bureau of Land Management is open to oil and gas leasing. And new technologies, such as directional drilling, make it feasible to tap these resources without having to build destructive networks of roads and well pads everywhere.

The real dishonesty about this energy rush can be found in the assertion by some that our nation’s political stability and energy supply will be jeopardized if the industry can’t have unfettered access to every last fume under the West. That’s just plain hyperbole.

Reasonable people in industry, the agencies and the environmental community understand that our ongoing responsibility to the land outweighs any boom. Just as buffalo hunters, timbermen, cattle barons, and gold miners have come and gone in the West, so too will the gas drillers. And when they go, we will be left with the land in whatever condition we have allowed them to leave it in.

So, all you conservation-minded folks out there: Go ahead and light that burner without guilt even as you promote sensible oil and gas development in your backyards. And pray that the designers of heaters figure out how to replicate the clean, comforting flames of natural gas — without the environmental costs.

High Country News Classifieds
  • COPPER STAIN: ASARCO'S LEGACY IN EL PASO
    Tales from scores of ex-employees unearth the human costs of an economy that runs on copper.
  • FEATURES DIRECTOR - HIGH COUNTRY NEWS
    High Country News, an award-winning news organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Features Director to join our editorial...
  • GENERAL MANAGER
    The Board of UYWCD seeks a new GM to manage operations & to implement our robust strategic plan. Details at www.upperyampawater.com. EOE
  • IN TUCSON, FOR SALE: A BEAUTIFUL, CLASSIC MID-CENTURY MODERN HOME
    designed by architect David Swanson in 1966. Located a block from Saguaro National Forest, yet minutes to Downtown and the UofA campus, 3706 sqft, 6...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Friends of the San Juans is seeking a new leader guide our efforts to protect and restore the San Juan Islands and the Salish...
  • 80 ACRES
    straddles North Platte Fishery, Wyoming. Legal access 2 miles off 1-80. Call 720-440-7633.
  • DIRECTOR OF PRODUCT AND MARKETING
    High Country News seeks a Director of Product and Marketing to join our senior team during an exciting chapter of innovation and growth. This individual...
  • OWN A THRIVING MOUNTAIN GUIDE SERVICE.
    Eastern Sierra guide service for sale to person with vision & expertise to take it onwards. Since 1995 with USFS & NPS permits. Ideal for...
  • IMPROVED LOT
    Private road, hillside, views. Well, pad, septic, 99 sq.ft. hut. Dryland permaculture orchard. Wildlife. San Diego--long growing season
  • UNIQUE INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY
    Profitable off-the-grid business located 2 miles from Glacier National Park. Owner has 6 years operating experience. Seeking investor or partner for business expansion and enhancement....
  • REMOTE SITKA ALASKA FLOAT HOUSE VACATION RENTAL
    Vacation rental located in calm protected waters 8 miles from Sitka, AK via boat with opportunities to fish and view wildlife. Skiff rental also available.
  • EXPERT LAND STEWART
    Available for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojadigital.net.
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Colorado Plateau Natural & Human History Field Seminars. Lodge, river, hiking options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Specializing in native seeds and seed mixes for western states.
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • OJO CALIENTE COMMERCIAL VENTURE
    Outstanding location near the world famous Ojo Caliente Mineral Spring Resort. Classic adobe Mercantile complete w/living quarters, separate 6 unit B&B, metal building and spacious...