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for people who care about the West

Cleaner, shmeaner


First, I commend HCN on the excellent article, "The Global West," which skillfully presents how energy markets are affecting resource extraction in the West (HCN, 7/25/11). I'm going to get as many of my friends and family members to read it as I can. That said, it drove me nuts to read this in one of the sidebars: "However, if greenhouse gases are reduced, coal production will flatten, as cleaner natural gas becomes more important both domestically and abroad."

Especially considering the equally excellent article on fracking you just published, HCN should know that natural gas is not cleaner. It may burn cleaner, but the extraction process is becoming our worst nightmare. The words "cleaner natural gas" should be banished forever, along with the equally false "clean coal."

Quite frankly, I'm concerned about climate change, air pollution, mercury in our water, and the contamination of our wells and aquifers by hydraulic fracturing. However, unless one is unlucky enough to be killed in a natural disaster you can pin on global warming, climate change is generally something we can adapt to, as it is happening gradually. Meanwhile, air pollution and mercury pollution caused by coal burning will both clear up rapidly if you stop burning coal. But the contamination that is now spreading in our aquifers, as hundreds of secret chemicals are injected underground during the fracking process, will cause disease and death for decades. And nobody has a clue how to clean it up. So, please, don't ever use that term again. Natural gas isn't cleaner at all.

Crista Worthy
Los Angeles, California