Recently NRDC partnered up with Willie Nelson and put out this poignant and beautiful video about our country. I haven’t focused much on Mountain Top Removal, but it is by far one of the worst atrocities in this country that people are allowing to happen. Maybe if more people see and share this video, more people will become more aware and do something about it. Fracking is bad, oil drilling is awful, but MTR is worse. Much, much worse.
Apparently we can’t go a day without a fossil fuel disaster
Not only can we not go a week without a fossil fuel disaster, we can’t even go days! Not only was there a train derailment in Pennsylvania, spilling thousands of gallons of oil, there was also another natural gas explosion in Kentucky that leveled homes. War veterans said that the explosion was unlike anything they heard in the war.
Yet the news is not reporting on any of these disasters. They did report on the West Virgina “chemical spill” (due to coal, but they left that out) and there were some whispers about the coal spill in North Carolina. There have been 6 fossil fuel disasters that have been REPORTED in the last two weeks. Only 1 of which have been covered by national media. All of which are detrimental to the environment.
We need to go cleaner. Now.
As we come further along with renewable energy technology it becomes increasingly shocking to me that we still not only use fossil fuels but mine and develop new tech to exploit them. Last I checked, we don’t hear about wind spills or solar farms exploding. It seems like this last month we are on a roll for fossil fuel disasters. Which still makes me wonder – how can we still be debating the Keystone Pipeline? How can we still be building new infrastructure for coal/oil/natural gas? Here are the latest (at least reported) fossil fuel disasters in the last two weeks, all of which that have decimated the environment in that area.
- February 2, 2014: Dan River Coal Ash Spill. North Carolina. It is not certain yet how much coal ash has spilled into the Dan River and Duke Energy is being entirely uncooperative and petulant about the matter, but it is estimated that it is between 50,000 to 82,000 tons and up to 87 million gallons of waste water were released due to a broken pipe. Coal ash may sound harmless, but it is a waste material from the coal industry that contains arsenic, mercury, lead, and several other heavy metals, many of which are toxic. Now this has entered a fragile water system that not only waters thousands of people, but also (nor formerly) beautiful environment. Coal ash is one of the largest industrial wastes in the country. Funny how renewables don’t have industrial waste
- February 5, 2014: Train Oil Spill. Minnesota. There is NO SAFE way to transport oil because oil is NOT SAFE. That’s what it comes down to. There’s been several train derailments in the last year. In this case, the train didn’t even derail. It was just traveling along with a leak resulting in 12,000 gallons of crude to dribble all over the tracks for 68 miles. But since it’s over dry land or who knows why really, I’m just making that part up – for some reason, no one is concerned about it and no one is bothering to clean it up. Who cares, right? But you bet someone is getting fired over it.
- February 11, 2014: Natural Gas Explosion. Pennsylvania. This is still relatively fresh and not much is known, but a Chevron Natural Gas well blew up and burned for several hours. One person was injured and another person is missing. The fire burned into the afternoon and as far as we know, it is still burning. The cause of the blast is still unknown, but you know, natural gas is flammable. Wind and solar is not.
- February 11, 2014: Coal Chemical Spill. West Virginia. 100,000+ gallons of coal slurry (coal waste) from a coal plant somehow managed to seep into the Kanawha River and sickened six miles of Fields Creek. “This has had significant, adverse environmental impact to Fields Creek and an unknown amount of impact to the Kanawha River,” said Secretary Randy Huffman of the state Department of Environmental Protection. This is just a month after the “chemical spill” on January 9th that got a lot of press. But the press called it a “chemical spill” – and failed to mention that the “chemical” is a byproduct of the COAL industry. It is used to CLEAN the coal that is supposedly already clean that we are still mining for. This is probably the dirtiest of the fossil fuels and one of the ones that we are supposed to be phasing out.
That’s FOUR disasters in TWO WEEKS. And two of those are in the same day. Also, those are the ones that are reported. As we learned, there were nearly 300 pipeline spills in North Dakota alone that were unreported to the public in two years. What about the rest of the states? What about the rest of fossil fuels? Who knows how many more there were. We may never know. Again – it just baffles me there are still people toting how wonderful dirty fuel is. Or that people think that we still don’t have a choice. We do have a choice. It is just a matter of what we chose to invest in. The technology is out there.
Finally I would like to close with a recent report on the price of fossil fuel devastating our communities. About a year ago a pipeline broke near Mayflower, Alabama – a quiet little community. It has been deemed clean, safe, and a happy place to live again – by the oil companies. But of course, so has the Gulf, and that is far from the truth. Many have moved away. Those that stay are plagued by headaches, nausea and dizziness from oil fumes that still seep from the ground. However running away is not so easy and ExxonMobil is not taking responsibility for its actions. The houses that are being put up for sale aren’t selling. This area of Mayflower is becoming a ghost town.
So tell me. Is this the price that we are going to have to pay for our fossil fuel addiction? Is Mayflower our future? Will we continue to suck the Earth dry rather than work with it until we kick ourselves off our own land? The more I read the news lately the more pessimistic I get about our future. We don’t seem to learn from our mistakes at all. We keep thinking we can just patch things over. There will come a time that the bandages will give way. We need to seriously rethink our actions and decisions.
Since the State Department’s verdict on Friday my waking and even sleeping hours have been consumed with thoughts of the Keystone Pipeline. On February 17th, 2013 I was front and center with 350.org marching to the White House to show my displeasure the last time a similar report came out. Despite frigid temperatures there was an impressive turnout of people from all over the country. I felt surely someone must have heard us.
Then this report came out, the same as before. Has it fallen on deaf ears? No. Are people ignoring the environmental and climactic impacts? Yes. I do believe those in power are aware of the implications. And I do think they are choosing to overlook them because they believe we have no other choices. The fact that we’re developing the tar sands is admitting defeat. It’s licking the residue in the pot when there’s nothing left.
The more I read about the pipeline, the more pessimistic about it I get. I ask – why are they building this pipeline? Because there is an addiction to oil and dirty energy. Stopping the pipeline is not going to cure this addiction. The truth is – the pipeline is the safest way to get this filth to its destination. It is too dangerous to transport by truck – not to mention the carbon emissions from the trucks. It is too dangerous to transport by rail – the several derailments this past year have proven that. So that leaves a pipeline – which has also proven to be equally as dangerous – there was the spill in a farmer’s wheat field in North Dakota. We are fighting to not transport this filth over our boarder altogether.
The tar sand oil is going to flow (well, it doesn’t flow to begin with, so that’s not really an apt word) no matter what. So what are we fighting for? Today (weather permitting, since we are in the middle of a major snow storm right now, hoping it will end in time) I will head to one of the locations nearest me to once again protest the Keystone Pipeline. Please find a location near you to do the same. I will be there with hopefully hundreds of others fighting the fight to keep the keystone pipeline out of this country.
But I am not so jaded to think that it will not soon be built. The southern portion is already in place. I am still going to resist the northern portion. I want to believe that there is still some people in this nation that we can come together and fight against something. We will fight to show that our nation is above the oil addiction. We are fighting to keep carbon out of our atmosphere – which the State Department’s report DID say is a likely scenario – it could be upwards of 27.4 MMTCO2e annually which is equivalent to the tailpipe emissions from 5.7 million passenger vehicles. We will fight for hope that our president will realize that this is not about politics, but about our future.
Fossil: fos·sil (fŏs′əl)n.
1. One, such as a rigid theory, that is outdated or antiquated.
2. A word or morpheme that is used only in certain restricted contexts, as kempt in unkempt, but is otherwise obsolete.
3. Belonging to the past; antiquated.
Fossil fuels. Why are we still using them? Their very name implies something that should be a thing of the past, yet we are still using this archaic form of energy. I don’t have to list all the things wrong with oil, coal or natural gas. This has been well documented. Nor do I have to sing the glories of the various wonderful alternative energies available to us out there – solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, and more. The technology is there. We as a people just have to demand it.
Which is what the fossil fuel divestment campaign is doing. Yesterday the New York Times had an article about some of the nation’s foundations making a commitment to divest from dirty energy. Collectively these foundations are depriving $1.8billion of investments away from fossil fuels. Just let that sink in a little. That’s a good chunk of money that will be denied to companies that have been a big part of the climate cha
Of course not all of us are in the position to put the heat on fossil fuel companies in similar ways that that these foundations have. We don’t have investments to deny, we can’t stop buying fuel for our cars (but we can take mass-transit, or buy fuel efficient vehicles!). So I am sure you are asking – what can I do to divest from fossil fuels? You can stand in solidarity with the 17 foundations that are divesting.
The Schmidt Family Foundation, one of the foundations that is divesting, was co-founded by Google’s executive chairman, Eric E. Schmidt. So if you’re in the market for a new cellphone or laptop – buy a Google product. Love ice cream? Great! Feel free all the ice cream you want – but just make sure it is Ben & Jerry’s who have also made the commitment to divest.
We are all in this fight for our planet together. We need to stand in solidarity. It might sometimes seem like there can’t be much we can do as one person. Keep in mind that the divestment campaign initially started in South Africa and it helped end apartheid. If we continue to spread the movement we can do the same with climate change. Fossil fuels are a thing of the past. We need to starve the companies out and bring in a new era of clean energy.