The Key Thing Nobody is Saying About Fracking

If natural gas truly is intended to be a “bridge fuel” as renewable electricity generation and storage technology improves, shouldn’t the 60 year supply of natural gas that does not require fracking be enough to fill that role?  

It has become impossible to talk about natural gas in 2013 America without talking about the controversial practice of horizontal-high volume hydraulic fracturing – fracking. Between spokesmen for the gas industry touting gas as the cheap, squeaky-clean “fuel of the future” and Josh Fox broadcasting images of flaming hoses, faucets, and the like to suggest the dangerous implications of gas development, it’s too easy to forget a simple fact.

Two-thirds of American natural gas reserves do not require fracking.

Hose on fire!

The natural gas debate summarized in one misleading image (Or, what happens when you hook your hose up to a gas vent and light it)

The Energy Information Agency (EIA) says that the United States has 97 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of proven, recoverable shale gas. That’s the type that you need to frack. The type that requires a drill to go through about 3000 feet before turning sideways, blasting apart the bedrock, flushing it all with water, sand, and chemicals, and collecting the resulting product. That gas has been associated with a number of dangers: earthquakes caused by the high-pressure lubrication of the bedrock, water contamination caused by faulty cement casings, and the leakage of methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide, to name a few. There’s no reason to suggest that these problems can’t be alleviated by proper regulation and oversight. But is the risk even necessary? Continue reading

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Why Divestment is the Right Cause For College Students

Many of the opponents of fossil fuel divestment on college campuses, including here at Middlebury, like to attempt to counter arguments in favor of action by claiming that the whole process is a waste of time. I have to admit that I originally fell into this camp. A year ago, it seemed like the latest quixotic cause du jour: something that would inflame the activist crowd for a few weeks and then fade away.

It didn’t, and it shouldn’t.

To be fair, a lot of the arguments initially made by divestment supporters played right into this case. They’d say that divestment would affect the share price of oil companies or cause their CEOs to take climate change seriously. Or they’d argue that divestment will somehow lead to a renewed interest in cap-and-trade in Congress. Unfortunately, neither of these arguments make much sense. So opponents would point out the lack of a connection and use that to claim that the whole issue was a waste of time. They’d suggest that we leave our investments to the ‘professionals,’ and focus on those actual issues.

But the truth is, the fossil fuel divestment is an effective use of the time and passions of collegiate climate activists, partly because of a lack of better options. What issue should we fight for, if not this one? Raising climate change awareness? It’s 2013. We are aware. You are aware. Even Steve King is aware; he just chooses to ignore reality. Replacing light bulbs and appliances with more efficient versions? Schools like Middlebury and Hobart and William Smith have already taken a lead on this. They’ve created positions for sustainability directors to oversee these efforts. Getting to carbon neutrality? Again, forward-thinking liberal arts colleges have already made carbon neutrality goals and plans, and getting there is now a technical challenge rather than a matter for continued lobbying of the Administration and Trustees.  Continue reading

This Summer Moment

There is this moment, when you’re speeding down a gravel road trailed by a cloud of dust; you come over a crest and fling the car around a sudden corner, but the wheels lose their grip on the track. When back of the vehicle refuses to change direction or slow down and you threaten to plunge into the field of stunted corn along the side.

When it is 90 degrees and you’ve been staring at the shaded water at the base of the cliff for so long that you can’t back away now, so you take a couple strides and fling yourself forward as the ground falls away beneath your bare feet.

Or when there’s a lull in the conversation and your eyes meet, so you slowly lean in for a kiss from that girl with the tousled hair highlighted by the sun, and the quiet half smile that spreads to a crinkle in the corner of her eye – the one that you’ve had your eye on for a long time.

There’s this brief second of existential terror; you’ve done something insane – something monumentally stupid. You’ve miscalculated and you’re going to crash. You see this image of the car wrapped around an ancient willow by the side of the road, or of yourself bouncing off the rocks lining the gorge, smashing the tranquil surface of that water, and then never resurfacing; the girl raises her eyebrows in shock and deflects with an outstretched palm, or turns her face to the side to present you with a smooth cheek instead of the lips for which you’d aimed. Your internal organs threaten to exit violently through your windpipe. The space in your chest seems to contract and the air inside feels more like helium than something you can breathe.

But then you find your traction. The tires find the unyielding surface of packed earth beneath the gravel and the car straightens out on the other side of the turn. Your pointed toes lead your descent into the water and the rest of your body follows into a refuge of quiet, dark and cool. The girl doesn’t turn away or shudder; her eyes drop down to your mouth and she rises on the pads of her feet to meet your lips with hers. You want to grin and shout and laugh all at the same time. You took a plunge, and found that the landing was soft.

You don’t get to feel that feeling if you watch it happen on television or push “A” to make your character do it in a video game. You don’t get to feel it if you’re drunk or otherwise numbed to the world. It requires the combined input of every one of the human body’s finely-tuned senses; it requires that you take a risk, and that you care about the outcome.

At that moment, you know what it means to be alive.