Monday, August 16, 2010

Saint North Dakota of the Immaculate Energy Production

We are now a couple days into the much-hyped "Running with Oil" series resulting from collaboration among various North Dakota media outlets. So far it is looking like about what I was figuring - perfectly fine reporting (though I would not call it "investigative") on a variety of facets of the whole of oil production. There seems to be a mix between ordinary "news information" stories like you could find any given day in the newspaper and more "human interest" stories that, though still seen in your newspaper, are more what may be expected from a magazine.

What has concerned me and that I expect to hold true is that there will be an enormous error of omission - no mention of the climate-altering effects of the carbon dioxide resulting from the burning of the oil. There will apparently be considerable focus on at least the threat of more direct pollution and environmental problems like from spills and massive water usage. If there is nothing though about dealing with CO2, then it would be like a massive series on the weather of North Dakota but ignoring the topic of flooding.

We did have in the Herald this morning an op-ed from a couple UND professors that again spells out some of the scientific and economic reasons to cut carbon pollution and shift toward clean energy. I assume the op-ed page (and maybe just that single submission) will be the only counter to the glowing descriptions of the North Dakota oil boom. I noted that there will apparently be mention of "threats", but I doubt that will be given the weight to make readers think the overall best action might be anything but excavating and burning as much oil as we possibly can. Oil revenue may lower our taxes in ND, so who cares how many future generations will have to suffer as a result of carbon emissions, right?

I would love to be proven wrong, but presumably this "Running with Oil" series will be simply more fodder for the right-now, burn-baby-burn mindset as exemplified by letters in the Herald> Saturday from Wade Pearson and Sunday from Jeff Miller. Unfortunately those letters I think exemplify the ignorance and short-sightedness already so prevalent and that will only worsen around these parts if people grow to more crave a few dollars more today from burning finite and polluting resources. Pearson simply pretends there is no issue of climate change and assumes that if coal plants meet current regulations on the likes of sulfur and mercury then everything must be perfectly fine forever. Miller mentions climate change but blithely dismisses it with no reason to focus on cries of being persecuted and political attacks.

We have to start seeing beyond the end of our wallet. We can afford to pay a little more to shift cleaner, sustainable energy a whole lot more than we can afford to wreck the biosphere. Pinching pennies by remaining handcuffed to dirty energy will not make up for not being able to supply food and water to billions of people, to mention just one major threat from climate change.

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