Energy Independence for America Is a Worthy Goal -- But It's a Death Wish If We Do It with Oil & Gas
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A popular claim is that ... the United States has enough natural gas to last it 100 years. However, Food & Water Watch took a close look at this claim and found that it assumes that the industry gets its wish of completely unrestricted access throughout Alaska, throughout the lower 48 states and all along the U.S. coastline. The claim also sweeps under the rug significant uncertainties that are inherent to estimating technically recoverable shale gas resources. ...
Even if the oil and gas industry is granted unrestricted access to extract any and all natural gas it can find, the current estimated supply is far from the energy panacea the industry claims. If allowed to write its own policies, the oil and gas industry will simply extract as much as possible, as fast as possible, for maximum profit, while fighting to prolong America's destructive dependence on fossil fuels. Then, once U.S. natural gas is gone, the global oil and gas industry will likely be well positioned to import foreign sources of fracked natural gas to feed this dependence; Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil, in particular, are invested in building a global natural gas supply chain.
There's also one other limiting factor that often gets overlooked when it comes to predicting energy reserves. It is not how much we have, but how much we can extract, and estimates usually take into consideration available technology like fracking, which has indeed produced a boom. But a very serious consideration is also water. Extreme fossil fuel extraction that is now becoming the norm, like fracking and tar sands mining, requires massive amounts of water. Water is a resource that is already in short supply in some areas (remember this summer's drought?) and is predicted to be even more limited in coming years with global climate changes.
So here's the conundrum: If reserves, like natural gas, are overstated, then we're banking on an energy source we don't have and the very next bubble to pop may well be in the gas industry (Ian Urbina revealed as much for the New York Times last year). That seems like bad news for investors, industry and workers, and the towns all across the country that have become the sacrifice zones for shale gas extraction.
But if we do concede to let industry go hog wild and frack, drill and mine anywhere they choose to maximize all the gas, oil, coal and tar sands that can possibly be forced from the earth, then we'll have destroyed our land, ruined our water and cooked the entire planet. And we still won't have achieved anything resembling energy independence.
When it comes right down to it, we can argue about how much reserves we have and how long they will last, but the truth of the matter is, we likely have enough to do drastic harm to life as we know it.
So what do we do instead?
"We should be looking to develop true renewable energy solutions and working to build an infrastructure to support them," says Food & Water Watch's executive director Wenonah Hauter. "Doubling down on ever more extreme methods of extracting oil such as fracking, tar sands mining and deepwater and ultra-deepwater drilling locks us in to ever more destructive global climate change. We need to remake the U.S. energy system now, and leave these fossil fuels underground."
We should forgo the quest for "energy independence" and think about how interdependent our lives are — on our neighbors (whether down the road or across the border) and the ecoystems we live in and which provide us with the food and water we need to survive.