Coal vs. Fracking: Dig a Little Deeper

There has been a lot of news coverage in the past few weeks about the environmental and health hazards caused by coal mining, the production of energy from burning coal, and the environmental impact of storing water in retention ponds at power plants. Heck – even the Pope has taken a stance on coal mining and fracking, saying that we are stewards of this Earth and we are destroying God’s creation by strip mining for coal and fracking for natural gas. But what all of these reports fail to mention is the fact that energy production keeps small, rural communities financially afloat.

According to a recent story on NPR, the state of Wyoming is the largest coal producing state in the nation. (The Appalachian Mountains are a close second. In the Appalachian region, strip mining literally removes the mountaintops with explosives in order to extract coal. This poisons the air and can cause black lung, both for the miners themselves, as well as community members who live in the areas surrounding the mines.) Coal-burning power plants produce heavy smog, this contributes to high rates of asthma, lung disease and lung cancer. Coal also has negative health consequences on the heart and nervous system.

Many people have responded to the Pope’s declaration by saying that God and science are mutually exclusive, but I have to disagree. (More on that later.)

Let’s dig a little deeper and talk about the pros and cons of energy production and zoom in on rural communities themselves. The low cost of coal has forced many mining companies to go into bankruptcy. This has meant layoffs for thousands of workers. In fact:

. . . bankruptcy will likely mean layoffs for some of its 8,800 miners in five states, including West Virginia. This state already has a higher unemployment rate than any other. Here, it’s 7.4 percent, compared with 5.3 percent for the rest of the country. And the coal losses are hurting the state’s budget.

How does this relate to the oil and gas industry? For starters, one of the reasons why coal is being phased out as an energy source is because natural gas has become the most prevalent source of energy production in the United States. It also reaffirms the need for proper training to make sure that workers are following strict safely guidelines for oil and gas extraction. (This, after all, is what AYUDA is all about.) [Read more…]


Is Fracking a Feminist Issue?

still-gaslandThere has been a lot of debate over the past decade about whether or not it is safe to drill for oil and natural gas. One of the most controversial methods of oil and gas extraction is called “fraction drilling” (more popularly referred to as “fracking”).

Fraction drilling doesn’t just dig a straight hole into the ground so that a pipeline can be inserted to export gas to the surface. Fracking involves hydraulically fracturing the ground that surrounds shale deposits of natural gas so that gas can be released and captured from a variety of angles. There are environmental issues to be considered, as well as health care issues for the communities that are near drilling sites. That being said, President Obama gave fracking a thumbs up in 2013 when he gave a speech about climate change at Georgetown University, emphasizing the economic and security benefits of natural gas.

“For the first time in 18 years, America is poised to produce more of our own oil than we buy from other nations. And today, we produce more natural gas than anybody else. So we’re producing energy. And these advances have grown our economy, they’ve created new jobs, they can’t be shipped overseas — and, by the way, they’ve also helped drive our carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly 20 years. Since 2006, no country on Earth has reduced its total carbon pollution by as much as the United States of America.” –President Obama (emphasis mine)

Fracking foes have used a laundry list of arguments to oppose shale extraction. One notable anti-fracker is Sandra Steingraber, who compares fracking to rape. (I will address the rape analogy in a future article. For now, let’s focus on dollars and cents.) Steingraber argues that fracking is a feminist issue because women are underrepresented in the energy industry. She also states that:

“The jobs for women are ‘hotel maid’ and ‘prostitute’ . . . So when fracking comes into a community, what we see is that women take a big hit, especially single women who have children who depend on rental housing.” (via The Washington Times, 4/6/2015)

That same statement has been mimicked by community members in other states in a very demeaning manner. This is an extremely disrespectful statement that comes from someone who clearly has the luxury of disposable income.  [Read more…]