Trading future for profits

A few years ago we learned Exxon had been researching oil’s replacement at the same time the company was actively denying burning the stuff was bad for our planet. Exxon and other companies historically and currently spend tons of money convincing us to buy products they know are harmful to the continued well-being of humans and other earthly plants and critters.

It is the petroleum corollary to the opioid epidemic, on a planetary scale. Names are changed to protect the guilty.

Back when the Marcellus natural gas industry was in its early stages, and some efforts were being made to tax Pennsylvania natural gas production at least as much as gas produced in the other states, our legislative powers insisted if the tax was levied, the companies would leave all that gas in the ground and go elsewhere.

In truth, the most the companies could have done was aim their drills from West Virginia to extract whatever gas they could reach from the Mountain State. Neither nature nor drill bits are slowed by political boundaries drawn on paper.

In 2006, our state legislature designated natural gas an “alternative” fuel. That designation made federal money available to help subsidize development of the fracking industry in the state. By 2010, thousands of wells had been drilled across the rural northern tier of the commonwealth, and producers such as Range Resources and Seneca were touting their proximity to East Coast markets from Washington, D.C. to Maine.

Winter heat would be cheap, they said.

Then they set about exercising eminent domain to acquire access to land where owners were unwilling to allow natural gas pipelines to pass – pipelines that would transport the gas from beneath Pennsylvanian feet to export markets in Europe and Japan.

Now our legislators are employing similar claims to forego action on the effects of fossil fuel combustion on our environment. Apparently, it is more important to assure their job security than to ensure their grandchildren have clean air and water those same grandchildren are guaranteed by the state constitution.

Last week, an international meeting of world leaders, COP 26, resulted in a declaration that the nations would cut greenhouse gases “by or around mid-century,” some 30 years in the future. Greenhouse gases are the blanket of, for instance, carbon dioxide and methane causing record wildfires in the American West, smoky skies in the east, and an enormous proliferation of catastrophic (not to mention expensive) storms worldwide.

In 30 years, the guys who signed that promise will be among the dearly departed, leaving behind their names carved into buildings celebrating the financial wealth they have amassed creating the smoky haze from the fires of the burning world they left behind.

Here in Pennsylvania, the state has an opportunity to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (commonly pronounced ReGGIgie). RGGI is a consortium of northeastern states – Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia – coordinating efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electric power generation.

But a consortium of our state politicians, claiming the plan will cost the commonwealth money, is trying to block those efforts. Let someone else clean the place up, they say; there’s money in trash.

I know some of those politicians. They are about my age. I do not expect to be here in 30 years.

My grandchildren will be.

Too many of our politicians believe leaving as much money as possible to their grandchildren is more important than leaving clean air and water to all our grandchildren.

I disagree.

Thanks for coming along. Please share the ride with your friends, and leave you thoughts below.

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