“One of the worst things about natural gas fracking is how helpless it can make someone feel when drilling threatens their water or besieges their home. It’s easy for one person, one family, or even one community to believe they’re outmatched by a wealthy industry with powerful friends in government.
The natural gas industry is powerful. What regulations do exist for fracking are poorly enforced. Fracking and other phases of natural gas production are exempt from many of the safeguards provided by the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and other fundamental environmental protections. The predictable result: dirty water, dirty air, and water you’d think twice before drinking.
Together, though, we can change that. No industry, no matter how wealthy or powerful, can withstand the righteous indignation of the American public. The out-of-control rush to drill has put oil and gas industry profits ahead of our health, our families, our property, our communities, and our futures. Special industry exemptions from basic environmental protections make no sense — let’s get them removed.
Everyone wants to see a clean energy future, but…” (1)
Michael Brune, Sierra Club, Executive Director
Read it over again. This is the new face of The Sierra Club. Brune began his activist days at Greenpeace. He then moved on to The Coastal Rainforest Coalition and The Rainforest Action Network. He is cast in the same mold as the President. He was born and bred on community action. He is Jagger’s “Street Fighting Man’.
“Coming Clean: Breaking America’s Addiction to Oil and Coal” is his book. Read it. He claims responsibility for shuttering 142 coal fired plants, with 340 (the rest) yet to be gated. He now has taken aim at natural gas. Specifically LNG exports. Stop Fracking Now” is the command. The troops are filing in; the battle is enjoined.
On March 15, 2013, The Sierra Club announced, through it ‘trade representative’ Ilana Solomon, opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and its inclusion of Japan. Why? ‘It poses a threat to the health of our families and the future of our planet’. How does a trade group cause such repellent evil? ‘Countries in the (trade) bloc will most likely get automatic access to U. S. natural gas’. Let’s listen to her words:
This means that the United States could be forever ceding our ability to manage our own natural gas resources. It also means that even if U.S. exports are found to harm our economy and the environment — as there is every indication exports would — the U.S. would still be forced to send natural gas overseas to our trading partners without any review or delay. As the world’s largest natural gas importer, Japan will fundamentally change U.S. energy policy as we know it by joining the TPP.
Increased exports would require us to produce more natural gas, which means more fracking across the United States – in our backyards, near our schools, and next to our hospitals. Fracking contaminates drinking water and pollutes our air, exposing communities to serious health risks. Moreover, the highly energy-intensive process of cooling, liquefying, and transporting gas across the world has tremendous effects on our climate. The emissions associated with exporting natural gas, in fact, are said to be even larger than emissions from burning coal. The risk to public health and the future of our planet is too important to overlook.
Japan’s entry into the trade pact may have other serious implications for the environment. A leaked version of the pact’s controversial chapter on investment reveals that — like NAFTA and more recent trade pacts — the TPP would give broad rights to foreign corporations. The pact goes so far as to allow foreign corporations to sue a government in a private trade tribunal for unlimited cash compensation over new laws, policies, or regulations that hurt the corporation’s bottom line. (2)
You are all engineers, toolpushers, managers and capitalists. You can easily discover a dozen errors in Brune’s and Solomon’s reasoning.
That is your first mistake. Reasoning carries no water. The argument goes to the emotional banter.
“Health of our families’; ‘forever ceding’; ‘forced’; ‘Japan will fundamentally change’; dirty water, dirty air’; ‘profits ahead of our health’; righteous indignation’; ‘unlimited cash’; ‘our backyards, our schools our hospitals’. If the Japan quote sounds like the yellow fear of California at the turn of the 20th century, you are beginning to understand.
What does all this harem-scarem have to do with the export of LNG?
There is no more denying that burning dirty fossil fuels like natural gas is to blame for our superstorms, droughts, and wildfires. We have no time to spare. Only by moving to renewables as quickly as possible can we hope to avoid even worse climate disruption. Yet energy companies are still denying it and continuing to manipulate our government leaders into thinking we have time to reverse the damage that is already done, just by switching to another fossil fuel such as natural gas. Natural gas is not a bridge fuel—it is a gangplank. We must not allow our country to lock into long-term natural gas use when around the globe the potential to develop renewable energy is limitless.
It’s clear that the regulations across the country—at the local, state, and federal level—are dangerously inadequate to protect our communities and regulate the natural gas industry. Meanwhile, the president is considering exporting up to 45 percent of natural gas production as liquefied natural gas (LNG). This is one of the largest decisions that will transform the energy landscape, as it would require more fracking to meet foreign and domestic demand. More fracking, more pollution, more communities destroyed—all while the 1 percent reaps the benefits.
But all is not lost—far from it. We are at a critical moment in our energy evolution, where we can leapfrog over natural gas and meet our future energy needs with clean energy sources such as solar and wind. We can demand that President Obama prevent the export of LNG. (3)
They are at least honest in their claims. They do tell you exactly what they want. They want you to stop, now. Put down the tools, the computers, stop the rigs, close down the pipelines, dismantle Sabine Pass, deny power plants the methane poison that destroys the planet. You will walk the gangplank, certainly.
Having scared you into reading this far, what solutions are present? While you may be tempted to follow the Chicago rules, as espoused in DC these days, there are in fact a variety of tools at your disposal.
Begin with their tactics. Employ visuals. Stir emotions. Speak simply. Meet locals. Offer to listen more than speak. Hire from the community. Train the populace. Share profits. Engage regulators and politicians openly and honestly. Meet at the burger joint not the country club. Repair roads, crops, wells. Do it before you are asked. Teach. Share. Learn.
E&P guys always tell me that every hole is different; every hole has a lesson to teach. So too with communities, regulators and landowners. Each has a story to tell. Listen, for your own good, for the good of the community, for the good of the shareholders.
Second, fight fear with facts. Be simple, clear and concise. Avoid the industry jargon. Save it for the conferences and analysts calls. “More fracking, more pollution’ is their comment. Take it apart.
‘The feds today announced that America’s greenhouse gas emissions have dropped for the fifth year in a row and for 11 of the past 12 years. Our emissions are at the lowest point since 1994. Why? The substitution of natural gas for coal. Today, 1/3 of your electricity comes from natural gas. Your computer is gas driven, your washer and dryer. Your refrigerator. Your heating and cooling. Your TV. Sending an email to support the Sierra Club? Yep – it went via methane. The check you wrote for them? Electronically processed via methane gas. Yes, that EV car is running on a mixture of coal and natural gas. Your bicycle was produced with power from methane emissions. Your water bottle is a direct result of ethane – we call them NGLs. Enjoy that organic, vegan meal – cooked with natural gas? Ate it raw – which truck brought it to you from which local farm? Like your SUV?
Facts have a nasty habit of interfering with beliefs…
Third, engage. Sierra Club has grassroots organizing down cold. (4) The energy industry has done a fine job of ignoring the streets. Get back there. Leave the tower of power and work the street. Begin by paying more attention to your roots. Your workers, staff and management men and women are your core. The population of the industry is turning over as women and younger professionals rise up the ranks and Boomers retire. Shout this from the rooftops. Opportunities abound in Fracworld. 1.7M new jobs, half created during the recession –virtually all of the new jobs created over the past five years have been in the energy industry. As many as 2M more to come over the next 20 years in the world of energy. Another 5M manufacturing jobs are coming. (5)
These opportunities apply to skilled and unskilled, college educated and warriors just returned from Afghanistan. These opportunities are excellent paying, hardworking, clean and enriching jobs. Every one of you rose through the ranks. Tell this story – not yours but today’s young worker story. Engage the young woman environmental scientist in your labs, the sergeant on the rig, the driver, the welder, the operator. Put their story on the front page of your website. Ask them to tell the story in their words – and ignore any protests from within.
Fourth, do the legal. Work to your strengths. Just as the gym is your ally in the struggle against encroaching age, so too is your legal staff in this struggle against encroaching ignorance. The Sierra Club website is replete with stories of the legal challenges they wage against evil corporations. They have a staff of 500 and an annual budget of nearly $100M. a very significant majority of these sums are directed in legal and regulatory battle. They often engage the feds in court simply to get a more favorable ruling than currently exists. (6) Quid pro quo is taken to new depths. Ignore this at your peril. Note their ‘mission statement’:
To explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth; To practice and promote the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources; To educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out these objectives. (7)
Your legal department can drive a frac rig through ‘to use all lawful means…’.
Your power and connections and wealth are your greatest strength. Brune has the ear of Barrack. You have many ears. Do what you do best in the corridors of power. You know far better than this humble editor how to manage your workout…
George Smith USGS geologist said a few years ago, “We need the moral support of the American people”. LNG exports will geometrically increase the wealth of every citizen of the nation. It will help virtually every citizen of the nations to which we ship this precious cargo. Reduce energy costs and you increase income. Increase income and you create demand – for education, health, and yes, things. Increase demand and you increase wealth – by a multiplier far more powerful than any governmental ‘device’. Increase wealth and you increase the environmental awareness and thus health of the region, the nation and the planet.
The previous Sierra Club XO understood this – Carl Pope. He was excommunicated for his false idols. John Muir understood this. He has been countermanded by the new commandantes of the revolution that have taken over the Sierra Club. So be it.
The invisible hand of the market is far more powerful than any ideology yet devised. The Wealth of Nations was written in the seminal year of 1776. Adam Smith’s tale of the pin maker is ever true today. You simply have to remind the world constantly that work makes right…
This is not difficult. Speak out clearly. Listen thoughtfully. Engage your youngest and brightest. Tell the truth, repeatedly. Fight in the trenches with your legal infantry.
If you don’t demonstrate how your workers earned their wealth, you will lose.
If you don’t listen carefully and respond to communities, you will lose.
If you don’t take action with facts and images, you will lose.
If you remain in your towers of power, Barrack and Brune will take you down.
Author of Fracking, America’s Alternative Energy Revolution
5. Huffington Post: 9/12/12, as quoted by Reuters.