Prall: Energy, economy, and the environment


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Recent technological breakthroughs have changed the U.S. energy landscape dramatically. The United States is now the world’s No. 1 producer of natural gas, and new oil is bringing new profits.

Profit really is the key word here — the boom of American fuel has brought new jobs and is a prime reason the nation has risen out of the 2008 recession.

The technique responsible is called “fracking,” which involves using very high-pressure water to blast through rock, giving access to previously unavailable natural gas and petroleum reserves. The miracle technology doesn’t come without severe consequences. The dream technique becomes a nightmare for the local environment. Fracking destroys sediment, disrupts the ecosystem, and is especially harmful to the water systems in the surrounding area. Natural gas leaks into the ground water, killing wildlife and even leading to scenarios in which the local population is poisoned.

The environmental hazards to both the habitat and humans are far reaching. Very few know how devastating it can be more than the people of Louisiana and the other Gulf Coast states.

BP is making headlines again for the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico four years ago. Not only are local economies still recovering all this time later, but massive negligence was involved in the spill itself. BP faces penalties in the tens of billions … But to its profit margin, that isn’t too big a deal.

Besides, it has enough friends in D.C. to avoid paying penalties like that, at least in full. What’s the point of these penalties if they clearly have not deterred negligence in the past, for BP or any oil company operating in the United States?

There has to be a better way to dissuade this sort of destruction — even if it means dampening the economic growth of some corporate executives’ bank accounts. Which brings us to the questions that we have to ask ourselves? What is more important to us, the citizens of the United States? Jobs and economic output or ecosystems and public health?

The greatest poll in the United States, the presidential election, is right around the corner.

Democrats have been established environmentalists for a while now, and that trend does not appear to be changing any time soon. Across the aisle, however, is considerable opposition. One Republican candidate is in support of the cleaner, safer, and economically viable of alternative energy: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

This against-the-grain ideology could threaten his favorability as a candidate for the GOP, but it may sway independent voters to back him.

 The effect would be big nationally, but locally, it could also be very powerful. Companies such as Alliant Energy and MidAmerican Energy are building wind farms across Iowa, creating jobs for trained, specialized workers.

What is in our best interests? I think the three can live harmoniously, but only when environment is put in the driver’s seat. When we focus on bettering the environment, we can choose economically lucrative options. When we unify behind protecting our homeland from destruction, we can help bridge the partisan gap and work toward a common goal. You don’t have to be an environmentalist to care about your backyard, your local parks, your state’s showpieces, and your nation’s beauty.

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