Sunday, March 11, 2012

Take Your Pick: More Money...or More Cancers, Lower Quality of Life

Coming soon to a community near you: oil shale drilling or natural gas fracking wells (see image) and likely 10,000 new cancers each year. Are you ready? Do you REALLY want that $42 an hour that the fracking job pays - working more than 80 hrs per week in inhospitable conditions? Well, yeah, okay...maybe you do! But will you also be ready to shell out most of that hard-earned money a couple years down the road for chemotherapy to treat cancer of the kidneys, liver, pancreas or lungs? Didn't think so!

But this is the choice many American communities are now faced with as they face the new energy age of low EROEI ('Energy returned on energy invested') sources now that the cheap (high EROEI) oil is nearly gone. So look for tens of thousands of drilling sites across the land, whether to grab natural gas or shale oil, and also for more deep sea drilling operations likely ending up just as bad as the BP spill in the Gulf two years ago.

This even as we recently learned that at least six earthquakes were incepted near Youngstown, OH after deep water injections from fracking operations upset the substerranean layers. And no, we won't even begin to enumerate how the water needed for drinking is either contaminated (e.g. by bitumen runoff, spills) or otherwise deemed unsafe from these operations. We recently beheld the case near Kalamazoo MI where nearby streams have been irrevocably polluted with bitumen and there's little chance of cleaning them up. Is is worth $42 an hour to you to trade in your drinkable water for expensive bottled variety?

Meanwhile, in Colorado, drilling rights are being handed out with utter abandon with no regard to the eventual social, health and quality of life costs. Despite the fact that across the state and the country, there is ample documented evidence of wells being contaminated by chemicals used in oil and gas fracking. Colo. Gov. John Hickenlooper even went so far as to recently demonstrate how supposedly safe fracked water is by taking "a swig of it."

Goodie, Johnno! Now, are you ready to take continuous "swigs" each day to quench that thirst? ( As opposed to a chicken shit PR one-off?) If so, be sure you have your Cadillac health insurance up to date as you will need it when the cancers appear and begin metastasizing!

But any rational person, citizen ought to be incensed at the example set — playing Russian roulette by drinking water that may or may not have been sanitized for a cheap publicity stunt. Hick indeed need only look at his own state to see the irreparable harm done to people, livestock, our air, water and lands. But hey, one digs it! In parlous economic times gubernators are apt to grab for any rope they can to get a leg up on the tide of red ink. It's just that this solution is not one for which no costs will be exacted later - and when they come due Hick and his peers better make sure there's plenty of health insurance, health care to take care of the 100,000 new cancers each year!

Think I'm joking? Think again!

Here are some of the chemicals Hickenlooper might have ingested in his fracked beverage, assuming it was real:

• Benzene, a powerful bone-marrow poison (aplastic anemia) associated with leukemia, breast and uterine cancer. It may also cause fatigue, skin and mucous membrane irritation, and narcotic behavior including lightheadedness, disorientation, loss of consciousness and coma.

• Styrene, which may cause eye and mucous membrane irritation, neurotoxic effects in the central and peripheral nervous systems, loss of consciousness and death.

• Toluene, which may cause muscular incoordination, tremors, hearing loss, dizziness, vertigo, emotional instability and delusions, liver and kidney damage, and anemia — besides potential harm to developing fetuses.

• Xylene, with cancer-causing (mainly in the kidneys, liver) and neurotoxic effects, which can cause reproductive abnormalities and death through respiratory or cardiac arrest. More toxic than benzene and toluene!

• Methylene chloride, which may cause cancer, liver and kidney damage, central nervous system disorders and worse.

• Or any of more than 1,000 other safe "food additives" used by the oil and gas industry.

Hickenlooper, if for real, needs to come down to Huerfano and Las Animas counties to talk with the ranchers and other folks who have been irreparably damaged by these poisons.

Then there's the damage going on nationwide, and which has been for years - generating untold new cases of breast cancer, cancer of the pancreas, liver, kidney and lung cancers as well as leukemias. But hey...! It 's worth it 'cause the money is comin' in!

The other side to this is the uncontrolled growth. As Exhibit A consider the Williston Basin region that stretches from North Dakota and Montana up to Saskatchewan and some energy boffins insist it could contain "24 billion barrels of oil". But....that is oil extracted from shale, for which no really efficient, non-polluting method has ever been developed. You're also basically, to get it, using 1.01 gals. of high EROEI oil to get 1 gal of low grade shale oil. Meanwhile, in the case of the Basin, WIlliston - the center of the boom, has seen its population double.

One local quoted in a recent AARP Bulletin piece (March, 2012, p. 32) observed:

"Our schools, roads, law enforcement and housing are out of capacity. We have to plan and work like crazy to catch up".

Meanwhile, the piece observes that "transportation is a challenge and roads are choked with trucks - pickups, semis, flatbeds"

Meanwhile more expansion is underway as long term residents - on account of the supply of housing not meeting demand, are seeing their rents "quadruple".

In other parts of the nation, meanwhile, oil shale drillers are actually grabbing leases offered and setting up wells in neighborhoods! All it takes (as in Ohio) is a majority of the neighbors to sign onto the deal and then it's done. No matter some soreheads from the olden times still wish to preserve a quality of life - -- and being able to sleep without a drill pumping all night long.

What all this means is that Americans have to understand that they face a tradeoff, in either having cheap energy or expensive health costs down the line, and a degraded quality of life. This is all a prelude to fully entering the age of Peak Oil....and as we ("Peak Oilers") have incessantly noted, e.g.

It doesn't mean dick or diddly how many new energy sources you come up with if you can't contain, control the population growth, and hence demand. Eventually ....all stores of new energy will be exhausted.

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