Friday, October 31, 2014

Rights, Fossil Fuel Dangers, Future Generations, and the PennEast Pipeline

My Hunterdon County Democrat letter concerning the PennEast natural gas pipeline generated several comments worth replying to. Below are my replies to those comments:

wolfxx wrote:

“Corporate rights to ruin everybodys water. No such animal. Their right to swing their arm ends where my nose begins.”

This is in reference to environmentalists’ claims, convincingly debunked, that hydraulic fracturing contaminates ground water. “Fracking”, as it is called, is the source of the natural gas that will flow through PennEast’s propose pipeline. My reply:

“Their right to swing their arm ends where my nose begins.”

True, and that works both ways. Unless you can objectively prove that an energy producer harmed or will harm you or your property, you have no right to bloody their noses.

doodledeedle wrote:

“There is a double standard somehow. Cleaner energy sources such as PV, wind, tidal, etc are held to the gold standard. No harm to even an earthworm is acceptable. Yet for fossil fuels it's OK that the products of burning these fuels is causing global climate change and air and water pollution. And the production of fossil fuels and the pollution caused is OK. Fuels spills in the GOM, train wrecks carrying oil and coal, polluted wells and land from fracking. The health care costs for those that get diseases caused by fossil fuel production, transportation and burning. The untold cost of loss of life of species around the globe. The list goes on and on.”

My reply:

This litany of overblown fossil fuel dangers ignores context. The benefits to our lives far exceeds the alleged environmental (or even monetary) costs.

Our air and water has never been cleaner, our lives never longer, our planet never healthier, and our vulnerability to extreme climate and weather events never lower, than in the era of fossil fuel development. Where would we be without modern transportation, water purification and delivery systems, industrial waste disposal systems, indoor plumbing and sewage treatment plants, clean central heating, sturdy reliable construction technologies, electric and nat-gas stoves, indoor illumination, or clean sterile healthcare facilities—to name a few of the benefits, all of which depend on reliable, economical, industrial-scale energy to power? Or would you prefer the days of scooping drinking water from polluted streams and shallow wells (provided there's no drought), stepping over horse turds to get to our horse-and-buggy transportation, heating and cooking over smoky open wood- or dung-burning indoor fires, whale oil lamps, trekking to smelly, disease-infested outhouses, and being ever subject to infectious disease epidemics?

The idea that fossil fuels have made our environment dirtier and more dangerous is utterly false. In fact, fossil fuels enabled human producers to make our environment much less dangerous—from the perspective of human life as a value. Compared to past eras, fossil fuels are an environmental bargain.

As to those “Cleaner energy sources such as PV, wind, tidal, etc,” they require massive mining, manufacturing, transportation, construction, and power line distribution systems to construct and operate—not to mention reliable fossil fuel (and nuclear) backup generation capacity (which is why consistent environmentalists oppose even these “cleaner” energy sources). “No harm to even an earthworm?” Give me a break.

ladybug wrote:

“I Googled your name so I can see very clearly where you stand regarding a plethora of issues concerning immediate big business profits vs. environmental concern for future generations.”

My reply:

There was a time when people really did put "environmental concern for future generations” over large-scale energy production (“big business profits”): It is called the Dark Ages. The environmental preservation mindset is a prescription for human stagnation, poverty, and a short, miserable, back-breaking existence. That's because, as Annie sang, "Tomorrow . . . is always a day [or a generation] away."

Thankfully, there were no environmentalists around before the Industrial Revolution to "preserve the environment." If there had been, the few of us that would be around today would still be existing in short, miserable lives—ever at the mercy of "untouched" nature—rather than enjoying the advanced technological industrialization bequeathed to us. We should celebrate the fact that the environment wasn't preserved for our alleged benefit; and then build on the progress we inherited to make our lives still better and happier—by, for example, respecting the rights of productive individuals and their companies to build fossil fuel pipelines. This will result in the passing on to the next generation of an even more technologically advanced society, and thus better environment.

Related Reading:

Fossil Fuels and Climate Change: Remember Life Before Them

1 comment:

Steve D said...

'This litany of overblown fossil fuel dangers ignores context.'

This is because these people never compare the use of fossil fuels to the various alternatives. All sources of energy by their nature must pose problems. This will always be the case. There is not and can never be a free lunch or a perfect energy source. Whatever your solution, if others look at it in isolation, they can always find issues to rail against. There are always trade-offs to be made and this goes for many other issues as well (e.g. organic vs. traditional vs. GMO agriculture). But if the standard is human life and the market is making the decision everything will eventually get sorted out.

The available options must be evaluated against each other. In this case the choice is between fossil fuels and no (or less) fossil fuels or to be replaced (or not replaced) by other sources of energy (wind, solar, nuclear, hydroelectric).

That said; if coal burning plants were subject to the same regulations, insurance requirements and safety criteria as nuclear plants in just one area (zero emission of radioactive waste), coal would likely no longer be economical. OTOH if nuclear plants were subject to the same regulations as coal our electricity would suddenly be a whole lot cheaper. Even with all the regulations is still a close call. The fact that Germany can no longer supply its power needs and now has to import power from nuclear-using France says it all.