We Shale Overcome
As a Restless Knight, lying awake, thinking about our food and water safety, I wish I could be sitting around the fire with a bunch of old hippies, singing that song. But evidence gives me no confidence that that will soon happen. We are not overcoming shale; it is overcoming us.
In a recent story in the The Nation Magazine entitled, Fracking Our Food Supply, Elizabeth Royte painfully points out just what’s wrong with the energy industry’s methodology for extracting natural gas from shale deposits.
Don’t get me wrong. Despite my preference for renewable energy (Gas is far from being a clean green energy source. As the World Wildlife Fund energy team points out: “The idea that gas is the solution to climate change is a myth put out by vested interests.”), I am not dismissing natural gas as a temporary alternative to the dreaded coal — it is the way it’s being done that makes me restless. And if you happen to be a farmer near land that has been leased to hydraulic fracturing interests, you’ve got real reasons to be restless, and even scared manureless. I’m also restless over the distinct possibility that Americans will believe that shale gas is the answer to all of our problems, and the need to develop sane, clean, renewable energy sources will no longer be an imperative.
Some time in the not-too-distant-past, our nation lost the political will to guaranty the delivery of safe food to its population. By defunding judiciary agencies like the FDA and EPA, congress has made it inevitable that the vested interests will win out over food safety. In the case of corn, we shut our eyes to an agra industry becoming an energy industry, whose desire for profit dictates that we fill gas tanks, not hungry stomachs. Well, thanks, but no tanks. Can we please find another fuel for our cars and trucks other than what was once the product of the “Great American Bread Basket?”
But it’s all politics. It was suggested (I’m sure by a disinterested party) that corn-based ethanol could replace gasoline or at least become part of the mix that is now mandated to go into your fuel tank (Can we still call it a gas tank?). Which of out 50 states always begins the Presidential selection process? Hint: It is neither the political nor the financial capital. And don’t get me wrong. Some of my best friends are Iowans. In ten years, corn price per bushel rose from $1.97 to over $7.00, a jump of over 75%. I couldn’t find another food commodity having that rate of inflation.
But I digress. I switched to a related subject of food degeneration from my original topic, Shale and its impact on the food supply.
Tails of Woe
What caught my attention to this story was the reporting of farm animals, located near a fracking site, having their tails fall off. I guess we humans have nothing to fear from that alarm bell, as our ancestors lost theirs eons ago.
But perhaps we men should be concerned about what other of our body parts could meet the same fate.
Elsie, as shown in this undoctored photo, has become one of the casualties from a hydraulic fracking blow out, on a parcel of land a half mile upwind from where she and her sisters graze.
In addition to the non-standard rear appendage, she and some of her fellow bovines began limping, with swollen legs and infections. Some lost over sixty pounds in a single week, preventing them from lactating. Calves take umbrage when their moms fail to deliver milk. Bulls did not escape the wrath of fracking. One $5,000 breeding bull had to be put to death after veterinarians were unable to treat him.
After testing the water, it was learned that it contained sulfate levels of up to 4,000 parts per million (ppm). The Illinois Department of Health (and they should know) states that 30 to 40 ppm of this additive is safe for drinking. High levels of sulfate can cause polio in cattle. But if you feel you’re not ingesting enough sulfides from your water, come to Schilke’s Farm in North Dakota (Elsie’s home), and enjoy a long soothing sip. Don’t let it bother you that other animals around the farm, such as cats and dogs had elevated levels of selenium. They drink from the same water supply as the rest of the farm population (including the humans). Incidentally, toxicity from this chemical is cumulative in the body.
And speaking of water, a commodity in short supply in many places in the world, including the U.S., fracking a single well can require up to 7 million gallons of potable water. If that’s not enough, thanks to former VP Cheney, fracking interests are not required to report every nasty chemical they intend to use to accomplish their task. Ah, good old Dick Cheney. He was the first to receive a heart transplant when there was no evidence that he ever had one in the first place. I don’t suppose his connection to Halliburton (a major player in the hydraulic fracturing business) had anything to do with this industry secret, do you? By the way, that same great American got fracking excluded from violations of the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air and Safe Drinking Water Acts, the Toxics Release Inventory, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. So shooting a lawyer as quails are released from their cages is not the only act he can take credit for.
But that is only the beginning. The World Wildlife Fund has documented the many organs, including the kidney and liver that have been affected by the 632 chemicals used in natural gas production.
The Catskill Mountainkeeper lists on its website some of the chemicals found in water after hydraulic fracturing. Have you enjoyed some fine barium lately? How about cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury? This resource is on the alert, possibly because NY State Gov. Cuomo is under pressure and is yet to make his decision on permitting fracking on the state’s vast Marcellus shale deposits.
I stated in the beginning of this piece that I am troubled by the possibility, and even the probability that our citizens will become complacent about fracking and all of its evils. Yes, shale gas will bring us a certain amount of energy independence – but at what price? Is it worth having cheap fossil fuel in exchange for endangering the safety of our food supply?
Are the earthquakes that have been reported throughout areas in which hydraulic fracturing is taking place acceptable? As of this writing, fracking-suspected quakes have occurred many areas, including the following:
I don’t know about you, but the possibility of an earthquake can make me pretty restless.