Dear RFK: What *are* you thinking?

In a July 27 post, Robert F Kennedy correctly lists some of the reasons we need to move away from burning coal for energy generation.   Unfortunately, his conclusion that the solution is to replace coal with natural gas is as erroneous as his convictions about coal are correct.

At he concludes:

“Natural gas comes with its own set of environmental caveats. It is a carbon-based fuel and [its] extraction from shale, the most significant new source, if not managed carefully, can cause serious water, land use, and wildlife impacts, especially in the hands of irresponsible producers and lax regulators. But those impacts are dwarfed by the disastrous holocaust of coal and can be mitigated by careful regulation.

The giant advantage of a quick conversion from coal to gas is the quickest route for jumpstarting our economy and saving our planet.

In response, SplashdownPA writes:

“It sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?
“All we need are responsible producers and vigilant regulators!

“Congress can’t even agree that this is necessary! Money isn’t there for environmental protection agencies to hire the number of inspectors necessary to monitor this lawless industry. And YES! coal mining and burning is dangerously toxic, but when Kennedy talks about enough affordable natural gas to last us into the next century, he’s supporting perpetuation of a carbon-based energy industry that has demonstrated it is unwilling to divert a nickel of its profits to safeguard our absolutely VITAL resources: WATER, AIR and LAND. Their best practices are simply NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Especially not a century’s worth!!!

“Closing coal fired plants would reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 20%.. BUT, what measure of CO2 and even more environmentally harmful methane is released into the atmosphere during extraction of natural gas, including toxic air polluting emissions from transporting the millions of gallons of water to and from well pads, treatment or burial of “produced water”, operating drilling rigs, compressors and other associated gas production equipment and activities, over and above emissions from well flares and finally, power plant emissions from energy generation from natural gas? How does all that stack up against that 20%?

“How too does Kennedy justify the permanent depletion and contamination of drinking water supplies across the country, occurring as a result of mining for gas? Surely he can’t think that indicating the need for responsibility and vigilance is going to suddenly manifest a new attitude on all fronts, by all players in this play?

“What guarantees do we have that a gluttonous industry won’t milk the quick fix dry, leaving us with an irrevocable permanent loss in exchange for temporary energy?

“There are important unanswered, and without drilling reform legislation in place, perhaps unanswerable questions. They loom like loopholes in his argument as we continue to learn how criminally untrustworthy corporate America is willing to be in pursuit of the almighty dollar. We’ve seen too how even regulations aren’t foolproof, and how when one entity acts outside the law it encourages others to follow suit.

“Meanwhile, the gas industry has already been irresponsible for deadly releases of toxins into the atmosphere, deadly releases of toxins into our waters, for killing and/or sickening livestock, wildlife and humans, for the seepage of toxic wastewater into our lands, contaminating land and water, the evaporation into the atmosphere of carcinogens from open sludgepits… in short, there isn’t anything healthy or friendly about the production of natural gas and turning a blind eye to the devastating problems of the lesser of two evils does not make the lesser evil any better.”

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