Based on a series of articles in the New York Times, the headlines and blogs this week are asking, "Is Shale Gas A Ponzi Scheme?"
The author questions the long-term reality of shale gas production and especially the financial underpinnings. Critics charge that the articles were poorly written or that the author has an agenda. Both sides are dancing around, talking about prices and debating the facts about reserves. Activists are rightfully worried about the environmental impacts of the new method of "fracking" (fracturing) shale formations to extract natural gas.
But neither side is asking the fundamental question:
What are we going to do when we run out of tricks to extract more fossil fuels?!
We are fracking our future.
Is there anyone out there who cares about our children?
Someone out there cares about being maligned by the press: Aubrey McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake Energy -- a company which was taken to task in the New York Times article. He offered these assurances to his employees and encouraged them to forward his message to the world:
In summary, you work for a great company and a great industry that is
changing our country (and someday our world), much for the better. ...
Again, thank you for all your hard work in building our company and in
delivering to all Americans a brighter future through more affordable
energy, more American energy, more clean energy and more job and wealth
creation. ... we will now re-double our efforts to educate as many
people as possible so that they may know the truth from us rather than
distortions and dishonesty from others.
We hope that every Chesapeake employee can be part of our public
education outreach. ... You can do this by talking to your families,
friends and others ... about the kind of company you work for and the
integrity of what we do every day for our shareholders, our
communities, our states, our nation, our economy and our environment. ..
Everyone, in other words, except the unborn. At one point, burning fossil fuels was arguably a rational thing to do. But we've passed the point of diminishing returns. Aubrey McCLendon thinks that burning our furniture to keep warm over the winter is wealth creation. He has company. I saw this in a discussion group:
"I disagree that we are foisting any challenges on future generations ....
A couple paragraphs later the same author wrote...
"I do not envision any ... disruptions for at least a century. Perhaps even two or three. By then, I think we can trust our great-grandchildren to have solved these problems.
I wouldn't know how to make this up. He didn't even see the irony: "Trusting" our great-grandchildren to meet their needs without the benefit of oil
[plastics...], natural gas [fertilizer, glass...] or coal [steel, cement...].No, kids, that's right. We burned it all up! Just google "solve these problems" and you will find everything you need to rebuild the depleted world we left for you.
Our society's challenges extend beyond finding cheap and abundant sources of natural gas to make fertilizer and keep the lights on. The critical shift we need is to build awareness, to invest in our children's future by finding a pathway to energy self-reliance, not by extracting more of a finite resource.
It can be called intergenerational equity. Big words, simple Boy Scout concept: Leave the campground better than you found it. (Don't burn the picnic tables!)