Saturday, August 24, 2013
Frack the Nor Cal Tea Party...
There are certain exercises in torment that I participate in on a fairly regular basis. Things that I like to do that make other people, usually my spouse and family, shake their heads in wonder as to my sense of grandiosity or sheer nerdliness or sanity. For example, I like to take long solo hikes, even when I'm not physically prepared for them. Being on a trail, wondering if I can actually carry a 40 pound pack another six miles to the only source of life giving water, knowing that my life is dependent upon making it there, makes me incredibly happy. Adventure! Another exercise in torment? I enjoy watching CSPAN--I'm one of the few people whose idea of a fun afternoon on a Saturday is to sit in the lazy boy, drifting off to the mendacity of a stilted English professor on Book TV discussing the finer points of Thoreau's theory of life long education.
Another activity on that Torment List would be attending Tea Party meetings to hear speakers that inhabit a part of the political spectrum that makes absolutely no sense to me. I did it again last Thursday.
The Nor Cal Tea Party Patriots were sponsoring a discussion on "fracking" by an "energy expert". This energy expert was a person my wife had tried to hear at an industry summit, but she was turned away at the door for being on a "Do Not Admit" list. No Enviros Allowed.
This was a "two for one" in my twisted mind: an industry apologist and a meeting of right wing extremists. This holds all the fascination for me similar to ripping the scab off a sore. You know you shouldn't like it, but you do anyway (description borrowed from C.S. Lewis).
I arrived at the meeting early in order to take a seat fairly close to the front. Looking around, I counted about 70 true believers, all but three appear older than my 52 trips around the sun. The setting: one of those suburban pop churches in upscale Auburn, where you see more implements of entertainment (drum sets, piano, electric piano, microphone stands, guitar, theatrical lights) than Icons of Christianity. Just a large cross to the side of the stage identified the place as a church. The walls were tan colored. The carpet was tan colored. As were the plush movie theatre style seats (nobody in these Jesus rah rah Centers sits in a pew).
Nobody sat next to me. I think they can sniff out a closet Lefty. I didn't raise my hand when they asked if there were any newcomers there. Didn't want the attention. Most of the participants wore red Tea Party shirts like a uniform. I wore my favorite bristlecone pine t-shirt. It is important to remind yourself what side you are on when you are in enemy territory.
After the Pledge of Allegiance, a rousing acapella version of the National Anthem, and multiple announcements of the doings of the Tea Party, John McDonald took the stage. John is a fifty something who looks thirty something. Suave, in a suit that looked like it cost a pretty penny. He has John Edward style dimples and good looks. An "electrical engineer" by education and a self described starter of high tech companies where he has patents on gadgets "some of which you might have in your purses". A heroic self made man, of Native American ancestry.
He couldn't get his lap top to work for his canned power point presentation. Technology fails. Ironic seeing he was there to tell us how safe Fracking technology is.
John McDonald is part of the Industry Front group: the Coalition of Energy Users. Their sole purpose is to create the political and intellectual space for large scale Fracking operations to begin in California.
"Low cost energy is freedom" McDonald said, "High cost energy leads to the Obama Plantation" Yes, he actually said that. John started out with economic and social advantages with the new fracking revolution that has increased gas and oil production in the United States, disproving Hubberts peak. "If you care about the poor, you want low cost energy". McDonald swooned.
This led McDonald into talking about the wonders of Texas. "Texas is amazing" stating that if Texas was its own country, they would go from being 12th in the world in oil production to 9th, this year alone. Texas is currently pumping 3 million barrels a day, because of fracking. All of it on private land. And with oil production comes money to the Texas coffers: Texas will bring in "900 million dollars in revenue due to oil".
But is it safe? "All my life, when I look at what Environmentalists really state, I find lies", adding: "They lie every time". In a more hopeful tone, swarming to the enraptured crowd of Social Security pensioners, "You can combat the lies".
"Fracking has been around for 20 years"...."We've gotten really good at it". The primary innovation came when drillers figured out how to change directions with the bit and go parallel. Millions of gallons of water and sand are then pumped into the ground, the pressure causes the oil to leach out of pockets and back into the pipe when the pressure is released. That's the Cliff Notes version of fracking. Thus, old wells are reborn with more recoverable oil and gas.
To criticisms that the fracking fluid is dangerous (none of the companies will release what they use) John McDonald eased the audience's fears. "I'd drink the fluid", he heroically said. The fluid is just water, sand, soap and disinfectant, he summarized. "These aren't scary things" adding that "There has never been a fracking related ground water contamination issue". In fact, fracking stops seeps that occur naturally where natural gas is found. We may have "less contamination due to well drilling".
Gee, that makes me feel better.
On to the business of oil: "You can't get around the laws of business". We shouldn't "demonize things that are precious and beautiful. It is wrong to criticize oil companies". "We need to be kind and loving to our oil companies". "We need to tell these companies we love them".
Yes, he said that. All of it.
Is there any space for renewable energy in John McDonald's world? No. John asks: "Why don't we use (energy from) solar panels, to make solar panels?" McDonald sees very little role for renewable energy in California. In fact, he cited a study that in 2050, California will need 30 nuclear reactors and 36 natural gas plants to produce energy to meet demand. He sees no role for renewable energy in our future.
The crowd was pretty excited about all the money that awaits us because California has 2/3rds of the recoverable oil and gas in the United States. We just need to stop the nasty Liberals and Environmentalists from getting in the way of the prosperity that is our birthright.
John McDonald made an apt summary for the enthusiastic Tea Party members: "Energy is Liberty! Energy is Freedom!".