You won’t believe what Susan G. Komen is up to: the “frack-tious” truth
In what has got to be one of the most bizarre team-ups in history, Susan G. Komen For the Cure is partnering with Baker Hughes to bring pink fracking drill bits out of your nightmares and into reality. Yes, this is happening.
This may sound like a joke – indeed it is so unbelievably ironic, it reads like something from the Onion. Unfortunately, it’s no joke, and neither is fracking. In case you haven’t heard, fracking [“hydraulic fracturing”] is a process of loosening up oil that is embedded in rock beneath the surface of the planet.
But is this fluid just water? No, it certainly is not just water. But the “fractious” truth is we don’t know with 100 percent certainty; several of the components are considered a trade secret. But we do know that there are 600 different fracking chemicals — industry may pick from this menu to create their toxic brews. Magazine Mother Jones says:
The irony here is that one of the primary criticisms of fracking is that the fracking process injects possible and known carcinogens, including benzene, formaldehyde, and sulfuric acid, into the ground and surrounding environment. A 2011 senate investigation of 14 leading fracking companies found that, between 2005 and 2009 — far from the height of the fracking era — the companies had “injected 10.2 million gallons of fracturing products containing at least one carcinogen.”
Only adding to the irony is the fact that Komen’s very own website, “Environmental Chemicals and Breast Cancer Risk,” informs readers of “Common chemicals that may be associated with breast cancer,” and some of the chemical categories listed are exactly those released when fracking.
Fracking is a strange topic. It uses 2 – 8 million gallons of water per well; just imagine all the trucks and resources that must be used to bring all of that water to the well. It is not a cheap investment. It’s like oil companies are scrounging for every last drop of blood the Earth can produce. There is talk of mining frozen methane gas on the bottom of the ocean.
Some wonder if we should start looking for oil and gas in space. Our space program is basically dead. Is the never-ending search for toxic fuel sources really the only thing that can revive it?
From fracking and horizontal drilling, to tar sands and frozen methane, why are oil and gas companies so determined to find new ways of drilling for oil? I think the answer is obvious: humanity is reaching the end of its oil supply.
Petroleum gas takes millions of years to form naturally. When ancient organisms such a bacteria, plankton, and algae died, their fossilized remains sunk into the Earth where they were squished under enormous pressures and anoxic conditions. Once enough time passed [millions of years], what was left was dubbed “black gold.” The fact that it takes so long to make is why oil is called a “non-renewable resource,” as opposed to other sources such as wind and solar that are available indefinitely.
Humans are using an exponential amount of oil and gas as time goes on. Is the Earth able to replenish the supply in a reasonable timeframe? Dr. Richard Miller, a geologist who worked for BP from 1985 to 2008, has this to say:
“We need new production equal to a new Saudi Arabia every 3 to 4 years to maintain and grow supply… New discoveries have not matched consumption since 1986. We are drawing down on our reserves, even though reserves are apparently climbing every year. Reserves are growing due to better technology in old fields, raising the amount we can recover – but production is still falling at 4.1% p.a. [per annum].”
It is ridiculous to think that we as a species can continue using more and more oil without it running out. So as people and politicians twiddle their thumbs, we may not have as much left beneath the surface of the planet as we want to believe. Whether this proves to be the case or not, we should seek alternatives.
Just for the record, I’m not “against” oil and gas – but as a species we must try to diversify our energy portfolio. I mean, everything else on Earth gets most of its energy from the Sun – an essentially never-ending nuclear reactor. When we depend on one or two sources for our needs, we become dependent on them. If something happened to the oil supply, our civilization would be crushed into oblivion. Energy diversity is key for our survival into the future.
Entrepreneurs and visionaries have ideated a dazzling array of alternative fuel sources. Some – such as hydrolysis – are fanciful and perhaps beyond our current technological level. But many others are mind-blowing and applicable:
- Nuclear: this source comes with its own challenges; for one, the waste is radioactive for thousands of years. But is that really much different from the toxic waste of oil and gas polluting our environment and changing our genome?
- Wood gassification: during World War II, almost every motorized vehicle in Europe was converted to run on firewood. Even ships were converted to run on wood!
- Biodiesel from sources such as sewage waste, waste vegetable oil, or algae.
The political will to develop these sources is painfully lacking. I get it: politicians want their kickbacks from the oil and gas companies. But why is funding for technologies like carbon capture also lacking?
Carbon capture is an ingenious method of literally capturing carbon emissions and storing them – in a container or underground. Storing greenhouse gasses underground may sound like a bad idea, but the Earth actually holds onto a lot of carbon in the roots of plants and underground.
The term “energy crisis” is a lie because creative solutions abound. The crisis is in governments and companies killing nascent technologies. I’m reminded of the fact that an electric car existed more than 100 years ago – even then the oil and gas companies’ grip was strong enough to crush competition.
Furthermore, as technology marches steadily on and society becomes more and more science-fictional, better and more efficient means of producing energy won’t just be a novelty – they will be an absolute necessity. Societies are gluttons for energy, requiring an ever-increasing amount as they advance. Oil and gas alone just can’t produce the amount of energy that will be necessary in the future.
Part of the problem is how our society thinks about its relationship to the planet. We devalue all of the free services the Earth provides for us. From the ones that could help replace non-renewable fuel sources [sunlight, geothermal energy, cool breezes, ocean waves] to the innumerable other natural services that Earth provides [medicines, food, shelter, raw materials, air and water filtration, crop pollination], they are only given value if someone can make money from their extraction value. In doing so, we are we are destroying ecosystems [and their services] and we forget about our connection to this planet.
Our land, air, and water are worth more than what some company can squeeze out of them. In fact, these resources are worth so much that they are actually priceless. Despite our technology, we cannot replace every single service that nature provides. Yet we are complacent as these resources are destroyed.
If we want to solve the problem of the energy “crisis,” we must rethink our relationship to the Earth and rediscover the value of our home.
The arguments for energy diversity go on and on – and I haven’t even touched global warming.
So as Susan G. Komen “pink-washes” what are basically weapons of mass toxicity, I’m left wondering just what our species’ legacy on this planet is going to be. Green technology abounds, but, as they say, “The love of money is the root of all evil.”
We just can’t seem to stop burning up all those buried trees from way back in the carboniferous age, in the form of coal, and the remains of ancient plankton, in the form of oil and gas. If we could, we’d be home free climate wise. Instead, we’re dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at a rate the Earth hasn’t seen since the great climate catastrophes of the past, the ones that led to mass extinctions. We just can’t seem to break our addiction to the kinds of fuel that will bring back a climate last seen by the dinosaurs, a climate that will drown our coastal cities and wreak havoc on the environment and our ability to feed ourselves. All the while, the glorious sun pours immaculate free energy down upon us, more than we will ever need [emphasis added]. Why can’t we summon the ingenuity and courage of the generations that came before us? The dinosaurs never saw that asteroid coming. What’s our excuse?
Neil deGrasse Tyson
- fracking is depleting water sources, report shows (www.guardian.com)
- 10 innovative fuel sources to break our dependence on foreign oil (www.businessinsider.com)