Commentary: Complete the push for clean energy

By Wayne Madsen

The use of unconventional and environmentally damaging methods to eke out of the ground finite supplies of oil and natural gas is a foolhardy method for ensuring the nation's energy needs.

The most expensive and ecologically destructive method for extracting natural gas and shale oil from the ground is hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking. Fracking relies on a witch's brew of trillions of gallons of clean water and dangerous chemicals that is injected into the ground at high pressure in order to extract natural gas and oil.

Moreover, fracking produces toxic waste, such as formaldehyde and acetic boric acids, which, added to the fracking chemicals used by drillers, threatens the fresh water supplies of many states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Colorado and West Virginia, where fracking is commonplace.

However, the fracking industry, through various political action committees, has showered pro-fracking candidates with large sums of campaign cash.

Candidates who oppose fracking and tar sands oil production, both of which entail the building of pipelines across pristine wilderness and high-yield agricultural and livestock grazing areas, often come up short in their efforts to defeat their well-heeled opponents.

It's hard to believe, but there actually are elected officials who oppose applying the federal Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts to the fracking and tar sands industries, even though these sectors pose the greatest threat to the purity of the nation's water supply.

Thousands of cases of contamination of fresh water supplies located near fracking wells have been reported across the United States. Wastewater from fracking cannot be redirected for other purposes, such as crop irrigation or water treatment, because of its high concentration of chemicals.

Another unconventional method for extracting fossil fuels is deep oceanic drilling in environmentally sensitive areas like the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic Ocean.

The Gulf of Mexico's Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010 resulted from BP's overly aggressive drilling and sloppy safety procedures. The tragedy, which ignited a massive fireball that killed several crew members and devastated the environment, is dramatically detailed in a movie now in theaters.

The massive amounts of oil that flowed into the Gulf from BP's Macondo well continue to have devastating effects on the region's commercial and sports fishing industries. It's a reminder that tragedies could happen anywhere where deepwater drilling is allowed.

Sadly, many of the politicians of both major parties elected in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida seem to have more concern for oil industry profits than they for their own constituents.

In North Dakota, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe has protested the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, citing its threat to the tribe's drinking water reserves and a sacred Sioux burial site. More than 100 native tribes in the Western Hemisphere, from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego, are supporting the Sioux, and their plight has gained attention in the United Nations.

Local politicians sided against the Sioux, and the extent to which they have been co-opted by the oil industry has been on display for the world to see.

When it comes to politicians who place the interests of the oil and natural gas companies over the health of their own constituents and the protection of the environment, voters should paraphrase Nancy Reagan's "just say no" advice to drug users.

It's past time to break our nation's addiction to fossil fuels and complete the Obama administration's planet-saving push for clean energy.

Wayne Madsen writes the Wayne Madsen Report blog ( He wrote this for the Tribune News Service.

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