Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

Bush Authorizes New Drilling In Montana

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The Bush “administration” has approved increased drilling in Montana. The decision would allow 18,000 natural gas wells to be drilled on more than 1.5 million acres of federal land in the Powder River Basin in southeastern Montana over the next two decades.  Yes, the drilling boom in the West remains stuck in high gear.  Despite a dramatic increase in the number of wells for oil and gas in the past 8 years, prices haven’t decreased for consumers.  During the same time period, oil and gas corporations’ profits have increased quarter after quarter, year after year.  The drilling is solely benefiting corporations while Western residents deal with increases in crime and pollution.  Moreover, the heightened pace of industry is taking a toll on local infrastructure – roads, water, sewage and the like.  Has the fossil fuel industry paid for the increased wear-and-tear of public infrastructure?  No.  They’ve been handed corporate welfare in giveaways by the Bush “administration”.

The biggest drawback to the potential increase in drilling is water concerns:

The Powder River Basin holds a type of natural gas known as coal-bed methane, which companies can extract only after pumping vast quantities of water from underground aquifers that trap the gas. That’s the same water ranchers in the arid region depend on to irrigate fields and fill stock ponds.

That means the corporations padding the pockets of Republican politicians are going to compete for the same resources as the voters those Republicans depend on.  The word is the fossil fuel corporations won’t keep drilling if environmental concerns arise.  This might be likelier under an Obama administration than a Bush “administration”, but I say wait until the concerns arise to see how it’s handled.  We’ve been reassured that drilling has such incredible technologies that the environment is basically left untouched for years by pro-Bushies.  The environment always suffers, the fossil fuel industry always profits and nothing is cleaned up by the corporations doing the damage – it always falls to taxpayers who didn’t get a profit from the drilling.  That kind of socialism is alright for Republicans – privatize the profit, socialize the loss.

This kind of plan is incredibly short-sighted.  As climate change makes its influence felt in the Western U.S., steady precipitation is forecasted to decrease.  While that’s going on, burning more natural gas will generate even more greenhouse gases whose effect won’t be felt for decades.  Mitigating those effects will become increasingly expensive, by the way.  So the climate in the Western U.S. will be forced toward increasingly arid conditions while additional drilling continues, which will require millions of gallons of water from ranchers and other Western interests.  All while drilling corporations privatize the profits and socialize their losses.

On the other hand, we could install wind farms and new transmission lines, which wouldn’t release nearly the GHGs drilling does during manufacture and assembly and wouldn’t compete for water like drilling will.  Americans would get clean energy and the climate and wildlife wouldn’t be as impacted.  I can’t wait until Jan. 20th and our energy nightmare is addressed more honestly.

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