I am the problem. I have a 2017 Toyota Tacoma with 48,290 miles on it. I burn fossil fuel, more than my share. I’m guessing you might also fall into this category. The United States burns a disproportionate amount of fossil fuel. We always have. And because of this, we are destroying huge swaths of our country to get at the precious fluids. Light, sweet, crude. Shale. And our favorite new method of getting at it is called fracking and it’s really, really bad for everyone involved, or at least you might think so and this is where things go sideways in a real hurry.
Blaire Briody lays out this story in “The New Wild West,” and all I can say is, “It’s complicated.” Extraction wields nearly unimaginable power in the United States. Like wealthy lawyers who spend their lives in highrise towers and country clubs, different rules apply. Extraction, in many cases, controls our politics, our politicians, our law enforcement, our military, our foreign and domestic wars, our judicial system and our society in general. Ever wonder why we have such a lack of public transit, electric vehicles, and bike lanes? You can stop wondering.
But the extraction business also provides something essential to a growing lost tribe of Americans. Hope. The last chance at economic relevance, and by relevance I mean survival. Oil booms create oil towns. These towns often have no desire to BE boomtowns but when the tidal wave of crude begins to break there is nothing they can do other than turn and paddle into the wave, stand up, get barreled and hope they survive the numerous dangers of the battlefield.
North Dakota and the Bakken oilfield is Ground Zero for this ongoing story. The Bakken provides jobs and pay scales that go far beyond most other parts of the country. But this is no picnic, especially if you are a woman if you have a substance abuse problem or you hate cold that can take your life with one slight mistake.
There are so many lessons to be learned here. Two ideas to spark your appetite. In North Dakota, you might own your land but not the mineral rights underneath. If the precious crude is found there isn’t much you can do. The tentacles of extraction will come and they will come where they please, up to 500 feet from your house for example. And two, fracking is incredibly toxic, destructive and resource-intensive. (massive use then poisoning of groundwater.)
And in the end, we have to ask ourselves. If we poison the land for thousands of years, all to get at this shale oil reserve, will it move the needle? Will it have ANY impact on the long-term forecast for fossil fuel? The numbers say “No,” but short term profit is the underlying message of the new American Dream; greed.
Some of you know about my love of the bicycle and the idea that with the right kind of eyes this invention can make a serious impact on our world. Delusional? Maybe. But read this book and tell me you don’t want to find a better way.
Get it, read it.