Gas Drilling Worsens Pollution

by Green Jobs Ready on March 8, 2011

Gas drilling is making pollution in Wyoming worse than in Los Angeles.  Unless this stops, Wyoming’s crisp mountain air and clear refreshing views might completely disappear.

Gas drilling is one of the efforts to boost the state’s economy.  With one of the nation’s lowest employment rates, 6.4%, Wyoming is trying out different ways to cope with the projected $1 billion budget surplus for the coming year.

To ensure a sustainable future, we’ve advocated ending our oil dependency, which feeds war, and focusing on creating more alternative energy.  In the past we’ve reported that natural gas is not completely green, but can be a temporary substitute for oil until we can completely stop relying on burning fossil fuels to meet our energy needs.   However, as we and many readers have pointed out, switching from oil to natural gas is not a solution to our energy woes, and it can actually create further problems.

Producing more natural gas to meet our energy needs means drilling on our own lands for the coveted resource.  This would entail destroying natural environments and, as the Wyoming example shows, creating more pollution which puts public health at great risk.

The process of drilling for natural gas is popularly called “fracking,” and is the subject of many heated debates between business proponents and environmental and public health advocates.  Ultimately, the temporary benefits of natural gas – helping to foreign oil dependency, lowering gas prices, creating profit, and providing another energy source – are outweighed by negative consequences which include increased pollution, public health problems (widespread respiratory complications), and the release of methane and other greenhouse gases which contribute to rapid climate change.

The Huffington Post reports that “Wyoming residents living near the gas fields in the western part of the state are complaining of watery eyes, shortness of breath and bloody noses because of ozone levels that have exceeded what people in L.A. and other major cities wheeze through on their worst pollution days.”  In fact, over two days last week, ozone levels in the gas-rich Upper Green River Basin rose above the highest levels recorded in the biggest U.S. cities last year.  State officials have even urged the elderly to avoid strenuous outdoor activity, and at least one daycare center canceled outdoor recess.

Preliminary data show ozone levels last Wednesday got as high as 124 parts per billion. That’s two-thirds higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum healthy limit of 75 parts per billion and above the worst day in Los Angeles all last year, 114 parts per billion, according to EPA records. Ozone levels in the basin reached 116 on March 1 and 104 on Saturday [Huffington Post].

This is another instance of powerful companies and government officials deciding to trade health for profit.  Their rationale for doing so never ceases to amaze.  We know that investing in renewable energies, such as solar and wind power, would produce just as much if not more profit.

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