Sierra Club NationalWest Virginia Sierra Club
Explore, enjoy and protect the planet
> Chapter Home
> Newsletter Home
> Archives
> Editorial contact

Dawn of the Extreme Energy Era
click for print view

by Jim Sconyers, Chapter Chair | 2012

A view from the West Virginia Chapter Chair

One energy era ends, another begins.
We are seeing the end of the easy, cheap energy era. Just ask any serious coal-industry insider. The easy-to-access coal seams in Appalachia are almost played out.

Welcome to the dawn of The Extreme Energy Era (eerie futuristic theme background music please).
What is extreme energy ? What are the signs that we’re entering The Extreme Energy Era? Let me give you a few examples.
• Tar Sands Oil — First they have to cook it to get it out of the ground. Then it’s much dirtier than “regular” oil to burn.
• Marcellus/Shale Gas — Deep drilling, thousands of feet, through freshwater aquifers, and hydrofracking to break up the rock and free up the gas. Ruins millions of gallons of water at every well, toxics in fracking fluids need safe disposal. A dozen wells on a single pad, repeated fracking over a decade. No more the simple low impact gas wells of Grandpa’s era.
• Mountaintop Removal Coal — Blowing up whole mountains and burying pristine streams under waste material to get at thin little layers of coal. Communities eradicated, employment reduced by 80 percent.
• Deepwater Offshore Oil Drilling — Remember BP’s experience in the Gulf? Need I say more?
• Nukes raise their ugly head again — Think Fukushima ... multiple meltdowns, radiation in the soil and air and water. Months later the cores are still running out of control.
Extreme energy requires extreme technology. Think mammoth coal draglines … Horizontal shale-gas drilling thousands of feet underground … Cooking tar sands in place to get it flowing … Oil platforms in deep oceanic waters.

Extreme energy poses extreme risks. Mountaintop removal poisons streams and home water wells. Marcellus gas takes billions of gallons of fresh water and turns it into toxic waste to hide away somewhere. Tar sands oil would be piped over one of the most critical fresh water aquifers on the planet, where one spill could mean unprecedented disaster. Deep water oceanic oil drilling proves itself prone to nearly unstoppable blowouts that pollute thousands of square miles of fragile aquatic ecosystems.
We keep raising the stakes for the planet step by step. Yes, if you want oil and gas and coal we can get it for you, say the energy exploiters. We aren’t going to mention the risks — see no / hear no / speak no. Consumer, don’t look behind the curtain!
Are these risks and devastation worth the price? And we know the price, let’s not pretend otherwise. Extreme energy is on target to wreak havoc on this poor planet like we can only begin to grasp. Our grandchildren will pay the human price, and they will not have kind thoughts of us for letting it happen.

Extreme Energy just one of those unavoidable necessary evils of the world? Not at all, it is a completely avoidable evil. Like the price, we know, too, the solution. It’s been said over and over: Read the handwriting on the wall and stop the cycle. It is absolutely essential that we embrace the clean energy future that is built on clean, renewable, sustainable energy. We will never blast, frack, or radiate our way to a liveable future. 

Other Articles

  • 2012
    Table of Contents


© copyright Sierra Club 1892-2012