Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Warmth

Recently it was brought to my attention that humans have resorted to busting up the substrata of earth's rocky crust to find gas and oil.
In a process called hydraulic fracturing, petrochemical companies mix up a brew of chemicals and pump it deep into the ground.The resultant pressure cracks the mantle of rock that supports our landscape. Oil and gas are released in the process, which the companies then recover and sell to us frigid consumers.

It is a tragedy and a damned shame that we humans have gone this far in destroying our earth's surface just to get fuel, because the chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing are seriously pollutive. They poison groundwater.
I had heard about this a while back. But a few days ago, I got an email about a documentary video that describes this process and its destructive effects. I watched the video trailer about this "fracking," and it troubled me greatly.
But that little piece of communication came to me in the morning hours of a day that dawned here in the Blue Ridge with a temperature of 7 degrees fahrenheit and a blowing blizzard.

Now I have to tell you that we have recently purchased a fancy Vermont Castings gas stove, and we have been very pleased with the serious heat that it provides in the form of instant flames (that look like a wood fire) at the turn of a thermostat.
The stove was acquired after Pat had done extensive research to inform our decision about which gas appliance would be the best to meet our needs. We paid some serious bucks to acquire the thing and have it installed this fall, after thirty years of busting and splitting firewood, and suffering through super-dry electric baseboard heat to survive these sometimes fierce Appalachian winters.
So when we got this intense heat at the push of a button, we were quite impressed with our progress. We have worked hard for it.

The stove burns propane, and I regretted that I had to spend a bunch of money on it instead of investing in a solar system on the roof. Such a venture would have familiarized me with a more sustainable technology. But at age 59, I just feel worn-out with all those years of dealing with the heat thing every winter--hauling the wood, building the fires, so labor-intensive, and having my respiratory tract chronically irritated with the dry heat. At my stage of life, it seemed necessary to have a heat source that is predictable and proven.

So when I saw, a few days ago, this video about hydraulic fracturing, I wondered it this destructive practice had been a part in the chain of services that had delivered my propane. I do not know. But I was thinking about this, and feeling somewhat hopeless about the prospect of sustainability and hydrocarbon abuse and pollution.
But I am warm, and it was seven degrees outside, with a blizzard howling at my windows, and I give up. Its a damned shame that it has come to this.
And most of America is, I fear, in the same predicament.

Maybe next spring we can discuss what should be done about fracking, just like next year we can debate what should be done about our national debt.
Good luck with that.

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