Fossill Fuel Dissonance

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Published on Epiphany Now on December 5, 2016

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DAPL route  
It appears that the Army Corp of Engineers has denied the easement that was to allow Energy Transfer Partners to drill under Lake Oahe.  Lake Oahe being a lake that’s in existence due to the damning of the Missouri river by the Army Corp of Engineers.  The Dakota Access Pipeline is a 3.7 billion dollar project that was to cover 1172 miles of which something like 80-90% of the work has already been completed.  This pipeline will be moving 470,000 barrels of fracked Bakken oil per day.  To give you some idea of what 470,000 barrels of oil per day means consider this:  the world produces about 97 million barrels per day (MMb/d) of oi which comes out to about 35 billion barrels per year.  Of that the U.S. uses about 19 MMb/d of which 9.4 MMb/d are imported.  The U.S. uses 7 billion barrels per year which equals out to about 20% of the total world production.  It’s estimated that the Bakken oil region has 4.3 billion barrels of oil which is slightly more than half of what we use here in the U.S. in one year.  The Bakken oil field is considered the largest oil find in U.S. history.  Of course just because it is estimated that 4.3 billion barrels exist under the ground locked up in shale does not mean that there actually is that much.  Even if there is there’s nothing that says that all of that oil is actually recoverable and able to be brought to market.  However, as of 2014 the Bakken has been producing 1 mmb/d of oil. 




U.S. Pipelines   
470,000 barrels of oil per day is a lot of oil, all of which will be used in the South East of the U.S. which is where I reside.  Without a pipeline, all of that oil must be transported via rail and truck which costs more, and according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, is not as safe as a pipeline.  Using the rails for the transfer of this energy means less rail cars left for transport of agricultural products.  I’m not sure how it is that using pipelines are safer than rail and truck transport considering that since 2010 there have been 3,300 incidents of leak and rupture on crude and natural gas pipelines in the U.S.  Those leaks released 7 million gallons of crude into the environment and represent a cost of 2.8 billion dollars in clean up.  Given all of that it’s still more cost efficient to transport via pipeline which equates to lower cost for gasoline at the pump for consumers.  How much can you afford to pay for gasoline? 




Pipeline ruptures  
 The Lakota tribe, in consolidarity with many other tribes from all over the U.S., was able to stop the DAPL pipeline from crossing the Missouri river…at least temporarily.  According to an ancient Native American prophecy, the crossing of the “Black Snake” would have signaled the end of the world.  In this case the “Black Snake” being the DAPL pipeline.  I have been on the side of the Natives during this entire protest.  At one point, about a month ago, I decided that I would go to North Dakota and stand at Standing Rock to help stop the “Black Snake.”  I did not go because of my family and cognizant dissonance, which is the reason I’m writing this essay now.  I say that this is a temporary victory for the Natives because of what the Assistant Secretary for Civil Works at the Army Corp of Engineers, Jo-Ellen Darcy, said about her decision to halt the DAPL from crossing the Missouri at this time.  She said that they need to “explore alternate routes” for the crossing, and that she could not rule out a crossing under Lake Oahe or even potentially North of Bismark.  Originally the crossing was to happen in Bismark ND, but it was rerouted through the Native land after Bismark protested the crossing in their back yard. 




Native American Boarding School  
 It was decided that the crossing would happen at Lake Oahe, where it would disrupt sacred native sites including burial grounds.  According to some sources, I have read that the Army Corp of Engineers attempted to talk with the Lakota elders and leaders hundreds of times, and that they did not show up to the talks.  I can’t say that I blame them for not showing up if this is true.  A casual glance at the history of the abuses that the Native Americans have suffered at the hands of the U.S. government is really all that is necessary to understand why they likely decided that they would be wasting their time to show up at such meetings.  Really, have we forgotten about the small pocks blankets and the Trail of Tears?  It is historical fact that for hundreds of years the Native Americans have suffered genocide due to the American Government.  Their children were taken from them by the thousands, had their hair cut, and were placed in boarding schools to learn how to be white.  Buffalo was hunted damn near to extinction to eviscerate Native American sovereignty and independence.  It is past time that we stop abusing what is left of the Native Americans.  Now imagine that the pipeline will actually cross north of Bismark.  Now when there is a rupture in the pipeline there will be even more people downstream, including the Lakota, who will suffer the environmental consequences of polluted water. 




Native American Land  
There is a much larger problem at work here.  As horrible as the U.S. Government’s treatment of the Native Americans has been, and apparently continues to be, humanities treatment of our environment is of more concern.  What the Lakota “Water Protectors” have hopefully done is to bring more attention to the issue of how we are treating the natural world that sustains us.  What can be more important to humans than a human supporting biosphere?  If we continue destroying the biome that sustains us with noxious chemicals than how can we expect to have any type of future for our children?  What kind of future will they have if the biosphere is full of cancer causing chemicals?  The one thing that the pollution of our environment has in common is energy usage which is mostly fossil energy based.  Nuclear is even worse because it produces nuclear waste that we have no safe means of disposal for.  Nuclear generates waste that remains toxic to our DNA for millions of years. 




Pile of Buffalo heads   
What are we to do about this problem?  Is there any solution?  Our entire built environment, our entire way of inhabiting our landscapes, the methods by which we get what we need from our civilization to maintain ourselves is all 100% dependent on fossil energy.  The renewable energy that we have can only be a temporary measure at best, and will likely not be able to sustain all 7.2 billion of us in the manner we have become accustomed.  Granted, a large percentage of that 7.2 billion are not kept up anywhere near the manner even the poorest in the U.S. are accustomed to.  Solar panels require fossil energy to come into existence, as does all of the other renewable energy schemes.  How are the materials necessary for the creation of a solar panel or wind turbine acquired?  They are acquired via fossil energy powered machinery, and then they are shipped around and manufactured and packaged using fossil energy.  They are maintained using fossil energy.  Nuclear energy is no different…well aside from the DNA damaging waste that is generated that has filled the entire pacific ocean at this point thanks to Fukushima Daiichi. 




Historic World Population  
 Aside from the pollution that is wrought on the environment via the extraction, transport, and refinement of fossil energy there is also the end result of burning that energy.  It adds carbon dioxide among other greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere.  Considering that the world uses 35 billion barrels of oil per year we are creating a lot of greenhouse gas.  Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is not a conspiracy theory, nor is Peak Oil.  It is really quite simple, and I’m sure I couldget my 6 year old to understand how greenhouse gases work to raise the overall heat that is trapped in Earth’s atmosphere as a result of said gases.  Not only do we burn 35 billion barrels of oil per year, but we are also steadily cutting down all of the trees to make more room for yet more industrial monocultured agriculture in an attempt to make more food for more people.  More people are really only possible due to the fossil energy in the first place.  What makes industrial agriculture possible?  Fossil energy.  The herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, and fertilizers that we spray onto the ever decreasing top soil of our gargantuan monocultured fields are all petroleum and natural gas derived chemicals.  These chemicals then make their way to the ocean where they create dead zones.  Industry creates more pollution that makes its way into our water tables and oceans.  Due to all of the added carbon, the oceans are acidifying and destroying fisheries and corals.  Our topsoil is being eroded and blown away.  Yet still the juggernaut of industrial agriculture continues removing the trees that breath a mammal, and therefore human, supporting biosphere out.  We have created a positive feedback loop that is resulting in devastation.  All of this is business as usual (BAU). 
What are we to do about it?  Should we get in our cars and drive to Standing Rock using the very petroleum energy that’s intended to travel along the DAPL that we should stop? What is the alternative to using fossil energy in our society?  How can I support my family in this society without using fossil energy?  Our cars, our houses, our food, and our jobs all require the use of fossil energy.  The best solutions that we have come up with are at best temporary and require fossil energy to begin with.  Is there any way out of this mess? 
I have a landscaping business for many reasons.  It’s one of the few businesses that one can still boot strap oneself into because it requires very little in terms of capital to get started.  My constitution is such that I am happiest working outside while self-employed.  People pay good money and a decent living can be made with landscaping.  However, like all other jobs in our society it requires fossil fuels.  It just happens to be more in your face and obvious in my case.  I need a large truck to pull around equipment on a trailer, and that means a large motor that uses a lot of gasoline.  All of the machinery I use uses gasoline, so I am all of the time filling up jerry cans and topping off gas tanks during the course of my work.  The truth is that I am no more, or less, dependent on petroleum than anyone else in our society…including someone who may make their living installing solar panels. 


Should we stop the Black Snake from crossing the Missouri river to bring us another half million barrels of petroleum per day for our gas tanks?  If we are to do that, than should we not have some type of plan in place to sustain ourselves?  What options do we have outside of the fossil fueled BAU?  I want clean water and healthy soil capable of producing healthy food for my children.  I want healthy oceans teaming with healthy fish to eat.  It stands to reason that I should stop contributing to the pollution that is removing those things.  How can I do that?  My children need a house to live in, and they need food to eat.  Our new President is a AGW and Peak Oil denier.  He’s not going to do anything in an attempt to fix any of this.  He’s invested with his money in DAPL.  
Permaculture has all of the answers to fix all of these problems.  In fact, Permaculture was created to address the worldview that created all of these problems.  Permaculture is the answer to all of these problems.  I wonder if Trump will help create a Department of Permaculture?  What do you think?  

6 Responses to Fossill Fuel Dissonance

  • Ken Barrows says:

    The absurdity of the pipeline is that the Bakken is going, going, gone.  North Dakota puts out stats in the middle of the month for the Bakken.  For the last twelve months, it's about 650 additional wells ($5M per?) for 17% fewer barrels produced.  Maybe I am wrong and the wells are much cheaper, but this pipeline would be operating for under a decade.

    • EtyerePetyere says:

      Not so ! You see canadian tar sand oil from alberta is also being piped and connected into this . There is plenty of oil there to keep this pipeline operational until forever 

  • Lucid Dreams says:

    Good point Ken. It's really just more of the absurdity that is BAU IMO. 

  • AntiTroll says:

    Mr Barrows, you are right. Bakken is toast

  • Boiledfrog says:

    Department of permaculture? Sure why not, a Republican started the national park system, passed the clean air bill, created the endangered species act. Trumps legacy could be permaculture. I hope he doesn't confuse kit with pop culture and put Lady Gaga in charge. 

    • InAlaska says:

      Boiled Frog, you have a good point.  Richard Nixon created the EPA! for god's sakes.  Trump isn't really a republican anyway, so anything is possible with that guy.

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