Friday, September 10, 2010

Going up in Flames

For those who cling to the illusion that natural gas is a cleaner, safer source of energy than oil--and that would include all the politicians, businesspeople, and lobbyists in my home state pushing natural gas drilling as the solution to our energy woes--yesterday's natural gas explosion in San Bruno, California might come as a shock. Following close on the heels of the BP oil well blowout, this massive explosion--which killed at least six people, wounded many others, destroyed over 50 homes, and smothered the horizon in flames--should tell us that there simply is no safe source of energy that involves drilling or burning.

To drill is to kill. If only to burn were to learn.

The California explosion didn't involve drilling, of course. But it still staggers the imagination that gas prospectors in my state--in my city--are talking about digging wells near, around, and even under people's homes. The stuff they're digging for isn't cotton candy, after all. It's a flammable, poisonous, deadly substance. It blows up. It makes people (and other living things) sick. It makes people (and others) die. And let's not forget that burning it does cause greenhouse gas emissions. Less is not none.

The more I think about this issue, the more I perceive our society to be paralyzed--unwilling or unable to move, to develop, to change. I keep wondering what it's going to take to jolt us out of this fossil fuel haze we're living in. A natural gas explosion that kills 10,000 people? An oil spill that we just can't plug? Yesterday's blast happened very near a public playground, which fortunately was deserted at the time. But is that what it's going to take?

I hope not. I hope no children are sacrificed on the altars of our addiction.

But I know that they are sacrificed every day: sickened, killed, brain-damaged, deprived of their present and future.

I read yesterday that Barack Obama, offered a free solar panel for the White House (one of the old, but still functional, panels installed by Jimmy Carter and removed by Ronald Reagan), refused to commit to the installation, his press secretary explaining that the issue was "complicated." Personally, I don't see the complication. He's got children. What kind of future does he want for them?

Apparently, one that's going up in flames.

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