Saturday, November 20, 2010

The People's Summit, Day Two

The People's Summit ended today with another excellent round of presenters and a slew of frightening, but galvanizing, facts. Mayor Calvin Tillman of DISH, Texas (featured in Josh Fox's film Gasland) spoke, introducing us to a new nonprofit he's created to help low-income families and communities get their air and water tested. The lunchtime keynote speaker, EPA whistleblower Wes Wilson (also of Gasland fame), fired the crowd up with his homey aphorisms and grassroots passion. (His best line was a Winston Churchill quote: "You can always count on the American people to do the right thing--after they've exhausted all the other options.") And at the conference's close, Fox himself Skyped in from Australia, where he's doing location shooting for a Gasland sequel. I missed a morning session on new online tools to help people in the anti-fracking fight track the industry and connect with each other, but overall, I feel as if I'm bursting with new information and energy.

For me, the most enlightening presentation was given by Bob Howarth, a professor at Cornell who challenges the industry's claims that natural gas is cleaner than coal and oil. In particular, he demonstrated that when you take into account routine leaks of methane from the pipelines and storage tanks, as well as the carbon-intensive activities necessary to transport the fracking water and refine the gas, natural gas ends up being a greater contributor to global warming than either coal or oil. As a longtime follower and advocate of the fight against global warming, this was important news for me to hear--and it suggests that the two movements need to start communicating to a far greater extent than they've done thus far. The only sour note to all this was the speaker who followed Howarth, a former industry vice president now working for the UN who addressed a roomful of activists as if we were kindergartners while he explained to us why gas is much better for the planet than coal and oil. He even had the gall to ask Howarth--a Cornell professor, mind you--if his research had been peer-reviewed! If nothing else, his presence reminded us of what we're fighting against, and of the depths to which they'll sink to try to invalidate our movement.

I returned home to a nice surprise: an email from a fellow blogger, John, who'd noticed my blog and featured it in his own. For those who are following this issue, John's blog is essential reading, focused as it is specifically on fracking. You should definitely check it out!

The fight continues. And thanks to the summit, I think it's safe to say the movement is stronger, more unified, and more prepared to take on the challenge than ever before.

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