Sean Hannity, a leading right-wing talk show host, is starting the new year by airing a simple-minded solution for what ails America. It is his version of a conservative game plan, and it would be downright disastrous if it ever gained political traction.
Hannity's all-encompassing cure for the nation's ills is to drill and mine every conceivable square inch of American land and waters for oil and natural gas. In his view, this will result in national energy independence and unprecedented prosperity for every segment of society.
It is a scary vision because it is the polar opposite of the principle strategy needed to reduce the chances of global warming-related calamity. That strategy is a gradual but steady shift away from humanity's burning of dirty fossil fuels to a reliance on clean, renewable energy. Natural gas would serve as no more than a relatively brief transitional fuel.
Elevated global temperature trends in the air and oceans, receding glaciers, and a sea level rise that has nearly doubled since 1993 are just some of the indications that earth is heating up from human-generated carbon pollution, and that prompt attention is required. Yet the ideologically-driven radio talk show host seems unmoved.
Hannity contends that current government spending is destroying the prospects of future generations by saddling them with crushing indebtedness. But even when deficit spending is in play, it is only money, so there are always ways to make amends.
No such readily corrective option exists if human activity should produce unfavorable global climate change, major deterioration in national air quality, or substantial loss in the supply and purity of freshwater. In fact, irreversibility of these drastic environmental setbacks would be almost a certainty for the foreseeable future. It is a major flaw in Hannity's simplistic call to cover our nation with wall-to-wall oil rigs, bulldozers, and other heavy extractive machinery.
He should actually know better without having to consider the dire long term consequences of his grand design. Many recent occurrences raise formidable red flags against entrusting the future to a frenzied embrace of fossil fuel production and use.
Hannity ought to take note of the adverse environmental effects that are still being felt from the 2010 British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Tourism and fisheries that under normal circumstances would generate revenues indefinitely are threatened for who knows how long by the extraction of offshore oil and gas for one-time use. Tar balls continue to wash up on Louisiana barrier island beaches, and nearby shrimp fisheries have yet to recover from the BP blowout. Meanwhile, Louisiana's wetlands, which would normally act as a perpetual buffer against hurricanes, have been decimated by oil industry's hit-and-run shipping activity, leaving the state dangerously exposed.
In that same vein, Hannity should be chastened by what is happening in Utah, which ironically is a hotbed of conservatism. The tourism industry there is demanding that the brakes be put on the stampede to open up oil fields in areas where the state's natural beauty has made recreation a leading source of commerce. The protests are being taken seriously, and it's easy to see why. Consider that tourism generates 10 times more jobs in Utah than the energy industry, and the employment is regenerative, not terminated when the well runs dry.
Salvation for Hannity includes fracking, a procedure that extracts natural gas and oil from shale. He should recalibrate, given that fracking uses enormous amounts of precious fresh water, contaminates it in the process, and penetrates so deep into the ground that it has been linked to earthquakes.
Hannity's enthusiasm should be tempered by Dallas, Texas, banning nearby fracking within city limits because of perennial local water scarcity. Nor is Dallas alone. Due to water concerns, Grand Prairie, Texas, and more recently, four Colorado towns in the midst of the farm belt have followed suit.
Hannity seems oblivious to the distinct probability of a connection between deep injection wells dug to dispose of fracking residue and the outbreak of earthquakes. Impacted communities in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Arkansas, and Ohio have not been so dispassionate.
Is Hannity aware that clean, renewable sources of energy already account for approximately 10 percent of the nation's energy consumption and are increasing in usage at a far greater rate than fossil fuel or nuclear?
The message to Hannity is clear. If he cares so much about the fate of future generations, he should rethink his "solution" and tailor it to reality. So should his audience.
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