Published: January 19, 2014
No matter where one turns today, there's an ad or a TV commercial extolling a new government program to undo the evils of dirty coal, to eliminate the dangers of that evil fossil fuel, oil; or to do away with that devil, natural gas. Who's in charge of the asylum?
Before the emails and letters flood my premises, let me be clear about the absolute truth that I belong to conservation groups and support concerns about clean air and pure water; but will someone please introduce some of our fanatical environmentalist friends to an economist, a scientist, or better yet, a realist.
We are now closer to the often extolled national goal of energy independence, than at any other time in last 40 years. If politics could be pushed aside for just moments, and the Keystone pipeline pursued, drilling permits rescheduled to past limits, and the creative energy of small entrepreneurs be allowed to flourish; we could leave all our despairs forever about our reliance on the rest of the world for energy.
All energy discussions relate directly to water. Consider that the World Water meeting in Stockholm has chosen as a main theme: "The nexus between energy and water," and this relationship of water, energy, and subsistence food, dominates most of the heated debates across a globe looking directly into the face of a 2050 future with two billion more thirsty lips and empty bellies.
The difficult thinking and painful enlightenment starts when you realize that exporting a crop in reality is not simply exporting that crop, but also understanding that the crop includes the water that nourished and matured it. So when my friends, family, and colleagues in Texas, from Amarillo to Lubbock; raise, sell, and ship tons of bales of cotton to China for manufacture into colorful and jazzy T-shirts for teenagers and sports fanatics; spending a bundle to ship such a heavy crop, making a skinny margin on their toil; they are actually more generously enriching the Chinese via extremely high markups while simultaneously sending to China, free of charge, the tons of water they used to raise their cotton crop; simultaneously depleting a dangerously scarce resource of an irreplaceable treasure, The Ogallala Aquifer. To truly see the light, you must be aware of the staggering statistic that it takes 2,720 liters of water to bring a single T-shirt to market, or what an average person would drink in three years. (Environmental Justice Foundation, London).
Headlines from across the U.S. expound widely conflicting narratives, certain to confuse the most brilliant scholars in the land, such as, "EPA moves to ban coal power, while China approves 100 million metric tons of new coal production." Or, "Beijing approves 15 new coal mining projects, and as of 2012 accounts for over half of world output." Better yet is," India's coal imports rise 20 percent to help fuel new power plants." Have you ever looked at a tool from your favorite hardware emporium? 99% of the time it says, "made in China," or sometimes, "made in India." So how do we create those promised new jobs, and how do we reduce unemployment . by closing down vital industries even as the world laughs at us and expands them?
Knowing full well that modern progressive education prefers computers and other high- tech tools over old fashioned ones like maps or globes, I modestly suggest that readers look at a globe to see what nations are west of us across the Pacific. Solomon knew that "the wind blows from west to east," and it seems to be penny wise and pound foolish to ignore the possibility that India's and China's dirty plants will do more harm to our environment than ever could be done by U.S. energy plants employing good old Yankee Ingenuity and the latest technologies. We need uninterrupted and reliable energy; not finger pointing and contentious regulations, making us a laughingstock across Asia.
Jack Flobeck is the founder of Aqua Prima Center, a nonprofit think tank for water research. Readers can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.