Late last week, 7,500 gallons of a coal-processing chemical leaked into West Virginia’s Elk River. That river supplied water for the state’s capital, Charleston, and in the aftermath of the spill more than 300,000 people are without clean water. It looks like it will be days before the water is clean enough for affected West Virginians to bathe or drink tap water, and FEMA is distributing more than 250,000 gallons of fresh water.The chemical in question is, as CNN notes, used to “wash coal before it goes to market to reduce ash” and can irritate skin or eyes and be harmful if swallowed or inhaled. This accident was, at some level, the result of mining for coal, and it underscores the dangers inherent to the extraction of this resource.Coal isn’t the only energy source whose production or extraction entails risks. Solar and wind farms both pose risks to birds and other animals, nuclear plants can melt down spectacularly, and improperly-installed cement well casings can allow fracking fluids to leach in to groundwater.Lacking the ability to power civilization without such drawbacks, the problem becomes one of managing risk. Unfortunately, that’s not the way the green movement, as it’s currently conceived, thinks; greens prefer to think in absolutes, in all-or-nothings, in a world painted in greens and browns, with no hues in between. But by dismissing fracking as an environmental evil, not even to be considered in our national energy mix, greens are effectively consigning us to a continued reliance on coal. The shale boom has provided a new bounty of natural gas that is considerably cleaner and greener than coal, and its rise has lowered America’s emissions in recent years. The accident in Charleston is a reminder of energy’s hazards, but is also a chance to recognize that a greener option exists, and its name is fracking.
Frack To Save The PlanetA Toxic Reminder of Energy's Costs
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