LETTER: Fracking Boom, Bust; Still No Sustainable Energy System for County
To the Editor-
I started studying the global peak of oil/natural gas production in 1999, with “The End of Cheap Oil”, Scientific American, by Campbell and Laherrere.
America has been convinced by fossil fuels industries that we’ve become a new superpower in petroleum: no more peak oil! Industry public relations departments and U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) get out this message–a false message.
At the turn of century, Richard Heinberg, James Kunstler, and others at our local Energy Fair said the peak of oil production was going to arrive soon (2005-2006).. “Americans are going to have to make other arrangements” to operate our economy (Kunstler, Energy Fair, ca. 2004).
Then came peak “conventional oil” and the peak of gasoline prices, 2007-2008, the onset of the Great Recession, December 2007, then the debt-default and liquidity crisis, September 2008. Job losses were huge; central Wisconsin lost jobs by the thousands. Then, oil and gasoline prices plunged. Then, recovery began. But what was fueling this recovery? One word: fracking.
Unknown to most Wisconsinites, Dick Cheney pushed a bill through congress imposing secrecy about fluids used in the hydro-fracking for gas and oil. The four largest U.S. fracked-oil fields began to produce a lot of oil, raising U.S. oil production from 5.5 million barrels/day to 9.5 million/day. However, there is a fatal flaw. The wells produce hugely for a very short time, then undergo a steady decline until the point where they’re just mere “stripper wells” polluting the landscape (and groundwater) but producing under 100 barrels a day/well.
By the year 2020, U.S. oil production again will be declining, fast. How will this impact Portage County? Severely. Typical of Wisconsin, we have a working class who live far from their jobs. Our large-scale industrial agricultural system is completely dependent upon petroleum and natural gas to do all of its work. We have no regional mass transit, thanks to the big government corporate bosses who run our state Legislature. They stripped counties’ power to form regional mass transit collaboratives with Act 32, the 2011 budget bill.
All that farmland destruction for frac-sand to our west, to feed a 10-year boom-bust cycle, and no sustainable energy system to show for it. Tragic.
Our aging population depend on auto transport, as do our poor and our super-poor, yet auto fuels will be growing scarce again, within 10 years. Our UWSP campus may be “100 renewable” for electricity generation, yet is a “suitcase campus” dependent on autos to get students here, and back home every other weekend. We are zoned for the 1960s, with plenty of petroleum to allow endless urban sprawl. By 2025 the fracking “bust” will leave us with obsolete zoning.
We have a looming emergency on our horizon. I would suggest that local business, ag and government leaders begin to study this problem and begin planning for economic emergency. As Art Berman says, “energy (oil and gas) IS the economy.”