Do You Care About Energy Exploration Near Our National Parks?
As energy prices creep steadily higher, there's a growing segment of America that believes short-term relief can literally be tapped from fossil-fuel resources in the Western states. But many of those resources are found on public lands that buffer national parks, national wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas, and their development could have dire consequences for those landscapes.
Still, energy companies and more than a few politicians are clamoring for greater energy development in the West, from tapping the coal, oil, and natural gas fields in Montana and Wyoming to the oil shale and tar sands deposits buried beneath southwestern Wyoming, Utah, and western Colorado and to the oil beneath the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
But development of these resources carry more than a few impacts. Already there have been concerns expressed about how development of the massive Jonah Gas Field in southwestern Wyoming will or already is impairing air quality over Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks and impact wildlife corridors that animals from those parks utilized.
Then, too, there have been fears expressed about how oil shale and tar sands development could tarnish the landscapes around Arches and Canyonlands national parks, Dinosaur National Monument, and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Utah. Such developments would require massive amounts of water and, some believe, generate two-and-a-half more greenhouse gases than traditional oilfield development does.
At current consumption levels, U.S. resources are inadequate to achieve energy independence. The United States contains 2.5 % of the world's oil resources and 3% of world natural gas resources. But we account for 24% of total world consumption of oil and 22% of natural gas consumption. Opening more areas to drilling in the U.S. can never make us less dependent on foreign oil or natural gas. The only way we will ever reduce our dependency is to reduce our consumption.
Yet in spite of these dire predictions of environmental degradation and the analysts' opinions that the proposed developments would not solve our current energy plight either in the short- or long-term, more and more Americans seem to favor drilling our way to lower energy costs, conservation of energy or natural resources be damned. Here's the bottom line from a national survey the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press conducted late last month:
Amid record gas prices, public support for greater energy exploration is spiking. Compared with just a few months ago, many more Americans are giving higher priority to more energy exploration, rather than more conservation. An increasing proportion also says that developing new sources of energy - rather than protecting the environment - is the more important national priority.
The latest nationwide survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted June 18-29 among 2,004 adults, also finds that half of Americans now support drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, up from 42% in February.
What's shocking about this report, at least to me, is not only the overall trend, but which demographic groups are moving into the "drill for our salvation" camp: "Young people, liberals, independents, Democrats, women and people who have attended college," according to the Pew survey.
You can find the rest of the survey here.
The Traveler is interested in your thoughts on this issue. Does this survey reflect your beliefs? Are our domestic energy resources a panacea for the current energy crisis? Or, should we as a nation be more focused on researching and developing alternative energy sources, both to preserve our public lands and to try to stem anthropogenic contributions to climate change?
What about conservation of our national parks and other federal lands? Would you mind if they suffered from greater energy exploration as long as the price of gas went down a nickel or dime and you saved $10-$25 a year on your heating bills? Do you care what future generations think of our conservation practices?