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Randy Schenkat: Energy issue bigger than most realize

Randy Schenkat: Energy issue bigger than most realize

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Energy issue bigger than most realize

This is a really confusing time. Could we really go back to a simpler time — when I liked Ike?

It seems there’s a lot of concern about big government these days. Both Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower liked this quote of Lincoln’s — “that government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.” I’d tend to side with Lincoln, too.

As I’ve delved further and further into the energy extraction process and its dependence on our local frac sand, I think the big thing we all should be questioning is big business — especially the oil and gas industry and related mining interests. Let’s call it Big Oil. Their controlling ways imperil the very sense of democracy our country is based upon.

We certainly know there’s contention about frac sand mining, but we rarely talk about the bigger issue — is fracking for natural gas going to make us energy independent, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by using less coal, and be a boon to our economy? This is where Big Oil seems very scary and undemocratic to me.

A study was done from January 2009 to November 2011 of the news stories and commercials about natural gas extraction on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and Fox. Nine stories ran — mostly pro extraction. But there were 530 advertisements for “America’s Oil and Gas Industry.”

Contrast this — less than an hour’s worth of news over nine different nights — to nearly 41/2 hours’ worth of ads on 367 different dates.

The study concludes, “In the current business model, television news programs are ‘sponsored’ by ad dollars. Indeed, these results — a handful of TV news stories on fracking versus hundreds of commercials — tell us less about mainstream news media omissions or commissions and more about the role of money in the debates over energy choices and policy.”

The Energy Policy Forum’s Deborah Rogers made a convincing case on a 54-minute You Tube video that the whole natural gas shift — the Pickens’s Plan — could be linked to a ponzi scheme. Some recent SEC changes have allowed gas companies to change their reserve projections without third-party verification. This inflates stock values, while evidence is showing that maybe 90 percent of wells aren’t profitable and 100-year claims for energy independence are vastly overstated.

Multinational oil companies have no national loyalties. While we might be dreaming of energy independence, they’re already scheming to sell our energy to China for five times the current domestic pegged rate — creating a shortage here and escalating prices after we’ve made the switch. That doesn’t seem very pro-American to me and seems we’re on our way to another greed-driven economic debacle.

I’m for capitalism in the form that Adam Smith envisioned, where rational self-interest prevailed. But that self-interest was imagined on a small scale and resulted in a just relationship between merchants and customers. It’s not survival of the fittest, it’s the way we cooperate that brings prosperity.

I think our founders depended on citizen wisdom. Reading and searching for sources of information, listening, advocating and changing our minds, develop this necessary citizen wisdom.

What seems so confounding today is our inability to embrace the bigness of these energy issues. How do we use evidence? Are we just minions to be manipulated by ads, or to believe, as one of the candidates said the other day, all energy science is political science?

It might be interesting to have mixed groups watch Deborah Rogers’ talk and discuss how we work tentatively to form our truths when confronted with challenging new ideas. I would hope our minds and hearts can serve us better as we come to look at all the issues behind fracking and frac sand mining and see a common enemy in a powerful manipulative bigness that is denying our democracy and stealing our county’s future.

Schenkat is the director of the Winona Council for Quality.

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