Oh, sure, to supporters of these policies drilling is fine when confined to some frozen tundra in Alaska or an offshore rig a distance from the shore.
As The Star’s Patrick McCreless has reported, much of Alabama’s national forests is being made available to oil and gas drillers. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management recently posted notice that drilling rights on 43,000 acres of federal land in Alabama will soon be available for lease. The vast majority of those sites are in the Talladega National Forest, meaning our backyard. The parcels up for lease are disturbingly close to the Pinhoti and other hiking trails, bodies of water, Cheaha State Park and other natural assets.
The Southern Environmental Law Center has already raised a red flag. It warned that drilling in Alabama’s national forests might include “fracking,” the extraction process blamed for polluted groundwater, the increased emission of toxic compounds into the air, and a rise in earthquakes.
Fracking and the danger of spills heighten the concern about oil and gas exploration in our part of Alabama. However, drilling for oil and gas is by necessity a messy process even if the site remains disaster-free. If drilling occurs, large equipment will significantly disturb parts of the federal lands. Heavy machinery will be trucked in. Men and machines will leave a big footprint. The fragile balance of nature will be out of balance.
Drill here, drill now loses some of its luster at this prospect. However, opponents and supporters of drilling in Alabama’s federal lands share one thing in common: a nearly unquenchable thirst for more energy.
We like electricity at our fingertips that provides light, hot water, air-conditioners and other conveniences. Though we complain about the price, we like a ready supply of gas for our automobiles. The dominant method for producing energy involves fossil-fuel extraction, which is by its nature messy. That applies if it’s in our backyard or someone else’s.
It seems the real lesson here is that the nation needs to double-down on finding clean and renewable alternatives.