Latest Natural Note Makes Some Folks Angry!

Posted Nov. 1st, 2014 by Daniel J. Cox

Each month I like to share one of my favorite photos that goes out to our email list of editors, art directors, and travelers as something we call a Natural Note. Typically it’s a beautiful scene with flowers, animals, landscapes, or something similar. Every now and again I like to stir things up with an image that makes people think a bit deeper about an important issue. This month I posted just such an image I shot of a drilling platform in the Bakken Oil and Gas Field. The image highlights the conversation about fracking, a technique that has been perfected to help oil companies pull difficult oil from the ground that is caught in natural, hard to get pockets between shale and other geological barriers. You can see the original Natural Note for yourself by clicking on this link.

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This is the image from our latest Natural Note that’s getting the conversation moving.

I’ve received some interesting comments and that’s what the photo was intended to do, create a conversation. I’ve never featured a Natural Note on the Blog but felt this might be a good idea, especially for this subject. Posting to the Blog allows for a conversation to take place.

One of the benefits of Fracking is it has allowed the US and Canada to become world powers in oil again. The US is on the verge of total energy independence for the first time in decades and that is a very positive thing. However, it’s happened due to the same old fossil fuels that have helped create the incredible temps much of the world is experiencing today. I’m writing this from Winnipeg, Manitoba, on my way to Churchill to work with Polar Bears International. The temperature today has topped out at 45 degrees F, there’s green grass outside my hotel, the sun is shining, and I walked to my hotel in a short-sleeved shirt with a light pile jacket. When I first came to see the polar bears in 1987, I had to jump over three-foot snow banks to get to the sidewalks and into the skywalk system that protected me from the driving snow and howling winds. That sort of weather was typical until about 1996 and beyond. 2014 is on track to be Hottest Year on Record and adding more fuel to the fire won’t make it any better.

I readily admit that fracking has helped bring down oil prices and we’ve all benefited. It’s made our fuel bills less expensive; it’s taking money out of the hands of terrorists who’ve used our cash to buy weapons to try and kill us. Cheaper fuel inspires business, creates jobs, and has many other benefits. Even so, we still need to try to find a cleaner, better source for literally making our wheels go round. Just because we’ve always done it this way doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do it. Just because my Ford F150 gets 20mpg, doesn’t mean I don’t want one that gets 50mpg or better. It will all take time and money but better to start now than after it’s too late.

What are your thoughts. Stop by and voice your opinion. I’m going to start it off with an email I received from one of our NE Explorers who wanted to give his opinion on the issue. Ian’s a great guy and I’m happy to have him be the first to start the discussion. Here’s what Ian Enright has to say,


I read your “Natural Notes” with interest.  This note I find particularly interesting as I take a bit of exception to the intent of the note and possibly your project.  I believe the intent was to stimulate some thought…  so thought I’d share a few things for consideration.  I write this with no “tone” just some ideas for consideration.
Think it is worth noting that a minority of crude oil products actually ends up in engines.  Products we use around us everyday; the camera’s you use, the computer I’m typing on, medical equipment such as MRI’s, etc. all are made of parts that involve crude oil derived products that cannot be readily substituted.
Fracking has been used in various forms since the 1800’s.  In my experience people that speak out against this practice really don’t  know how it works and at best cite incidents that are extremely rare and often misleading.  It is estimated that without this technology energy prices would be somewhere between 35%-50% higher than they are.  That would magnify through all shipping (food, medicine, etc) to consumer devices (your camera!) to the tours you enjoy (air travel is extremely carbon intensive and has no alternative than crude derived fuels).  So to put simply; are you willing to have your family’s quality of life change if most goods took a HUGE leap in costs.  Not just fuel for your SUV but airline tickets, medicine, groceries, etc. etc.  Also, if energy costs drive that high many people that live in areas of the planet cannot access means to increase their water supplies, plant or harvest crops on sufficient scale, basic medicines for their families, etc.  
If you truly want to explore the energy topic intellectually I encourage you to read “The Moral Case of Fossil Fuels” by Alex Epstein.  I’m not affiliated with his organization in any way but as a philosopher he brings up some interesting points.  
Please don’t misunderstand my intent.  I favour conservation and striving for better efficient means to provide the world energy.  I think the issue is a bit more complex than portrayed.  If you ever put this up on your blog you are free to add my comments.
Interested in your thoughts.  But perhaps this would be better over a beer something :^)

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