The Human Cost of Green Energy and Fracking

On Gawker, environmental reporter Brentin Mock writes about how tracking down a high-paid fracking job affected a friend, and how this dangerous new way to access "clean energy" may not be so clean.

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Gawker contributor Brentin Mock shares a personal story about the human cost of fracking in states like Texas.

Obama gave considerable attention to developing natural gas, which he called a "bridge fuel." This bridge was not entirely dirty, but it wasn't all that clean either. The discovery of rock shale gas deposits under our feet, and a new procedure called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," could free up volumes of natural gas and wean us off dirty energy sources like coal and oil.

Many environmentalists advised against natural gas, citing potential risks like toxic chemicals leaking into our water supplies and the presence of deadly methane in the gases. But it was an energy source that many Democrats and Republicans agreed on, and, most importantly, fracking offered jobs.

Meanwhile, many believed that green jobs, created by bolstering wind and solar energy companies, were a solution to the unemployment crisis, with the jobless rate running over 50 percent among black and Latino young adults in small cities like Harrisburg and major cities like Chicago.

Green jobs projects, though, were mostly pilot programs in random cities—nothing long-term or widespread like the jobs offered by the fossil fuel industries. In Pennsylvania, coal, the dirtiest of all fuels, was still king. As king, the coal companies it did its mightiest to keep green jobs in the pilot phase. Together with oil and gas companies, the coal industry did a PR blitz, even trying to convince Americans that they could burn "clean coal." They also filled Republican candidates coffers with millions of dollars to fight clean energy policies. Their goal was to obstruct and delay renewable energy, and block wind and solar from any license to operate ...

Landing a job in the fracking industry became Aaron's mission. The jobs typically paid between $70,000 and $120,000 to start. He then hoped to leave Harrisburg, probably for Houston where he had family and heard there were even more drilling jobs.

Read Brentin Mock's entire piece at Gawker.

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