IMPERIAL, Pennsylvania — Iver the past 22 years, protecting and caring for the planet has shifted from being part of our “we’re all in this together” culture to a matter of political corner . And it’s not just your average pedestrian corner problem that comes and goes with every election cycle. No, this one is volatile, vengeful and devouring.
We were once a country that worked together to clean up pollution and use technological and scientific developments to produce cleaner, safer energy. But a swerve to the left has turned environmentalism into a one-sided virtual religion from which no deviation is allowed. Anyone who disagrees is immediately labeled a bigot or irredeemable person.
How irremediable? Well, on Sunday, former Vice President Al Gore linked doomsday climate crisis deniers to police officers in Uvalde, Texas, who left 21 schoolchildren and teachers gunned down in their classrooms. class.
“Climate deniers are really, in some ways, similar to all those nearly 400 law enforcement officers in Uvalde, Texas, who waited outside an unlocked door while children were slaughtered,” Gore said. on NBC News.
His over-the-top scare tactics and demonization have been effective for two decades now. The children he first filled with fear in 2002 are now parents who scare their own children. Last weekend, New York’s “Climate Families” marched outside the home of White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain with their young children, demanding that he tell President Joe Biden that we are in a “climate crisis”.
The children, dressed as firefighters, carried signs with the planet on fire, which read: “We’re out of time”, “Stop allowing fossil fuels” and “Develop the Supreme Court”.
A day later, a group of young Democratic House staffers were arrested after protesting in the office of Chuck Schumer (D-NY), their own party’s Senate Majority Leader.
For those of you who rely on politicians and the media, for much of the last 20 years you have been trained to believe that climate change is the end of the world. Almost every aspect of our culture that touches your life has echoed this dire warning – corporations, institutions, government, academia, Hollywood and social media have all contributed. From the coffee you drink to the school supplies you buy for your children, you can’t escape the message that fossil fuels are killing us, turning our planet into a burning inferno.
The problem with this avalanche of opinions is the failure to educate ourselves and our children on the other side of history in a meaningful way.
When I was a child, our teachers took us on a tour of a nuclear power plant. They also gave us a tour of where they made Heinz ketchup and Wonder bread, as well as a coal mine. They didn’t try to indoctrinate us, they just showed us the world.
When was the last time you saw someone in the media dispassionately show the public what is going on in the energy industry? Or showed you what happens in a well?
Derek Yanchak is the other side of the story. The 34-year-old Washington County native is the director of engineering and completions operations for Range Resources at its Dalbo well site here in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Yanchak is like the thousands of other professionals working in the natural gas industry – young, well-educated (Penn State 2010) and deeply connected to the land he works on. He cares about what goes in and out of the ground, because he fishes, swims, hikes and hunts in the same area where his company drills.
The Dalbo well pad is just outside of the city of Pittsburgh, where Allegheny, Beaver, and Washington counties converge. To get here you have to cross the old Lincoln Highway, split off near the town of Clinton at the “Y” of the road, then drive about a mile until you almost pass through an innocuous dirt road.
Apart from the occasional back and forth of trucks, no noise comes from the entrance to the pad. It’s a stark contrast to the old Jones and Laughlin Steel Mill that once lined the Monongahela River in Pittsburgh, whose operational hum echoed throughout the city. Until you pass through the guard gate, the only sounds you hear here are pastoral.
The first thing you see on the pad is a solar panel. Yanchak explains that he is occasionally used as a power source at the pad. The second thing you see is a lot of men and women wearing hard hats checking wells, recycling water, and using a lot of computers to measure and evaluate the whole operation.
Yanchak explains that they currently operate four wells. “It’s a pretty typical operation because it’s a comeback,” he said. He points to the green tanks which have just stopped on the platform. “That means we had drill wells before, and there are wells producing here before we come back.” He notes that they “reuse existing locations and existing infrastructure. This reduces costs and allows us to not have to build new pipelines, but simply fill in existing pipelines to access these processing facilities.”
Everyone here works a 12-hour shift, whether they’re engineers, geologists, chemists, skilled workers, generators, valve operators or computer specialists. “In a 12-hour shift, we’ll have 25 to 30 people here at a time,” says Yanchak.
For years, the fleet equipment used by Range Resources was diesel, which is more dangerous and more expensive. The entire fleet went electric in 2019; the turbine on the pad uses natural gas to create electricity around the fleet.
Yanchak explains that traditional fracking uses diesel engines to generate electricity to power pressure pumps for hydraulic fracturing operations. “Electric fracturing uses natural gas from the well pad to power turbines to create electricity.”
Not only are the fleets half the size of diesel fleets, they are also much quieter.
Range Resources, which drilled Pennsylvania’s first Marcellus shale well in 2004, is a Texas-based oil and natural gas exploration and production company with regional headquarters in Washington County.
Hydraulic fracturing accesses the gas in a process that involves drilling a mile deep and launching a mixture (99% water and sand, 1% chemicals) into a horizontal well to crack the rock below and release gaseous hydrocarbons on the surface. Because the process requires an abundance of water, the company is part of a sharing program with other regional natural gas operators and recycles whatever those companies use. Yanchak said this sharing and recycling system has resulted in a water recycling rate of over 150%.
The sand comes from places like Mingo Junction, Ohio, and other nearby Midwest river towns. Because the sand they use is extremely fine, delivered in bins which are removed by truck when empty, dust clouds are not an issue.
Jeffrey Ventura, a native of western Pennsylvania, took over as CEO of Range in January 2012. The company has come a long way since drilling its first well 18 years ago. There were a few lawsuits along the way, but for the most part it became a business that changed prosperity in this part of the state.
Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald, a Democrat from Pittsburgh who has supported the industry, said there’s no doubt in his mind that the natural gas industry has been a game-changer for that region.
“It just put a lot of people to work for years and years and years,” he said. “Our building trades, ironworkers, carpenters, laborers, chemists, engineers, and so on, it has literally transformed this area over the last 15 years, in addition to reducing utility costs for people who could possibly least afford it.”
“This 70% reduction in energy costs in the average homeowner’s gas bills from 2008 to 2020 has also made us more competitive with manufacturing and other operations in the Pittsburgh area,” Fitzgerald said.
Ventura said the industry’s image stands in stark contrast to its lesser-known reality, with its careful safety and environmental measures.
“We are focused on environmentally friendly and safe operation,” Ventura said. “Being a good environmental steward and a good citizen in the communities in which we find ourselves… America’s energy industry has a great story to tell; it’s a job creator, it stabilizes communities and it is a sure source of energy for the country.”
It is also a geopolitical asset: it contributes to the balance of trade and national security, it maintains jobs in this region and in this country, and it attracts other industries to locate near where it thrives.
The energy industry cannot hope to get balanced coverage from the national media, which will glorify the Al Gores of this world while rejecting the Yanchaks. And then the same journalists who write these articles will wonder why workers’ votes have changed so much in recent years.