Energy Is Everywhere, but …

There’s controversy aplenty when the conversation turns to natural resources extraction and energy development.

From concern over the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), to growing opposition to coal, to outrage over the extraction and transport of bitumen from Alberta (Canada)’s oil sands, one can be forgiven for concluding that there’s simply no way to develop energy without endangering or enraging someone.

Even wind developers, once favored by legislators and legislation across the country, are encountering increased and organized resistance to their efforts to site turbines within eye-shot and earshot of landowners.

Clearly everything we do has an impact.

Just as clearly, we need to decide what we’re willing to tolerate, what we’re not, and what we’re willing to sacrifice or risk in order to achieve the level of energy production that enables the economy to function effectively.

The changing face of energy markets – in terms of energy sources, means of extraction, location of deposits, transportation considerations – is likely to preoccupy policymakers, with consequent impact on business trends, for the next decade, at least.

A recent U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration study shows that there exist huge untapped and often highly accessible deposits of both shale oil and shale gas, not only in distant markets but also here in N. America. Someone (or, more accurately, some companies and/or investors) is going to access this energy and it will find its way to market. Read a nice summary of the findings here.

So, where will it go? Should we keep more domestically produced energy for our own domestic consumption? Will we tolerate its extraction or refining in the first place? Will we impose conditions on domestic production that drive investors overseas?

What do we want, and what are we willing to forego in order to achieve the appropriate balance of environmental stewardship and economic vibrancy? These are not idle questions.

Every person engaged in natural resource and energy development – and every environmentalist – would do well to consider them and to formulate reasoned answers and positions, instead of succumbing to the tired narratives that ultimately stultify meaningful debate.