, Newburyport, MA


March 28, 2013

When the well runs dry


I first saw wells that produced oil, rather than water, not long after that drought summer, when Dad took us two boys on a cross-country summer auto trip from Maine to California, 10 days on the road, all two lanes west of Pennsylvania, the derricks rising and falling around the clock as we drove by. My job in the back seat was to keep an eye out the rear window to be sure the tent poles didn’t slide off the roof rack.

Fossil fuel harvesting used to be a western occupation for New Englanders for whom everything west of the Hudson River is at least the beginning of things West. Nowadays, the technology has gone way beyond drilling a hole in the ground and capturing what comes out. The latest method is something called fracking, which is certainly clever from a engineering perspective, but is also way more expensive and destructive of our Earth than a traditional coal mine or land-based oil well could ever be.

Considering how much havoc this fracking is causing all the way east to New York state and how vigorously our scientists have condemned it, it’s time to remember all the ways we use oil other than to burn in our homes and vehicles. Current sunlight can do a lot, but it may be beyond even our most inventive engineers to turn it into all the products that the useful plastic revolution has created and still protect our planet.

We already have a successor to fossil fuels in our growing solar industry. It’s time we halt the extraction and burning of fossil fuels before the wells run day.

When my grandchildren — Jonny, Thomas, Connie and James — tell their grandkids about what they remember from their childhoods, I want them to be stories of adventure, growth and accomplishment in which people all around the globe pulled back from the brink of global climate change disaster and began a new era of reverence for Mother Earth and apple pie.


John Harwood of Newbury is a retired community journalist and a patriot.

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