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Natural Resources

To the Editor:

  There is a continuing struggle between environmentalists and those whose living is made by using natural resources. The natural resources of earth are finite and beg the question if natural resources will continue to be the servant of mankind or will it become the master?

   The remark made on NPR that “we export more gasoline than we import” piqued interest in gasoline production. The gentleman was correct according to the Energy Information Administration (E.I.O.). Their data tells us that in 2010 we imported 135,000 barrels of gasoline and exported 296,000 barrels of gasoline daily. This was reported on NPR to be attributed to cheaper U.S. refining using natural gas rather than petroleum to refine crude oil. This trend is projected to increase as more refinery apparatus is converted to and powered by less expensive natural gas.

   The advantage in using natural gas in electrical power generation is similar to gasoline production when compared to coal fired power generation plants. According to the E.I.O. in 1999 the carbon dioxide emissions to produce a kilowatt of electricity were 2.1 pounds for coal and 1.3 pounds for natural gas. This looks good at first glance, then, Dr.Doolittle’s “Push-Me-Pull-Me” imaginary beast leaps out: 461,000 natural gas wells in 2009 by E.I.O. count and a homeowner on T.V.  lighting what should have been water coming out of his kitchen faucet is startling.

   A fracking contradiction exists between costs and rewards that will be totaled in the future.

   Professor Cox, Cornell University, points out that soybean acreage in NEW YORK was 40,000 acres in 1990 and increased to 300,000 acres in 2011. A combination of increased market demand and prices coupled with weather more conducive to soybeans drove this change. Push and pull is evident in New York State in climate change production of a food.

   The United Nations estimated each of us uses 140 kilograms of plastics each year. An estimated 6.4 million metric tons of plastic has ended up in the oceans. The contamination of the oceans may well be as great a threat to mankind as climate change.     

   The ends-means continuum existing between man’s ability to invent ways to use natural resources and unintended negative consequences is mind boggling. Some think environmental disaster is just around the corner and look for “tipping points.” These “points” illuminate numerous potential areas where natural resources will no longer be our servant but the master of mankind. A master like an abused animal turned on its abuser, ferocious and deadly.

                                                                                             Gene Nettles

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