Biff America: Bad gas on a Vespa
August 2, 2013
You should never tailgate a pick-up truck, especially one large enough to be seen from outer space, and especially not when driving a motor scooter. So I was staying well behind the beast, mostly because of dust coming off his back wheels, but also because he kept slowing down and staring at me though his mirror.
When the road widened he pulled over and motioned me to do the same. I considered making a run for it, but he had more horsepower in his windshield wipers than I did in my entire engine. I was delighted to see it was someone I knew.
My friend Chris is a builder of homes, a biker, family man and not afraid to speak his mind. He looked at me sternly and said, "Do you believe that crap or are you just trying to be a jerk?"
It required no acting on my part to answer, "What are you talking about?"
Chris pointed to a bumper sticker that was affixed to the front of my scooter just under the headlight. "I (HEART) FRACKING."
My good buddy Jimmy works in the oil and gas industry, and he stopped over last weekend for a visit. He and I love to exchange political and environmental banter. My guess was that he put the magnetic sticker on my scooter in a place where I might not notice. I looked over at Chris's bumper and saw two stickers– "No Fracking Way" and "Go frack yourself and leave the mother earth alone."
"I always pegged you as a tree hugger," Chris said in a scolding tone. "Do you really love fracking?"
I answered quite honestly, "My buddy must have put it on there, I hate fracking." Chris and I caught up for a few minutes and headed our separate ways.
As I was driving home, I got a chuckle wondering if many others saw my sticker and felt similar outrage. It wasn't until I coasted into my garage and pulled off the magnetic sticker before I wondered, how can I hate fracking when I know so little about it? And in truth, there are more than a few issues where my opinions are based on feelings and not facts. This does not mean I am necessarily wrong in my conclusions, but that some are based as much on emotion as on details.
And unfortunately it is difficult to get an objective fracking judgment.
I have some friends in the industry who I trust to be, if not unbiased, at least honest in their opinions. Their take is that the risks are manageable and the results are a healthy economy, energy independence and an improved quality of life. They admit that accidents do and will occur, but the incidents are few, the remedies are available and the net result is cleaner, more efficient and less damaging than other forms of extraction and conventional power.
On the other side, you have the scathing documentaries that show the results when things have gone terribly wrong. There is also the "what if" contingent who highlight the worst-case scenario and wonder if the returns are worth the risks. Truth is, it is extremely difficult to read one article about almost any polarizing topic and get both sides of the argument.
This era is often referred to as the "information age." All the collective data of the millennium is a keystroke away. I recently wrote a column about the dwindling bee population in Europe and the USA. Seems the bugs have lost interest in breeding. That got me thinking about bee sex and wondering if they enjoy lovemaking to the point of having orgasms. To find out I simply asked my phone and got an immediate answer.
As well as being the information age, now is also the age of no compromise. It is far easier to get affirmed than informed for the simple reason that few on either side are willing, either from bigotry or laziness, to acknowledge even valid dissenting possibilities. It is just as difficult to get Sean Hannity to say something nice about President Obama as it is for Al Sharpton to acknowledge that many in the GOP are well intentioned.
To be honest, I am sick of the fearmongers and hate-meisters using extreme stances and scary examples to promote a particular agenda. We have gotten in a political and issue mindset where compromise can seldom be reached largely due to each side trying to pander to a polarized populous who get their information from partisan proselytizers. (I know that is a lot of P's — and you thought those oil spills were messy.)
So after much shifting through the pros and cons, the myths and facts, results and repercussions of this topic, I've come to this conclusion. I still hate fracking, but I love affordable energy and the economic benefits and our lack of foreign energy dependence. It is very possible that it is a necessary evil that will become safer and less intrusive on our public and private lands — or perhaps not. One thing I do know is that male bees do have orgasms, but their genitalia snap off during intercourse, which then kills them. And that, good readers, sounds like no fracking fun.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on TV-8-Summit and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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