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Facts or Fiction?

By Ken Poland
Opinion | June 17, 2012

COLBY, Kan. - Energy policies shaped by the election? A recent opinion writer in the Colby Free Press, representing the Kansas Independent Oil & Gas Association, seems to think so. Maybe it will, but should it?

Politics shapes our elections and money shapes our politics. Special interests aren't always too careful with all the facts. I don't know anyone who is a member of the Oil & Gas Association and I don't have any education degrees that would indicate that I'm an expert concerning oil & gas exploration and production. We have special interest groups on both sides of the issue, who don't have any more technical or scientific knowledge than I have. When those individuals form their opinions on what is and isn't fact, they quite often are driven by their own economic interest or ideological ideas, rather than real knowledge. I'm not too sure we have very many elected officials who are experts with factual knowledge in the field of energy exploration and development. Money buys a place at the negotiating table, through political campaign donations. It takes money to run a successful campaign to get elected. The 'special interest' group with the most available financial resources has the most influence politically.

A number of years ago, we had an oil company expert presenting arguments at a forum discussing underground water protection and the oil industry's exploration and drilling practices. He presented as fact that the holes they were piercing through the Ogallala formation would close by natural attrition in just a few years. Thus, our local water management office shouldn't be concerned over the fact that they stuffed sacks, down only a few feet into the abandoned holes and covered them with a few feet of soil. When I pointed out that, just the previous year, we had two holes, from abandoned hand dug wells (those were drilled most likely before the 1900s), that had opened up and you could still see the spade marks down 15 or twenty feet. We also had a hole that had been drilled some 20 or more years earlier where high voltage electric lines were, now, directly over head. The drilling had to have occurred before the lines were built. You could drop a rock into the hole and hear it hit water. He basically said I didn't know what I was talking about and went on with his, supposed, facts. He was the expert and I was just a dumb farmer sitting on the Water Management Board. The oil companies weren't doing anything that would endanger our underground water supply from surface contamination? Who knows what kind of short cuts, for economic reasons, they were practicing to prevent contamination from below the Ogallala aquifer?

Sad to say, many of us don't see any need for government regulations unless someone is driving across our lawn, then some official had better put a stop to their trespassing.

I am also a little skeptical about his facts about our fossil fuel reserves. He claimed the United States was sitting on more oil and gas than any other country. It hasn't been very many years since our natural gas prices quadrupled on the basis that we were running out of gas. You don't suppose someone had some 'economic interest' in those facts? You don't suppose the coal industry doesn't have an economic interest in trying to convince us that coal is creating less environmental damage than the wind generators or the oil and gas powered generators? I'm sure the oil and gas industry is looking at the honest assessment on true cost to the consumer and the environment, concerning ethanol and oil. Or, are they? Could the National Corn Growers Association be a little hesitant to show all the facts on that same issue?

Who are the 'special interest' groups? How about; Farm Bureau; Chamber of Commerce; National Rifle Association; Animal Rights Activists; Pro Life Advocates; Freedom of Choice Advocates; National Teachers Association; Bankers Association; Religious Groups (all flavors); and the list is in-exhaustible. Most of us belong to one or more special interest groups and we are all prone to be biased on the need for regulation or oversight from anyone, but ourselves.


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