Stewart Acuff

Jun 5

The False Choice: Jobs vs. the Environment

I’ve heard Steelworkers President Leo Gerard say again and again, “We need to put an end to the lies, the myths, the hysteria, that say you can have either a clean environment or good jobs,” Gerard says. “You can have both, or you have neither.”

This is a maxim that must be applied to our economy today.

Right now, across the United States, we are drilling as much as 8000 feet below the surface for the dangerous process known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.”

“For each frack, 80 – 300 tons of chemicals may be used. Presently, the natural gas industry does not have to disclose the chemicals used, but scientists have identified volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene.” (

Make no mistake natural gas is a very dangerous and volatile fuel. People like CJ Bevins can be and are killed in the drilling. Other workers, utility and fire fighters are killed in the delivery of the fuel. Entire underground aquifers from which our cleanest water comes are threatened with poisoning. If you think about it for just a moment, drilling below the surface of the earth and breaking apart the earth is a symptom of humanity’s arrogance toward our planet.

Meanwhile, we have a huge debate in America of whether to build a massive pipeline down the middle of America to carry the dirtiest oil in the world from Canada tar sands to refineries in Texas – essentially treating America as a developing country allowing its environment to be degraded and its people put to risk. It is called the Keystone XL pipeline. The refined oil would not be used or consumed here, but shipped to China and other countries.

The reason for fracking or the pipeline is not to put people to work, but to make billions for those who already have billions and only care about themselves.

The irony is stunning – an interstate bridge collapse in Washington State, a bridge collapse just a few years ago in Minneapolis, a D+ grade for our infrastructure from the American Society of Civil Engineers, crumbling roads and railroads, lack of investment in renewable energy such as wind and solar, and the necessity of rebuilding our electricity infrastructure and electricity transmission lines.

Let me end this post with this irony. Just miles from the corridor of the proposed pipeline could be a series of wind farms and wind turbines creating thousands of jobs for America instead of the rest of the world – safe, sustainable and renewable.


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