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Letters for the Week of August 21

Readers sound off on fracking legislation, unionization, and genetic engineering.

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"Sacramento Needs to Regulate Fracking," Seven Days, 8/7

Stop Fracking Altogether

We all know the expression "follow the money." Another question would be who benefits from an action. In this instance, silencing popular resistance to corporate fracking benefits the corporations. If resistance is transformed into mere reforms, such as testing for contaminants, people's fear and anger will not go into direct action stopping fracking altogether. The corporations, the nonprofit organizations, and the politicians all benefit by testing or regulating fracking because it appears that they are doing something about the problem when they're really facilitating it. The corporations get to do the fracking but promise to be responsible, the nonprofit organization gets to claim that its efforts resulted in the testing requirements, and the politicians get credit for "listening" to their constituents and acting on their behalf. Who loses? The people lose because their initial resistance to fracking has been neutralized by this politically opportunistic process. Something similar occurred in Madison, Wisconsin when workers mobilized against Wisconsin Governor Walker's attempt to destroy their right to collective bargaining. It appeared that the empowered workers would accomplish their goals but then the labor bureaucracy and the Democratic Party showed up with clipboards, directing the workers to go home and put their energies into getting out the vote for the Democrats. This betrayal set the labor movement back years by containing and redirecting the spontaneous anger and momentary emancipation of the workers.

The evidence is clear: Fracking is bad. The only responsible solution is to stop it, not test it. To suggest otherwise is to be complicit with the corporations and their political flunkies.

Charles T. Smith, Richmond

Fracking Causes Earthquakes

There is documented evidence that fracking causes earthquakes. Even if you don't believe fracking is inefficient and environmentally harmful (which it is, but set that aside), this alone should disqualify its use in California.

John Seal, Oakland

Better to Have No Legislation

Robert Gammon couldn't be more wrong to state that SB 4 is better than nothing.  SB 4 will facilitate an overwhelming expansion of the worst kind of fracking in California by providing a false framework of safety within which the process could be done. Even assuming for the sake of argument it is possible (which I believe it is not) to regulate fracking in a way that guarantees no pollution of aquifers or soil, makes the mix of toxins used in the fracking transparent to everyone, and makes fracking companies pay the actual costs of any spills or health hazards, it would do nothing to take care of the primary threat posed by the process. This is its impact on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the resulting catastrophic climate disruption! California cannot afford any more extreme weather events.  The extraction, refining, and burning of the final products of fracked crude oil produce more GHG emissions than coal and tar sands bitumen.  California's shale oil is low-quality, high-sulfur, heavy crude oil. It is two to three times as energy intensive to refine as typical US refinery feedstock, and it produces 40 percent more greenhouse gas in order to make gasoline. The GHG footprint of fracking for oil from the Monterey Shale is greater than that of any other fossil fuel, including coal. This is because of the leakage of methane into the atmosphere. An estimated 17 percent of the methane produced in the oil and gas sector of the Los Angeles Basin is leaked. Above 1 to 3 percent, the science tells us that developing fracked gas and oil is worse than coal for the atmosphere.  Burning the 15 billion barrels of dirty oil from the Monterey Shale will release 6.45 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. This is 15 times as much as total greenhouse gas emissions from all sources in California in 2010. We have already burned most of the fossil fuel we can before we exceed the 2 degrees Celsius warming and climate change becomes irreversible. The International Energy Agency warned that three-fifths to two-thirds of known fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground to avoid disastrous climate consequences. We must leave shale oil in the ground, not regulate it or frack for it.

What we need is an outright ban on fracking. AB 1301 (sponsored by Assemblymember Richard Bloom), the strongest of the moratorium bills, was introduced this legislative session but never made it out of the appropriations committee. It will be back in 2014. But if SB 4 passes this year, politicians can claim that they've addressed the fracking problem and not look at the issue again for a several more years. So nothing is better than SB 4 at this point. SB 4 must be defeated to stop the catastrophic climate disruption that is sure to follow, and to give our children and their children a habitable earth to continue living on.

Lora Jo Foo, Oakland

"Bred in Abuse," Feature, 8/7

Foster Care System Needs Repair

There is a ridiculous breakdown in monitoring who can foster a child. SO many people are just doing it for the money. That system is in desperate need of repair.

Nikki Simonsen, San Leandro

"Unionizing Nonprofits," News, 8/7

Unionization Appropriate for Some

There are many different varieties of non-governmental nonprofits even assuming we're not talking about the Sutters and Kaisers. Unionization might be appropriate for some types but not others.

For the very and the moderately successful nonprofits that are supported by charitable contributions, such as the Sierra Club or the NRA, it would be appropriate. If you look at what the executives of those organizations are paid, unions could be just the thing to spread around the contributions. Donors could still pick organizations they donated to based on how efficient the organizations are.


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