Death Valley

One of these days, we’ll get it right.

One of these days, we will understand that we must move as aggressively as possible towards clean energy.

One of these days, we will comprehend that digging up fossil fuels from the ground is profoundly stupid from both an ecological and economic standpoint.

One of these days, we will recognize that the fossil fuel industry is a rapacious predator that doesn’t give a damn about our children’s health.

However, as the ongoing tragedy in Porter Ranch, California indicates, that day hasn’t come:

Not long after plans were laid for the community of Porter Ranch half a century ago, an oil and gas well caught fire less than five miles away.

A company of Texas oil well firefighters stopped the 1968 blaze after six days…

Today no flames mark the gas pouring out of the ground near the northwest San Fernando Valley community, but the sense of disaster is more acute and repairs will take longer.

Porter Ranch lies closer to the gas field with the nearest homes about a mile from a well that began leaking Oct. 23. Fumes are pouring into the community, and thousands of residents have been relocated to temporary housing.

Emergency crews have returned, but the work is slow. Southern California Gas Co. estimates that crews won’t plug the leak at the Aliso Canyon Underground Storage Facility until at least late February, possibly until late March.

Critics ask why the process can’t be quicker. The answer lies in the dynamics of this particular leak.

Maybe if we cared about the air we drink and the water we breathe, we wouldn’t have allowed these predators to drill and burn and frack and poison and pollute. Maybe if we, as a society, had embraced science, we would have told these predators to get lost, instead of turning a blind eye, a deaf ear, and a cold heart to their egregious efforts to pollute our planet for profit.

As Miles Grant observes, the Porter Ranch horror demonstrates why we have to smarten up today about our energy choices for tomorrow:

[T]he Porter Ranch gas geyser is fresh evidence that locking in our [fracked] gas addiction would be a climate disaster.

Activists in the San Fernando Valley community of Porter Ranch have spent years trying to stop oil and gas drilling, but California has gone full-speed ahead anyway. This leak began October 23 and Louis Sahagun of the Los Angeles Times reports tests have shown hydrogen sulfide levels in the area at 183 parts per billion — six times the state standard for a chemical that can be poisonous. Gizmodo’s Alissa Walker calls it the biggest environmental crisis since the Gulf oil disaster. A relief well won’t stop it for months.

According to Mashable’s Andrew Freedman, Environmental Defense Fund estimates the size of the leak at an astounding 62 million standard cubic feet of [the greenhouse gas] methane per day…

As Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian note, the Porter Ranch scandal has received, shall we say, a rather muted reaction from elected officials in California. Maybe those elected officials figure that not enough people care about this calamity? If so, they wouldn’t be wrong. We’ve known about the dangers of fossil fuels for over 50 years. Where was the outrage back then?

As I watch this catastrophe in California, I can’t help wondering just how intensely future generations will loathe this generation for not doing nearly enough to stop the climate crisis. Remember “I Need to Wake Up,” the Oscar-winning Melissa Etheridge song from An Inconvenient Truth? It’s as though the moment that song concluded, we all decided to go right back to sleep.

UPDATE: More from Nicole Sandler, InsideClimate News, Buzzfeed, Rachel Maddow, David Pakman, Al Jazeera America, Rep. Brad Sherman, Melissa Cronin, CBS Evening News, CNN and Democracy Now!

SECOND UPDATE: More from CBS Evening News, the Los Angeles Times and the Ventura County Star.

THIRD UPDATE: From the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Think Progress and David Pakman.

FOURTH UPDATE: From the Los Angeles Times and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

FIFTH UPDATE: From the Los Angeles Times and Think Progress.

SIXTH UPDATE: From the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Young Turks, Thom Hartmann, Greenpeace, CBS Evening News and David Pakman.

SEVENTH UPDATE: From The Guardian, Thom Hartmann and MSNBC.

EIGHTH UPDATE: From MSNBC and the Los Angeles Times.

NINTH UPDATE: From Melissa Cronin and the Los Angeles Times.

TENTH UPDATE: From NPR and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

ELEVENTH UPDATE: More from the Los Angeles Times.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.