Transitioning from fossil fuels

Mar 8, 2020 By Aaron Dunbar in the Parkersburg News and Sentinel

The fossil fuel industry cares infinitely less about you or your family than it would have you believe. Workers and their communities are little more than a means to an end for the wealthy industrialists who profit from the economic desperation of poor and rural communities.

Recent studies have found that areas with oil and gas based economies tend to suffer in the long term as far as per capita income, education, and crime rates are concerned, despite what appear to be the initial economic benefits of fossil fuel extraction. Often the longer the period of resource extraction in an area, the more severe the economic consequences will be when industries inevitably decide to pack up and leave — all a part of the vicious boom and bust cycles for which the fossil fuel industry is infamous.

This is to say nothing of the long term health and environmental impacts of fossil fuel extraction on those communities subjected to the presence of these industries. Right now, for instance, there is cause for concern that the recent boom in plastics in the area, a direct result of increased natural gas production, could potentially turn Appalachia into the next Cancer Alley.

On an even larger scale there is the issue of climate change to consider. Despite widespread skepticism among many Americans, there is virtually unanimous consensus among published climate scientists that climate change is happening, that it is overwhelmingly being caused by greenhouse gas emissions, and that the long term consequences to our planet will be devastating.

The truth is, the fossil fuel industry has known about climate change since before it was even a blip on the radar for many scientists, much less the general public. They’ve known that their product is poisoning us, that it is wrecking the planetary ecosystem, and that it will in fact make vast areas of the earth uninhabitable due to rising global temperatures. And instead of making the changes necessary to prevent such catastrophes, fossil fuel executives have spent decades lying to the American public, spending vast amounts of money on misinformation campaigns, and buying off politicians to prevent any meaningful action on curbing our emissions.

Fossil fuel corporations and their CEOs do not care about us or our communities. And yet there is a widespread impulse, despite a longstanding legacy of abuse and mistreatment, for many Americans to stand up for the industries who have proven only too happy to rob them of their well-being.

As a climate activist, I like many others believe in the necessity of a just transition for workers and communities dependent upon the destructive practices of the fossil fuel industry. We believe in moving toward a green-based economy, it is vitally important to retrain low-income and fossil fuel workers for long term, sustainable careers in the renewable energy sector, as well as for other clean jobs that will overwhelmingly comprise the economy of tomorrow.

A just transition is not only possible, but essential to ensuring a brighter future for our planet, and for our communities.