Lately social media, led by the efforts of the Sierra Club, has been abuzz with cries to shut Tenaska out of Illinois.  Though I’ve supported many of the efforts of this organization, I was much more conflicted about Tenaska.  For those not from around here, Tenaska was the power company from Nebraska that was to build a gassifying coal plant about 15 miles southeast of Springfield.  Tenaska had made big promises about clean energy and had even allayed the fears of many environmentalists, but it still involved coal, that nasty thing that gave my Kentucky family its economic livelihood, but also tore down their precious mountains and even gave one  black lung disease.Of course the day of weathered faces and men in deep and dangerous shafts is all but over.  But still we are talking about coal, which is never clean.  It is something, however, that we have in abundance in Illinois.  Tenaska promised jobs and the use of a resource readily available in the state and they promised to do it in a way that would mitigate environmental impact.  Now the point is essentially moot.  As of today the battle is all but over and neither side can claim a victory, with Tenasca staying but using more conventional natural gas.Tenasca did not come off as an “evil” corporation.  They supported wind farming back in their home state   and seemed to be shouldering plenty of cost to make energy cheap and clean in Illinois.  But still they are a corporation and that is enough for many to see them in a way other than good and to be honest corporations have often given us a cause for that opinion.

There is a problem with living in a big country, rich in beauty and opinion.  We often desire progress while we vilify logging, mining etc, even as those who work in these industries are the very people who most love America the beautiful.  To say that they support the efforts of progress only because they need jobs and will listen to the polished words of corporate America sells short both their social consciousness and  intellect.  I know plenty of mining families in Kentucky that supported the coal industry even as they protested mountaintop removal and agitated for labor reform.

Coal is not the biggest issue facing America, however.  It is not even the biggest issue when it comes to energy.  Anyone who thinks we can continue to rely on Saudi and Iraqi crude for any length of time either does not read the news or drastically underestimates the loathing the Mid East has for America.  If we were in no position to compromise, we would have to swallow hard and accept the edicts of nations that care little for us.  But we do have options, but they are options fraught with difficult decision making.

Enter Vermont….clear skies, lovely mountains bent on the preservation of its natural beauty.  Today the legislature there stands ready to ban fracking, that is hydraulic fracturing where water and sand are injected into shale rock at high pressures to release natural gas.  There is no simple way to make a case for or against this practice, though the progress versus environmentalist crowd have very strong opinions on the matter.  To know more of the good and bad you can click here.

One thing is for certain, Vermont is in little danger of being impacted by the practice.  The resources simply aren’t there.  This is not the case in much of the rest of America including the Dakotas and Ohio, where it has been linked to low level seismic activity.  In these places the promises and the concerns are very real, just as they are to the nation as a whole, which must come to depend more on natural gas.

Now we enter the realm of natural beauty and preservation coming up against progress and the dependence on foreign oil.  One can see how both sides are in the right.  And more importantly we can see how we must start again listen to one another.

There are far too many abroad who care so little for our multicultural fabric and democratic exercise that they would have us become all the more dependent on their resources until we lose our independence altogether just as there are some here who care more for their wealth than they do for America the beautiful.  Neither must be allowed to win the day.  Our nation has maintained more than two centuries of progress.  We have done so with the sacrifice of  proud people and without the sacrifice of the beautiful land.  Those who have gone off to foreign lands to fight and those who labored in the coal fields of Appalachia did not do so for a nation that was anemic and dependent on others even as they did not do so for a ruinous waste land.

I can’t say what side a corporation like Tenaska was on, but I have to believe it was  the right one, even as I believe those who protested their presence were also on the right side.  I must believe the same for those who are on both sides of the fracking issue. I must also believe that most of us when it comes to energy or any other policy issue, even when we disagree, are on the right side.

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