Opinion: Oil: Too Big to Fail


Lucas Misera is a sophomore economics major and columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]

Lucas Misera

In Porter Ranch, California, a natural gas leak is drastically affecting both Californians and the environment. Time ran an excellent piece on the potency of the leak, and the results are disturbing. The leak has sickened residents due to the presence of a specific chemical, benzene, which is particularly harmful for humans. Along with its effect on residents of Porter Ranch, the leak is also releasing enough greenhouse gases to emulate the emissions of nearly 4.5 million cars. The long-term effect will be devastating, but perhaps now might be the time to rekindle the conversation surrounding safer and more renewable energy.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the top three sources of energy are coal (39 percent), natural gas (27 percent), and nuclear power (19 percent). Unfortunately, the energy produced by hydropower, wind and sunlight account for only approximately 11 percent of the nation’s production. Turning to these cleaner alternative energy solutions could undoubtedly create high-paying jobs and slow energy production’s effect on the environment. So why isn’t there a greater push to do so?

The answer: lobbying.

The Center for Responsive Politics reported that oil and gas companies spent approximately $97 million on campaign contributions in 2015. Two of the three most involved companies are Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell, major factors in the oil and gas industries.

One of the United States’ largest producer of solar panels is First Solar. Compared to America’s largest oil producer, Exxon Mobil, First Solar is a speck among the energy giants. In 2014 Exxon reported revenues of nearly $400 billion while employing 75,000 employees. To compare, First Solar’s revenue is .8 percent of Exxon’s while employing a workforce 93 percent smaller. Undoubtedly, less valuable clean energy companies have their voices drowned out by the cries of larger, more powerful oil companies.

Shamefully, politicians will continue to ignore objective evidence from the scientific community that condemns our treatment of Earth and its atmosphere. Healthier energy sources are well within reach, ranging from ultra-efficient nuclear power to clean, emissions-free solar energy. Unfortunately, due to their relatively recent entrance into the energy scene, clean sources of energy can be rather inefficient and expensive to establish. However, as with anything, learning to produce en masse through well-funded research and development could significantly strengthen this sector of the energy industry.

It’s time to take climate change and our impact on the planet seriously. Unfortunately, some tasks fall solely on our elected officials, and the puppeteering of big business renders countless constituents’ concerns unheard. Environmentalists are stuck in a paradoxical loop where alternative energy won’t succeed until alternative energy can out-lobby dirty energy companies and clean energy companies won’t be able to afford the competition until alternative energy gains popularity.

Sadly, the solution lies only in the oil and coal-covered hands of politicians.

Lucas Misera is a columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].