Only Good News

I attended college in the mid-1970’s, starting around the end of the Vietnam War, and Nixon’s resignation. A restless atmosphere permeated campus as antiwar radicalism faded, leaving time to address other pressing dangers.

Newspaper headlines told the story. Ohio’s Cuyahoga River had caught fire, the blaze feeding upon nothing more than sewage laced with flammable sludge. Developers in upstate New York broke ground for a planned community over a topsoil-covered chemical waste dump. Later the “Love Canal” housing project reported residents dying from leukemia in alarming numbers. A nuclear plant chemist in Oklahoma, Karen Silkwood, turned whistleblower, testifying before the Atomic Energy Commission, regarding the dangerous levels and exposure of radiation at the facility.

Silkwood later died in a suspicious car accident.

As Americans focused on ending the war in Southeast Asia, sustainable life visibly deteriorated in America. As we protested the effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam, we missed the incessant dumping of chemical runoff into Florida’s Everglades. Car exhaust, and acid rain doused the “Rust Belt” region surrounding the Great Lakes. 

Some politicians stepped up to the moment, like Georgia Governor, Jimmy Carter. Carter, a Democrat, ran for and won the 1976 Presidential Election. For many, Carter presented a serious, intelligent and incorruptible problem-solver. Grasping the petroleum bull by the horns, President Carter prioritized America’s need to conserve energy. He pointed out that domestic transportation literally depended on the whims of Middle Eastern cartels who bore no love for the United States. Addressing the crisis, Carter appeared on prime time, wearing a sweater, imploring the country to turn down the heat to 65 degrees, and cut back on driving.

Though he was right, Carter served only one turbulent term, replaced by smiling Ronald Reagan. The Reagan campaign understood Americans wanted to hear only good news, and how exceptional Americans inherently were.

This changing guard had no love for Federal bureaucracy, quickly dispensing with environmental restrictions. James Watt served as Interior Secretary, and Anne Buford Gorsuch at the EPA. Both ignored Congressional environmental statutes, slashing budgets, cutting staff, and relaxing regulations on private logging rights and clean water standards.   

In the 1990’s another voice rose to school Americans on the reality of environmental decay; former Vice President, Al Gore. In his 2006 film, “An Inconvenient Truth” Gore presented a compelling case highlighting the ravages of climate change, and global warming. At the end of the film the Vice President adopted an encouraging tone. Now that American’s understood this impending threat, we would act as one to save our home planet.

For his stance, George H.W. Bush anointed Al Gore “Captain Ozone.” Pappy Bush was, after all, an oil man from Texas.

The kicker is that we knew in the 1970’s which way this story would end. 

Today Lake Mead hosts more dead bodies than boaters, while vast catastrophic fires incinerate the Red Woods. Endless 100 degree-plus days extend longer every summer, and floods flow through the arroyos of the Desert Southwest. In the highest latitudes polar ice shelves calve mountains of glaciers raising the ocean levels globally. 

If the purpose of politics is to nurture dim, aggrieved consumers, the GOP has accomplished that, in spades. But the crisis is real, and the GOP is not helping.

In point of fact, the Trump Administration referred to global warming as a hoax. The US formally withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement, ratified during the Obama years. According to the Washington Post, under Trump’s watch, over 125 Obama era protections were reversed, loosening regulations on endangered species and oil spills.

For those of us of a certain age, we have watched this crisis evolve over fifty years. Buck passing, unfettered capitalism, combined with political postering renders this moment impossible to fix. If pursuit of wealth and hubris outweighs preservation, greed is our undoing.

Gail Chumbley is the author of the two-part memoir “River of January,” and “River of January: Figure Eight.” Chumbley has also written two plays. “Clay” deals with the life of Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky, and “Wolf By The Ears,” explores the beginnings of racism and slavery.

The Little Things

If you love . . .

Protecting a dim-witted, would-be dictator from legal consequences,

Suppressing a woman’s right to self-actuation and privacy,

Expediting white, unqualified patriarchs to the Supreme Court,

Rendering the US Senate inert,

Legislating so the wealthy have no tax burden,

The open targeting of Americans of color to brutality and murder,

The whole-sale destruction of the planet, and the rape of natural resources 

Abetting political misinformation and conspiracies through social media,

Targeting those of differing sexuality 

Pushing religion into American government,

Aligning apportionment and voter suppression to disenfranchise the poor, and people of color,

Withholding health care to the few with means,

The wholesale flood of firearms into civilian hands,

Cruelty dispensed upon desperate immigrants,

Coddling of white offenders over those of color,

Predatory treatment of consumers,

Blocking legislation to meet the dangers of the above list, and otherwise accomplishing nothing,

Vote for today’s Republican Party

Gail Chumbley, frustrated American History Educator.


*A former student, Todd Christiansen, works as a Wellsite Geologist in oil. Reprinted with his permission.


I’ve seen lots of people posting about oil and gas and the prices thereof, and there’s a tremendous amount of bullshit flying around. So allow me, a scientist working in Oil, to say a few things:

1.) Gas prices are largely determined by speculators. Supply and Demand has almost nothing to do with them. Things like “international uncertainty,” and “these idiots don’t have any other choice because half the country thinks public transportation is for liberal pussies,” drive prices up and there’s no real way to force them to come down. No matter what Newsmax or MSNBC is telling you, Joe Biden can’t flip the “Lower Gas Prices,” switch without an act of socialism on a scale that would make Reagan’s corpse reanimate and storm the capital more effectively than they did on January 6th.

2.) Access to more or less oil doesn’t really effect gas prices. Rather, it’s what that more or less access to oil causes the speculators to think that drives prices one way or the other. To put it another way, if the US were to stop buying Russian oil, gas prices would go up, not because there would be a shortage of oil or anything but because the speculators would think “this should drive prices up.” It’s really as simple as that.

3.) The Keystone XL pipeline is for Canadian oil. While the US certainly buys it’s fair share, and the pipeline might lower costs, it isn’t going to realistically change gas prices. Unless you own stock in Canadian oil companies, or you just REALLY HATE environmentalists, the pipeline isn’t the answer to anything. It’s just a red herring. Like Communism.

4.) We are drilling and producing oil all over America, including in the Bakken in North Dakota. I saw some ridiculous shit yesterday about how liberals have shut down drilling in North Dakota, and I can’t explain thoroughly enough how absolutely not true that is. I’ve got coworkers up there as we speak. And Liberals or Democrats or whoever have never really had any sort of impact on domestic drilling(outside of Alaska, but Seward’s Folly is a whole different kettle of fish) since I got into the industry in 2010. There is only one factor that I’ve seen that changes the amount of drilling we do: oil prices. Anyone who points the finger at anyone other than oil companies is selling you a bridge, dude.