On October 23rd, 2015, a methane leak emerged around 3,000 feet underground at a storage facility in Southern California. The storage facility is located on a mountain near the town of Porter Ranch, an affluent suburb. Since then, the Southern California Gas Company evacuated about 4,400 residents after students experienced headaches at local schools, and still more are pending evacuation.
Methane is the main component of natural gas, which is used to heat most homes. In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama said natural gas can “power our economy with less of the carbon pollution”. The chemical compound is odorless and colorless, but engineers add the infamous “rotten egg” smell to it for safety reasons.
As methane continued to spill, a platoon of global warming activists and lawyers descended upon the scene. As per usual, they howled about the supposed health risks and demanded swift action. Erin Brockovich claimed that she contracted a “chemically-induced kind of bronchitis” after spending mere minutes in the town. Other activists claim that this spill will cause an environmental disaster that matches the BP oil spill in severity.
Now, back to reality, this is all nonsense. First of all, although tons of methane has spilled into the atmosphere, it has yet to reach toxic levels. Even if it had reached toxic levels, methane is only likely to cause headaches and nausea. Hence, Brockovich’s “bronchitis” seems a bit far-fetched. It is very likely that the lightheadedness that some residents feel is as a result of the strong, artificial smell of methane, rather than the chemical itself. Even more, it is debatable how hazardous methane is as a greenhouse gas.
All of these liberal environmental groups are up-in-arms over the spill, yet the Democrats and the media failed to harp on the issue. For example, Obama is not shedding tears in front of the entire nation while addressing this issue. He is not claiming to lose sleep as a result of the spill, as he claimed he did with the BP oil spill. There is no 24/7 media cycle covering this issue, as they cover the water crisis in Flint (which conveniently occurred in a state governed by a Republican). There is no national outcry among Democrats because the spill might embarrass them.
As aforementioned, the natural gas industry and the success of fracking were originally embraced by the Obama administration. In fact, the energy boom caused by the emergence of these factors is one of the few positive occurrences during Obama’s tenure. However, now there is somewhat of a disaster emerging and the consequences can not be blamed on greedy, environment-hating Republicans.
Moreover, California’s governor is a Democrat (Jerry Brown). On top of that, his sister sits on the board of Sempra, the energy company that owns the Southern California Gas Company. Some reporters speculate that Brown may have ulterior motives when it comes to handling the disaster. For instance, it took months for Brown to declare a state of emergency and California’s attorney general, Kamala Harris, only recently became involved in the proceedings.
Yet, the most devastating consequence for the community may be the slew of legislation that may come as a result of the disaster. Although there is no media outcry over the spill, the Democrats will take this as another opportunity to do what they love most: regulate. Already, local politicians are talking about suspending contracts given to energy companies in the near future. Additionally, there are demands for further regulation and oversight over the natural gas industry. In all, these actions would exacerbate California’s energy problems. Californians already pay some of the highest utilities bills in the nation and our current infrastructure is crumbling. The end result of the spill being a disinterested bureaucrat saying, “We’re sorry about the spill, but we will raise your energy bill to make up for it.”
In all, I am not suggesting that Democrats should obsess over this issue. As I have mentioned, the methane spill is not a complete disaster. In addition, I am not claiming that Republicans are exempt from criticism. In truth, I point out how the Democrats use these issues to pursue their agenda and paint their opponents as morally reprehensible, rather than to give voice to the “oppressed”.