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Clean Power Praying for Rain in Texas

Published on September 13th, 2013 | by Jo Borrás

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Fracking Update: These Are The Texas Towns Running Out Of Water

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September 13th, 2013 by
 
Praying for Rain in Texas

A month after the story broke, the people of West Texas are, literally, praying for rain. The region has experienced heavy droughts in recent years. Despite the droughts, however, Texas is famous for denying the science behind things like climate change and evolution, and also for voting over and over again to de-regulate the oil and gas companies that are consuming the area’s water supply with fracking.

The sad truth, though? Faced with the certainty that the fracking they voted for has pushed their habitat too far past the tipping point and an uncaring state government that denies such a basic tenet of reality as causation, what can the people of Texas do except pray?

You can read more about this latest fracking-related environmental catastrophe below, in an article that originally appeared on our sister site, Gas 2.


Texas Fracking Update: Barnhart, TX is Out of Water

Texas is Fracked

Beverly McGuire has lived in Barnhart, TX for more than thirty years. Like many Texans, she probably didn’t give fracking much thought before her town ran out of water. “The day that we ran out of water I turned on my faucet and nothing was there and at that moment I knew the whole of Barnhart was down the tubes,” she said in a Guardian interview last month, blinking back tears. “I went, ‘Dear God, help us.’ That was the first thought that came to mind.”

Despite those prayers, however, Texas has suffered years of sustained drought. On top of that, the oil and gas industry’s demand for water used in fracking are running down reservoirs and aquifers, and contaminating whatever’s left. Rapidly-increasing climate change is working against Texas’ cattle industry, as well, making things even worse for the people of West Texas towns like Barnhart, and any other towns in Briscoe, Burnet, or Comal counties.

As we reported last month, about 30 communities across West Texas could be out of water before the end of this year, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality‘s September 4th update to their drought report. As a nod to the commenters who doubted the veracity of that article because the facts came from “some chick expert” and I didn’t “name the towns”, here are a few of the towns listed as running out of water in “180 days”, “90 days”, and “45 days”. It’s not a complete list, nor does it tell the whole story, but the message is clear: fracking is killing Texas.

Here’s the list …

Tesxa Towns Running Out of Water

… and the key to the chart breaks down something like this …

  • E – Emergency – Could be out of water in 45 days or less.
  • P – Priority – Could be out of water in 90 days or less.
  • C – Concern – Could be out of water in 180 days or less.
  • W – Watch – Has greater than a 180 day supply of water remaining.

… here’s hoping the people of Texas wake up quickly enough to save part of their state, at least. If I know anything about Texans, though, the people of these towns are too busy burning science books and clutching their shotguns while praying for rain and blaming the black guy. Possibly also the Mexicans. Texas kind of has it coming, is my point. Glenda Kuykendall, I think, may be the best example of Texan cluelessness so far, saying “We are in the United States, in American, where this should not happen.”

Sorry, Glenda. You seem to misunderstand the notion of “consequences”. We reap what we sow.

You can watch the Guardian’s interview of Glenda and Beverly and the rest of the Beverly Hillbillies West Texas gang start to turn on each other and start blaming the problem on the farmers that have private wells in the video, below. Enjoy!




Sources: the Guardian, NPR.

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About the Author

I've been involved in motorsports and tuning since 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the Important Media network. You can find me on Twitter, Skype (jo.borras) or Google+.



  • Madrone Ridge

    It has always seemed to me that the solution is so logical it is beyond simple. Every Spring the ice and snow from Canada and along the Mississippi causes the banks to overflow. Seems to me if we could build a pipeline for oil, we could also build one for water. We have the technology and the resources to turn West Texas into an oasis. Within a few years, we could probably even plant crops out there.

  • travis

    There is a lot of hate and stereotyping of millions of people in this
    uninformative article. I’ve never been to Texas, so I feel very
    unbiased there aren’t any numbers to back up any of these claims. Your
    right lets stick to science, tell me how drilling a well stops rain from
    falling from the sky. And in science there are many theories one of
    which is global warning, believe it or not it should be questioned when a
    bunch of scientist were caught trying to hide evidence that it doesn’t
    exist. There are studies showing salt isn’t bad, our invisible ozone
    has an invisible hole and now drilling causes rain clouds to dry up

    • A Real Libertarian

      Fracking wells cause droughts via sucking reservoirs dry.

    • Bob_Wallace

      You can post the same thing twice, but that doesn’t make what you post correct.

      You misread the article. You are wrong about the charge against climate scientists. And there is a hole in the ozone layer.

      • A Real Libertarian

        The hole in the ozone layer isn’t as large as before the Montreal Protocol but it’s still there.

  • travis

    There is a lot of hate and stereotyping of millions of people in this uninformative article. I’ve never been to Texas, so I feel very unbiased there aren’t any numbers to back up any of these claims. Your right lets stick to science, tell me how drilling a well stops rain from falling from the sky. And in science there are many theories one of which is global warning, believe it or not it should be questioned when a bunch of scientist were caught trying to hide evidence that it doesn’t exist. There are studies showing salt isn’t bad, our invisible ozone has an invisible hole and now drilling causes rain clouds to dry up.

    • Bob_Wallace

      You seem to have a reading comprehension problem, Travis. There’s nothing in the article about well drilling stopping rain from falling.

      And you seem to have missed out on the news for quite a while. Multiple high level organizations investigated the charges that scientists had been trying to hide evidence and what was discovered is that the people who were making those charges were lying. They were taking pieces of emails and putting them together to say some things which were, in fact, not said.

      And, yes, there is a hole in the ozone hole.

  • Moses

    I have the solution this problem of not having enough water. I just need to get in contact with the right person to get it started. I can produce over one million gallons of water a day with a technology that is readily available at this very moment. I’ve been trying to get some venture capital to back this project but the all important ROI (return on investment) has to be almost instant.

  • Doug

    Fracking served a nice purpose. It brought down the cost of natgas so low that it allowed market forces to stop the building of new coal plants and coal mines. Now the EPA has put new low limits that will essentially kill coal. Once coal is dead and buried, fracking will be attacked next – after renewables have come down in price.

  • clay county resident

    moron….

  • Douglas Hamner

    Wow the anti-fracking crowd comes up with a new BS reason to ban fracking every week. It is summarily dis proven and laughed at then they come up with another one. Honestly how many of you anti-fracking guys are really against fossil fuels in general and will oppose any method of retrieving it. I am frankly tired of the killing our soldier method of getting oil, and if there are proven safe, efficient and realistic ways of getting energy here I don’t give a crap what you tree huggers and psuedo science worshipers think.

    • Steeple

      No slow down here, Doug. Jo is very qualified to have a scientific debate about this; just look at his bio. I mean, he’s been involved in motorsports for 15 years! If that doesnt qualify you to have a debate about a complex 3 dimensional operation that occurs a mile and a half below ground, I don’t know what does.

      I’m pretty sure also that the drought occurring in West Texas is uncorrelated to drilling activity. West Texans are resourceful enough to direct their limited resources to using their water for fracking, and not growing cotton, in an environment like this.

      This is actually a good site for learning about developments in clean energy. However, columns by this unqualified writer really diminish the quality of the overall efforts here.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Well, one might take into account the role of a changing climate in, at minimum, making the Texas drought more severe.

        And the role of burning fossil fuels in driving that climate change.

        • Steeple

          West Texas has seen its share of droughts over time. Hard to make an argument that this is any different than the drought of the 50′s or the 30′s.

          • Bob_Wallace

            That particular science won’t be settled for a while. Current thinking is that climate change increased temperatures have made things significantly worse than they would have been in a “normal” drought.

            It would probably take 100 years or more to definitely prove or disprove climate change driven drought increases. Is that a study we really want to run?

          • Steeple

            Depends on 1) how much you want to spend avoiding it and 2) how comfortable you are that you are certain on your science

          • Bob_Wallace

            You left out the extremely important #3 – the cost of doing nothing.

            Here’s what climate scientists are telling us will happen if we don’t avoid the worst of climate science.

            a) Most of our coastal infrastructure and a lot of our riverbank infrastructure will go underwater. Massive coastal flooding including the loss of major cities and the south half of Florida.

            b) A major disruption of out food sources. Much of our existing agricultural land will turn to desert and more frequent flooding and droughts will cause major crop loss.

            c) Floods and heavy snowstorms will increase in frequency and severity.
            d) We will experience more deadly heat waves.

            So we take the cost of switching from fossil fuels to renewables (moderate and cost saving over time) vs. the cost of extreme climate change (extremely costly) into consideration and make our bet.

            The odds of climate scientists being wrong – you want to set them at 1%, 10%, 50%, 90%, 99%?

            Even setting them at 99%, only a 1% chance climate change is happening, and only a 100:1 ratio of potential damage:cost of avoidance tells one to start getting rid of fossil fuels. Quickly.

          • Steeple

            So if we think it will take Trillions of USD to drastically eliminate Carbon emissions for the US only and the chances of the science being right are less than 100%, then you have to adjust the payout by the probabilities. Don’t forget to include any potential benefits such as longer growing seasons, fewer deaths due to cold, etc…

            If I told you there was a .5% probability of a meteor striking your house, what would you do?

            Seems like we are fortunate to be taking a compromise approach thanks to shale gas displacing coal and renewables becoming more affordable. These are the areas where we should reach common ground. And I’ll be happy when we can leave the Middle East in our rear view mirror.

            But we’re just spitting in the wind on Carbon unless China reverses course soon, which they won’t. Emissions here are already in decline.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Trillions to switch from fossil fuels to renewables, possible. But do remember, every single fossil fuel plants we have in operation today will need to be replaced eventually. The typical lifespan for a coal plant is 40 years and about 75% of all US coal plants are now 30 years or older.
            http://qz.com/61423/coal-fired-power-plants-near-retirement/

            What we would be doing is closing those plants early and building their replacements early. A few years early. And then saving on fuel, health and environmental costs.

            If you’ve got a coal plant pumping out electricity at 3c/kWh along with external costs of over 10c/kWh and you replace it with a wind turbine producing 5c/kWh you save 8c/kWh in exchange for some stranded assets that are already largely depreciated/used up. It will take several years to get renewable generation in place and during that time we can/will close down the least efficient fossil fuel plants first. That generally means the oldest, most used up.

            Cost of replacing flooded infrastructure, massively more.

            Would there be a net gain in agriculture? Almost certainly not. We’d see more crop loss due to floods and droughts. We’re already seeing pests migrate further toward the poles with resulting crop loss. We’ve just seen the Texas cattle industry massively downsized and it’s unlikely to come back. We’re seeing massive crop losses around the globe and rapidly increasing food prices.

            As we have to abandon the flat lands of the southern US we won’t find replacement land further north. As you move into Canada seeking cropland you encounter rocky mountains, forests with little top soil, and lots of area taken up by lakes. Take a look at a topo map of Canada. And upper Siberia is large swamps.

            There’s no “there” there. We build desert and have not much to replace it. –

            Cold doesn’t kill a lot of people. We’ve been having very large heat-caused death events in the last few years. 70,000 in Europe in one heat wave (2003), a place that hasn’t experienced that sort of heat before. 15,000 died in Russia’s 2010 heat wave.

            You really should seek out new information sources. China is moving very rapidly to clean up their emissions problems. China has become a world leader in the fight against global warming.

            That’s not to say that they’ve peaked their emissions, but they’ve moved the peak date closer and are working to make it closer still.

            A 0.5% chance of meteor strike on my house would set me to checking to see if my insurance covered it. And it might be enough to get me to move. A one in 200 chance of a disaster is pretty danged high if you’re talking a significant part of most people’s net worth. And their life.

          • Steeple

            A bit dramatic Bob. Even with a sea level rise of 1.5 meters (doubtful, but let’s assume), that will impact next to no agriculture. I live in Houston, less than 60 miles from the coast, and we’re 50+ feet above sea level.

            The whole argument on severe weather seems to be falling flat regarding the most severe of weather; i.e., hurricanes.

            Cold weather is a bigger killer than hot weather, as it is insidious. See the effects of simply a 1 deg C colder than avg.

            http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/168/12/1397.full

            We’ve closed a tremendous number of coal fired power plants in the US while China continues to build new ones. China burns more coal than all other countries combined. It’s pretty simple to understand where the problem lies if Carbon emissions are indeed a problem.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I did not claim that we would lose a lot of ag land to sea level rise. But a 1.5 meter rise would wipe out the California Delta and a lot of the world’s low-lying rice lands.

            There is data showing that hurricane strength, not frequency, is increasing. These are such low frequency events that it will take some years to build enough data to know for sure.

            But in the meantime extreme weather events, especially extreme rainfalls are increasing. Have you paid attention to how many 100 and 500 year floods we’ve been having in the last few years? Hear about parts of Colorado getting wiped out a few days ago?

            Look below…

            China has closed over 9,000 coal plants. They have built a number of new super-critical coal plants. China’s emissions are high if you compare country to country. But if you do a per capita comparison China is doing fine.

            In terms of CO2 per capita the US is #10 at 17.30 tons CO2 per person. China is #50 at 7.20 tons per person.

            That’s only 42% of our level. And then consider that we moved a lot of industry there, we off-shored a lot of our emissions.

          • Steeple

            Define a coal plant. China has closed all kinds of small scale industrial operations in refining, steel, industrial metals, etc.. This is a place where people still burn coal in their homes for warmth. They continue to build coal fired power like crazy:

            http://insights.wri.org/news/2012/11/new-global-assessment-reveals-nearly-1200-proposed-coal-fired-power-plants

            China’s per capital GDP is just over 10% of the US, so their emissions on a GDP adjusted basis is at least 3X.

            As far as hurricane intensity, no hurricane with an intensity of Cat 3 or greater has made landfall since 2005. One of the longest streaks on record.

            Did see the Colorado floods; very tragic. But they are called 1 in 100 year events for a reason. They are not 1 in Never events. If someone showed me statistical proof that these events are happening more frequently than statistical distribution would suggest, there might be something to discuss.

          • Bob_Wallace

            A coal plant is a plant where coal goes in the front end and electricity comes out the back.

            Yes, China has built a lot more new coal capacity than they have closed, but your claim that China has closed no coal plants is incorrect.

            China’s GDP is heavily manufacturing. A lot of it the manufacturing we used to do. If you want to look at who needs to most clean up their CO2 emissions look first to the top 49 before you round up a lynching party for #50.

            One of the effects of climate change seems to be to turn hurricane tracks out to see sooner. It’s too early to say for sure that is what will happen.

            It may be that climate change will decrease the number of hurricanes.

            Continued droughts in Africa could result in more dust over the eastern Atlantic, cooling down the water in the area where most Atlantic hurricanes form.

            I haven’t checked, but the frequency/intensity of Pacific cyclones may be increasing. Again, it will take many years to tell for sure if something is changing and in which direction.

            Some models show a decrease in tornadoes as the US warms. Others show them moving farther north, at least during the transitional time.

            We might gain a little in terms of intense storm damage. But that’s not going offset the problems floods, droughts and heat waves would bring us for food production. We lose little ag product to hurricanes or tornadoes.

            “If someone showed me statistical proof that these events are happening more frequently than statistical distribution would suggest, there might be something to discuss.”

            I’ll post the graph again. This time, give it a look….

          • Steeple

            Bob, what is the source data for those graphs? I would like to analyze further.

            Never said that China has not closed a coal plant.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You said – “We’ve closed a tremendous number of coal fired power plants in the US while China continues to build new ones.”

            The inference I got was that China has closed no plants.

            US electricity plant age – EIA

            http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=1830

            Rainfall and drought extremes – not the graph I had in my collection but it covers the topic.

            http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/post/spring-extreme-weather-events-in-2011-in-us-historic-and-record-setting/2011/06/15/AGVMkOXH_blog.html

            Hurricanes and tropical storms per year…

            http://blog.benwildeboer.com/2008/tropical-storm-hurricane-frequency/

            Here’s another source for hurricane and tropical storm data. From a more mainstream source…

            http://policlimate.com/tropical/

          • Bob_Wallace

            It looks like if we include both tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic something is happening…

          • Steeple

            See page 10 where NOAA adjusts for technology changes in storm tracking and identification

            http://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/bibliography/related_files/gav0802.pdf

          • Bob_Wallace

            This qualifies as a “Oh, look, over there! A shiny object!!” distractor.

            The paper you link shows storm number adjustments prior to 1970. And it cuts off at 2006.

            I gave you a graph showing what looks like a developing spike well past 1970 and on to 2012. It also shows that most of the increase has been at the sub-hurricane level. A major increase in tropical storms.

          • Steeple

            Tell that to NOAA, Bob.

            And I can’t name one storm of Cat 3 or higher that has hit the US since 2005, so the 2006 cutoff doesn’t bother me much.

          • Bob_Wallace

            OK, so you count only storms stronger than Cat 3 that hit the US. Got it.
            Champion cherry-picking.

          • Steeple

            Since the accusation is that we will have more powerful terms, Cat 3 is the level at which you typically see large scale evacuations and damage. Doesn’t matter; we’ve had hardy any landed storms since 2005 of any magnitude.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Who made that claim?

            I’ve seen claims that we would see more frequent and stronger storms. That’s storms. Not Cat3 hurricanes hitting the US.

            And had you read NOAA on climate change and hurricanes you would have seen that some models predict fewer hurricanes due to stronger wind sheer interfering with hurricane formation.

            Might we be seeing this in the graphs I gave you? We see a higher frequency of storms, but not much increase in hurricanes.

          • Bob_Wallace

            This should give you some idea of how old our fossil fuel plants are. If we closed most of them today we wouldn’t be leaving much on the table.

            We’re going to have to replace those old plants. The only question is “with what?”.

          • Steeple

            First, we don’t need to replace them all. We have a surplus of generation and demand is flat to down.

            Seems like can easily replace with some mix of nat gas and renewables.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Sure. We’d probably be smart to put a number of coal plants into mothballs for a few years until we’re sure we don’t need them.

            And flattening/dropping demand is going to make the job easier.

            We might not need to build any more NG plants, or only few. Just concentrate on renewables so that we can run NG less often.

            Then there’s the wildcard of how many more nuclear plants will go out of business due to the financials. Wind keeps dropping and solar is dropping very fast. China is apparently now installing solar for $1/Watt. When we drop down to Europe (~$1.50/W) and China (~$1/W) prices a big hunk of our nuclear fleet is going bankrupt.

            And then there’s end-user solar. And likely, before long, storage. With cost recovery dropping into single digit years we’re likely to see an explosion in end-user solar. A lot of our generation capacity serves to cover peak demand. Take away a decent percentage of peak via solar and efficiency and we’ll see a lot of surplus capacity.

            If we get affordable end-user storage that should eat up the mini-peaks on each side of the midday valley. All of a sudden demand drops to half of the previous peak with no investment on the utility side. All financed by avoided purchases.

          • Steeple

            I suspect End User Solar and LED lighting are going to be the difference makers.

          • Bob_Wallace

            In 2006 the total value of Manhattan property was $802.4 billion. Well over $1 trillion today for only the island of Manhattan.

            We have many, many trillions of real estate at risk around the world. Major cities such as London and Bangkok. Irreplaceable historical areas. Valuable agricultural delta and river valley lands.

            With the cities, remember it’s not just the cost of the buildings. There’s also the infrastructure – roads, utilities, sewer systems.

            And those displaced cities would need someplace to relocate on our shrunken land base which would put even more pressure on food production land.

  • Don

    I am pretty sure Texas will find a way to provide enough water for fracking and their people despite the constant influx of new residents. I think Texas still uses less water per household than “green leaders” like California. I don’t recall reading any article from the author applying his awesome cause and effect analysis to that state and the politically created drought killing the farming in the central valley. Perhaps Californians should pray for relief, but I doubt those in Sacramento will listen.

    • http://www.insteading.com/ Jo Borras

      California’s f***ed, too. For sure! That said, they’re trying things like solar, mandatory low-flush toilets, etc. Texas? Texas is praying.

  • exdent11

    You say what are Texans left to do except pray. Well there is more than one way to skin a cat and there is more than one way to do a frack. Right now in the Eagleford there is a company using a waterless [ as in none ] fracking method that uses propane and other liquid hydrocarbons to frack. Recovers all the fluids used to frack as a gas and reuses the same in the next well. No need to pray ,just adjust to the new reality that the West is going into a long term drought cycle.

    • http://www.insteading.com/ Jo Borras

      100%, and that should be the way all companies are REQUIRED to do it. At the moment, they are not required to use these more expensive methods, so they don’t. The people suffer.

      • http://soltesza.wordpress.com/ sola

        Still, it is good news that there are viable ways to do it without water.

        Politicians will require these methods once the water-crisis deepen in their state and the problem becomes serious enough (e.g.: a lynch-ready mob waiting outside of their office ).

  • Jouni Valkonen

    People can survive with the bottled water, it is no problem. Only agriculture is suffering. And agriculture is the number one environmental hazard. Globally agriculture has annihilated the area equivalent to South America of the most fertile nature. Also agriculture is the largest polluter (pesticides and fertilizers) and by far the largest water consumer.

    So if fracking is driving farmers out of business, nature is gaining a lot!

    If we are really worried about natural ecosystems, we should ban agriculture and turn into urban and vertical farming.

    • http://www.insteading.com/ Jo Borras

      Nobody is giving away bottled water for free, though. That’s hardly a solution.

      • Jouni Valkonen

        Median household income in Texas is $49 300. I am pretty sure, that they do have enough money for Water.

  • Nick

    It would be nice to see how much fracking is actually going on in said areas. Include when it started, how much water was available then. Compare to when drought started.nthen write an article about that with hard numbers as oppose to playing just the fracking card.. Then your article is much more believable and can help affect change. besides, with your Mexican comments, do you even know the % of mexicans there and democrats in some counties? It’s pretty high compared to the rest of the country.

    And Galveston is on the list? Big deal, have some oil revenue taxes to build a desalination plant…..they are on the coast! It’s the only big town on the list.

    Why not change laws to use recycled water? Most waste water is cleaner than the water that is purified in municipalities if it comes from rivers.

    • http://www.insteading.com/ Jo Borras

      1. when the drought started doesn’t matter. The fact remains that thousands, if not millions of gallons are being used by fracking operations and that water isn’t going back into the ground.

      2. the % of Mexicans is irrelevant. Many ignorant people in many states blame immigrants for “taking” jobs and using up resources.

      3. oil is subsidized in this country, not taxed.

      4. you have to have access to recycled water, or the laws are useless. Besides that, one of the big controversies here is the commoditization of said water. The price and for bottled/processed water is part of the PROBLEM, in other words. Go look up some of the controversy surrounding Nestle.

      5. go away.

  • agelbert

    Some people just do not understand that burning fossil fuels and Homo sapiens viability don’t go together.

    I too have a great deal of trouble being sympathetic.

    It takes a while, but people really do reap what they sow.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    How hard would it be to make the fracking companies pay for all these problems. Times 2.

    • Jouni Valkonen

      How about severe land tax for farmers, because they are annihilating natural forests?

      • Ivor O’Connor

        This already exists. It is called zoning. It now exists in all parts of the world. You can not convert forests over to farms. Many people in the rain forests of Brazil do not like this. The fracking industry needs to be held responsible for the damages it causes.

  • http://MrEnergyCzar.com/ MrEnergyCzar

    Fracking gas is way too expensive when you actually include the costs to the environment and the people that live in it…

    MrEnergyCzar

    • Matt

      Oh the joy of not paying your externals. That is NOT a government subsidy it a god give right.

  • beernotwar

    Sigh. It’s hard to be sympathetic.

    • Ivor O’Connor

      Maybe Texans need to pray harder.

    • http://www.insteading.com/ Jo Borras

      I know. I feel bad, but then I don’t, but then I feel bad that I don’t. The truth is, this is what these people voted for, fought for, and – some of them – prayed for. They wanted the gas and the oil jobs, they were warned against the long-term impact, they didn’t believe. Worse: they believed their faith and white-ness would prevail over reality.

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