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The Return of Ecoporn

One of the first things I ever had published in a book was a chapter in The Environmental Handbook, a Friends of the Earth/Ballantine Books number, published for the first Earth Day, in 1970. It was called, "Ecopornography, or How to Spot an Ecological Phony."

It's time to dust it off and send it around again.

Ecoporn, as defined by us, is image advertising run by large enterprises, often engaged in enriching themselves and their shareholders via the exploitation of public resources. Oil companies, in other words, and mining companies, and so forth.

In the 1970's, industry could see the burgeoning public interest in the environment and rushed to explain how it was nature's best friend, at least partly to fend off what they saw as onerous regulations.

The same thing is happening now, in spades, in the context of high gasoline prices and global warming.

My eye was caught by an ad in The New York Times Magazine for June 22. "Is tomorrow's energy right in front of us?" it asked. Yes, is the answer, natch, in the form of undiscovered oil and gas. It invites one to visit "Energy Tomorrow," which turns out to be a propaganda arm of the American Petroleum Industry (it's wise to be suspicious of dot-orgs attached to major industry associations).

Back to the ad: There is a huge trove of oil and natural gas beneath federal lands, it says, now off-limits to exploration. Most is offshore, and you may have seen President Bush and Senator McCain recently calling for a lifting of the moratorium on new offshore drilling along miles of our coasts.

We've seen this before—industry takes advantage of difficult situations to get its hands on leases, then lets them lie idle until the price is right. There are thousands of leases lying idle on federal lands right now, but industry wants more, to keep in the bank, as it were, until later. Beware.

And one more thing—everyone knows that the U.S. and the rest of the world must break the addiction to fossil fuels. The supply is dwindling. We should hoard what we have for the future, use it as slowly as possible and only for essential purposes, and get busy finding alternatives.

Much useful and promising work in this direction is underway and should be encouraged. Allowing the American Petroleum Industry to railroad a skittish public into selling off access to the public lands for a short-term payoff that wouldn't even produce anything for years at best would be foolish in the extreme.

Tags:  gas, oil, public lands

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