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Letters & Emails

Home on the Range

Your recent cover story about the recent shale oil boom (“Bombing North Dakota,” Winter 2013) really hit close to home. My grandparents homesteaded at Banks, North Dakota. I grew up in Watford City and remember a brief oil boom there. My children were raised in Williston; all have since moved. I read the article and grieved. It is so sad to hear about the unbelievable water usage, the chemical waste, and pits that should have been the responsibility of the oil companies to remove and clean up. I pray that the North Dakota government will see the long-term damage done and put laws in place to stop the rape of the land. If I returned to visit friends there, my heart would surely break.

K. Sax, Bisbee, Arizona

An Old, Unfortunate Story

I receive a little bit of income from Bakken oil and have inherited some mineral rights. Reading “Bombing North Dakota” alarmed me by what I perceive as ineffective regulation. The quantity of water used in fracking is mind-boggling. On the other hand, economic development and renewal of towns like Stanley and Columbus seem positive. The current political mood in North Dakota seems to be anti-regulatory and anti-government action. This is unfortunate. The exploitation of the mineral wealth and abuse of the land in the American West is an old story. To those most negatively affected I say, Don’t despair – Organize!

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Randy Nelson, Seattle, Washington

You Don’t Have to Choose

I enjoyed the discussion about more environmentally sustainable vehicles (“The Greenest Way to Go?” Plus/Minus, Winter 2013), but I have to point out that plant-based biofuels and plug-in hybrids are not mutually exclusive. So I can’t vote in a readers poll with such a binary choice. The correct answer is a plug-in hybrid that gives you the option to run on either a sustainable fuel like recycled biodiesel or, for shorter trips, solar power.

Kumar Plocher, Ukiah, California

None of the Above

graphic cartoon depicting a man in modern dress and habit in a wasteland outside of a burning city. a giant hand emerging from a cloud points to him, with the words, So, Adam -- hows that top of the food chain theory working out for

After reading about Faroe Island whalers, North Dakota frackers, and Indonesian palm oil producers failing to take responsibility for the environmental and social effects of their actions, it was disturbing to read the debate in your Winter issue about whether we should drive electric or biodiesel cars (“The Greenest Way to Go?”). Neither technology is anywhere close to sustainably scalable, and neither addresses the enormous impacts beyond the car’s operational energy – the vast embodied energy in cars and their attendant infrastructure; their enabling of resource-consuming urban sprawl; the obesity and attendant health problems that correlate with a car-dependent lifestyle; the toll of 30,000 Americans killed each year in auto accidents; the social destructiveness of eliminating face-to-face contact in the public realm.

A debate over how best to move beyond our costly, destructive automobile-based transportation and land use system would be useful. A debate over how to prop up the existing, broken system is not.

Kurt Nordback, Boulder, Colorado


An essay in our Winter Plus/Minus debate, “Plug in, Drop Out,” misidentified T.W. Patzek as a professor at University of California, Davis. Patzek taught at UC Berkeley.


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