New Orleans The Russian invasion of Ukraine seems to have entered a new phase with a step back to hunker down in areas in the east, already taken, but with all signs of an extended and protracted engagement with no clear end in sight. Many countries around the rest of the world have taken sides, pro or con, on the war, but all countries are having to re-evaluate the role of globalization in their economies, supply chain issues now and in the future, and in the light of increased issues of national security as money and resources become central, where these crises leave efforts to confront the dilemma of climate change. So far, the new world order seems to be without much of any order at all.
I was amazed recently in New Mexico, visiting with a friend, when he remarked that his state was now second only to Texas as a US oil producer. I quizzed him several times to make sure that I was hearing him clearly. I was raised in the oil fields from Wyoming to Colorado to even Kentucky, and still have my feet firmly planted in Louisiana, but it was true in driving through parts of the Permian Basin that whole part of the state seemed like one solid oil patch. Pricing and supply seem to be reviving coal with more mined now that in recent years, even as many thought the industry was on the run. Reading the homespun writing of various leaders of rural electric cooperatives, I’ve been struck by how hard they are campaigning among their members to save coal and everything else at all costs in order to protect “dispatchability” or reliability. Ironically, they are arguing that they need to do so in order to deal with climate change, meaning winter storms and heat waves.
Driving in a small, hybrid rental car in SE New Mexico, I was almost blown off the highway by the big rigs and tankers, but the whole West is under resource assault in one way or another, also ironically, in the drive to go green that depends of minerals like copper, lithium, cobalt, and nickel. Estimates are that demands for some of these minerals are going to increase by 20 to 40 times the current level over the next 20 years.
I remember in the early 1970s visit with organizations of farmers and ranchers in Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado that became the backbone of the Western Organization of Resource Councils when they were fighting coal strip mining. Now, these new fights will have to contend with some of the same issues with the legacy of those struggles in some cases still unresolved. The 1872 Mining Act still allows god knows what on federal lands without the payment of royalties. There are over 500,000 abandoned mines on federal lands by all accounts and 89000 of them pose safety or environmental issues. Hardrock mining means hard times long after the boom is gone. Throw in the fact that a lot of this action and exploitation will be on native lands without real consultation and input, and this issue is radioactive in the West, even as the green wave sweeps forward now in concert with US resource independence.
Now we need real policies not politics.