The recent oil boom in the Permian Basin is being heralded as a major boon for the Midland area. Extraction efficiency is up and the Midland county judge proclaimed that “Fossil fuels are here forever.” Ironically, that crowing has largely ignored other headlines — often on the same page — describing this summer’s record-breaking heat, droughts, water shortages and the degrading health of our citizens. Make no mistake, we are selling our future for a questionable return.
The Permian is the largest oil and gas basin in the United States and one of the most productive areas in the world. Much of the extraction in the area is done by fracking: injecting fluids into rock formations under high pressure in an attempt to open fissures. It is one of the more dangerous ways to get to oil and gas deposits and has been linked to contaminated water, methane leaks and even earthquakes. Methane releases are particularly environmentally damaging, harmful to human health and economically irresponsible. As a side effect to oil production, Texas is responsible for producing the most vented and flared methane emissions in the nation, accounting for 47 percent of vented and flared natural gas in the U.S. in 2019 according to a report by the U.S. Energy Administration Information. And a recent analysis found that, along with oil fields in Russia and Turkmenistan, the Permian is one of the world’s dirtiest.