Free Market “Environmentalism”

This weekend, an interesting story appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune about how Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has proposed rolling back emissions regulations on producing oil and natural gas wells located on federal lands in western states. The reason for the regulations imposed by the Obama Administration was because significant amounts of methane were either leaking or being flared from these wells, 9.5 billion cubic feet of methane from wells in Utah over the past several years. The regulations required less gas to be flared and for leaking drilling, production, and transmission systems to be tightened up. One of the reasons for this was that those emissions have contributed to high levels of air pollution, particularly in winter, along Utah’s densely populated Wasatch Front, where, due to geographic features, inversions are frequent.

Secretary Zinke announced the proposed roll-back because the “costs of compliance” were too heavy on many operators of these wells, particularly wells classified as stripper wells producing small amounts of oil and gas daily, and would cause many of these wells to be shut down. As someone who has some experience in this area, I was flabbergasted at this proposal, one that’s not only environmentally unsound, but economically stupid.

At this point, air pollution along the Wasatch Front is a far greater problem than high natural gas prices for heating. Currently, the price of natural gas is near all-time lows and output is at or near record levels. And that doesn’t even include the downside of massive methane leaks contributing not only to air pollution, but to global warming.

The Republicans are always talking about free markets and excessive regulation, but I have a problem with them declaring that stopping massive natural gas leaks from facilities on leased federal lands is excessive regulation.

We need more methane emissions so that we can create an even greater oversupply of natural gas? An additional supply of natural gas that will keep prices down and make marginal wells even less profitable, if not drive them out of business anyway? And make breathing harder for everyone living in Salt Lake City and along the Wasatch Front?

6 thoughts on “Free Market “Environmentalism””

  1. Derek says:

    To the GOP in Utah, any barrier between a business short-sighted profits is government overreach. Even if the people of Utah are left dealing with the costs.

    I’m just shocked that they’re still bothering to wrap it in ‘free-market’ trimmings. They control the state, and I doubt the electorate plans to hold them accountable.

  2. Dan Cody says:

    Mr. Modesitt, I love your blog and have been a reader of it consistently since I became aware you were keeping it, I think it’s been at least 5 years, and I’ve been reading your work since I was 12 years old, I’m now 33. I’m as aware of your former career as one can be without knowing you personally, so just what’s online and what you’ve written on this blog, I admit that’s a sliver of the real man you actually are. I’m a real big fan, suffice it to say.

    I only write these things so you’ll know,and I’ll say clearly right now, that what I’m about to ask isn’t some kind of dig,or weird way of insulting you,or getting other readers of this riled up.

    In reading this post, and others previously, I can’t help but think of how much your concerns don’t line up with current GOP thinking, basically at all, do you still consider yourself a Republican? If so,do you consider others who are Republicans actually Republicans or something new? Or old however you’d like to frame it?

    Thank you so much for a response if you choose to, I’ll completely understand if you don’t and and will have no hard feelings.

    Also I’d like to take this opportunity and beg, BEG you, as I have in previous posts here and on the forum, to write more Hard Sci-Fi novels, and in a perfect world, a series. You’ve explained to me before the economics and how books get pushed through. I get it, I know you have to work to pay bills and publishers are finicky. But I just can’t believe that if you wrote something great,and I have no doubts that it wouldn’t be, they wouldn’t publish it. And if they did refuse, there’s no way another house wouldn’t publish it. You’ve sold millions of books, it’s hard to find reviews of your work that isn’t positive (discounting the reviews that are motivated by concerns other than literary) and even then they’ll admit how good the writing and structure was. Again thanks sir.

    1. I’ll do my best to answer your questions. I’m a moderate, and forty years ago, depending on where I lived, I’d likely have been called a liberal Republican or a conservative northern Democrat. With very few exceptions, there are no true moderates left among politicians, and more and more, moderation is disappearing from the electorate as a whole. People and their politicians have become increasingly absolutist, and not just in the United States. Because I tend to be more liberal on some social issues, especially women’s issues [having six daughters does have a tendency to open one’s eyes], I’m out of step with the Republicans. Because I believe that there are such things as toxic cultures and subcultures and that spending more and more money doesn’t necessarily solve problems, I tend to be out of step with the Democrats. Both parties are attempting to make government larger in order to force their view on the other.

      I’m still a registered Republican because where I live the only meaningful vote I can cast in more than 90% of all electoral contests is in the Republican primary, and while that’s not the best choice, it’s in practice the only choice most of the time.

    2. As for writing more hard science fiction, I intend to, but writing fantasy is what gives me the freedom to write SF, and that’s a trade-off I have to balance the best I can.

      1. Matt Newman says:

        Just as a quick aside on the science fiction issue. Would you consider something along the lines of a Pledge campaign to offset the financial imbalance? I know that I would personally pay a premium for exclusives to secure the opportunity to read more of your science fiction work. This model works very well to support musicians and as someone with very eclectic tastes I have been happy to pay a premium to ensure that musicians whose work I enjoy are able to continue to create new music for me to experience.

        1. I’ve actually never considered that, and I’d have to give it some serious thought.

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