Energy Independence, Energy Dependence

Louisville Festival of Faiths Fall Forum met at Bellarmine U. Friday. Titled “The

Energy Independence Boom: A Call for Religious Leadership,” it was planned
by several local Catholic orders, including the Dominican sisters, the Sisters
of Loretto, and the Sisters of Charity. My friend Robbie Pentecost, a
Franciscan sister in Appalachia, was front and center in the planning and I was
proud to know her. 

controversial Bluegrass Pipeline ignited the event. It rose to local fame in
August when theSisters of Loretto, accompanied
by the Trappist brothers of Gethsemani, denied access
to their property in central
Kentucky for surveying for a new flammable, pressurized, natural gas liquids
pipeline. The pipeline is intended to reach the gulf coast, and its contents to
be processed into plastic and other products, but religious leaders and others are opposing it publicly.

is only one of many fossil fuel pipelines in the news these days. The most
notorious is the Keystone
XL pipeline
, intended to conduct synthetic crude oil and bitumen from the
“tar sands” of Alberta across the Canada/U.S. border to complete a 2151-mile
line through Montana and several plains states to the Texas coast. This one has
made the news because its border-crossing segment is awaiting State Department
approval, and because a large number of people, rallied especially by the
climate-action, vigorouslyoppose it(see myblog poston the February Washington
rally). They oppose it for several reasons, including the violation of native
lands where the tar sands are located, the energy-intensive method used to
extract the petroleum from the sand, and the many dangers of environmental
damage along the pipeline.

most people don’t know is that such pipelines cause great inland ecological and
human damage, just as other more spectacular spills such asBP’s Deepwater Horizon spill of
do. BP’s
spilled killed 11 workers and continued for three months before it was capped,
covered a water area equivalent to the size of Oklahoma, and damaged the coasts
of every gulf state. Clean-up and litigation continue there.

But numerous other, less widely publicized spills have damaged farmlands, towns, rivers, and coastlines. For instance: this month, aGreenville, Texasspill northeast of Dallas, and
the week before, a
spill of 400 barrels (17,000 gallons) of crude oil from a pipeline near Austin
(my hometown).
A month ago, a spill of more
than 865,000 gallons on seven acres of North Dakota farmland
. Then there’s
the Trans-Alaska
Pipeline spill
of 2010, the Red Butte Creek Chevron spill in Utah in2010and another similar one in2011,
theKalamazoo River, Michigan,
spill of over a million gallons in 2010, theMontana
Yellowstone River
spill of 2011, and barge spills in the Mississippi River

are just the U.S. ones. In
Nigeria, more oil is spilled every year than what BP dumped in the gulf and, according
to this
news story,
“oil companies have acted with such impunity and recklessness
that much of the region has been devastated by leaks.” Oil spills also plague China
(also here),
(also here),
the U.K.,
, for example.

March, ExxonMobil’s
Pegasus tar sands pipeline
engulfed a Mayflower,
neighborhood. Exxon barred reporters and had the FAA impose a no-fly

speakers addressed the forum powerfully:

Avery, author of The Pipeline and the Paradigm: Keystone XL, Tar Sands, and
the Battle to Defuse the Carbon Bomb
, discussed the assumption that the

of human life is economic growth. This has brought unprecedented
prosperity, he said, but it sees lumber instead of trees, coal instead of
mountains. It fails to see what the wrong kind of economic growth does to our
home on earth. The mistake, he said, is not in seeing fossil fuels as useful,
but in seeing them as a permanent solution to our energy needs. It is time for
a new energy paradigm.

Simmons, former professor at Southern Baptist Seminary, spoke about the role of
faith in environmental action. He drew attention to the close connection the
creation story traces between humans (adam) and the ground (adamah).

Lynn Cunningham, a licensed environmental engineer and one of the founders of
the Louisville Climate Action Network,
among other things, spoke of the “silver buckshot” (as opposed to silver
bullet) needed to address climate change: i.e., many small solutions working
together. She called religious leaders to assert moral authority in relation to
the climate crisis, a move that will also create new jobs and, in the long run,
save money. Pragmatically, she advised repetition, showing rather than telling,
and offering “what’s in it for them” as persuasive arguments to promote practical
actions such as energy conservation in congregations.

importantly, Sister Claire McGowan, executive director of New Pioneers for a Sustainable Future,
introduced an “Energy Vision from the Heart of Kentucky’s ‘Holy Land,’” inviting
faith leaders to join the three orders of Sisters in signing “because of our
love for God and for God’s creation.”  

Between speakers, individual tables of participants conversed both on and off
topic. Over a hundred people attended, a community of extraordinarily committed
faith citizens gathered into one room by Christy
and the Festival of Faiths staff.

oh yes, an advance copy of my
arrived unexpectedly Thursday. After opening it, I spent the rest of
the evening repeating, like a drunken fool, “And, this is my book! Did you see
it?” And then showed it off Friday at the Festival, pointing out to several
people their own names in the acknowledgements. I am grateful to Dilu Nicholas and Sharon Adams for the
striking book and cover design, which is even more stunning in real life.  

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