All fossil fuels occur in nature in locations that offer some level of risk when recovering the fuel. Oil leaks and spillages have been happening since we started using oil at large scale. The image of the gusher spewing petroleum into air above the wooden derrick is almost iconic in the oil industry; the headlines about coal mine disasters occur too often and always include the number of miners killed. The recent experience of two workers injured by a fire at a Marcellus Shale gas well outside Gaines in Tioga County completes the trilogy.
Fossil fuels represent 84 percent of the United States' total energy usage; we are not going to do without these fuels any time soon. This means that the laws, rules and regulations under which these fuels are recovered, transported and used must be very stringent, and enforcement must be timely and comprehensive. Federal and state agencies must be staffed and funded at levels that allow them to meet their missions.
Special interest groups will have to realize that the job is supplying fossil energy in a safe and timely manner and nothing else.
GERST A. GIBBON
The writer has a Ph.D. in chemistry from Carnegie Mellon University and teaches "Energy Alternatives for the Future" for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the university. He and Donald Gibbon are not related.