In an earlier post, I talked about the impact the natural gas and oil industry has had on towns in Western Colorado. I took some photos to give a better idea of how it has changed the local landscape. These were taken near the towns of Parachute, DeBeque, and Collbran. Red arrows point to areas of land cleared for gas/oil tanks, rigs, and other equipment:
At Orange Clouds’s parent’s house, I was shocked to see the scars the gas industry has left among the sandstone hills she and I climbed as children. Like other people in Garfield County, her parents had no legal grounds to deny the gas company access to their land. “Owning the land is not the same as owning the mineral rights,” her mother told me with a sigh. There is now an ugly dirty road carved into their property (see photo below), along with several gigantic gas tanks. When the wind blows, dust from the road swirls into the air and covers everything. It gets in your hair, eyes, and nose. Dust from the gas industry is one of the many complaints local people have. The companies never seem to replant foliage on the land they tear up, adding to problems Garfield County already has with its soil.
I asked my father how he feels about the gas and oil industry. He tells me he is torn. The local economy needs it, yet he hates how it has destroyed the land. That seems to be the stance that most people around here take. People talk about it in a grim but accepting tone of voice.
In moments like these, I remember what one of my community college economics professors once told me: Money only has value because people believe it does. And then I marvel at the things we are willing to sacrifice for something that has no intrinsic value whatsoever. (Except perhaps as toilet paper.)