Mora County’s drilling ban is scientifically sound

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By Gerald Ansell, Retired LANL scientist


In the May 4 editorial “Mora County’s drilling ban, moral high ground or moronic?” the author is rightfully concerned about Mora County property owner’s rights to be able to have a legitimate say in how they might use their land to derive income. 

Additionally and unquestionably New Mexico and the United States/rest of the world’s energy suppliers and distributors require energy-resources and distribution capabilities to enable them to a) earn a reasonable and fair profit and b) supply their customers with enough energy to support their food production/manufacturing/transportation/social and personal needs too.

To complicate long-term planning however, in Otera Mesa, which is sits atop N.M.’s last untapped water supply, the Mora County/Permian/San Juan Basins and other N.M. and neighboring counties where oil/gas drilling bans are being considered in many cases split estate laws exist. These create controversy about who actually owns the mineral rights.

However realistically there are long-term moral, scientific, economic and national security high-ground reasons for proposing the controversial exploitation bans.

The first and most obvious is that modern-day fracking and other oil/shale drilling/mining technologies have already led to resource extraction down to several thousand feet below ground level. This is positive evidence that such resources are not unlimited and that in the future they will run out.

It’s conservatively estimated that 80 percent of future oil/shale exploitation will rely upon the utilization of fracking. In many cases already, huge water supplies have frequently been used for extraction/processing purposes. This has resulted in a) preferential use for extraction-processing over farming/household usage, plus b) frequent and permanent well contamination.

At the same time demand for ours and other precious oil/gas resources is increasing from Mexico, South American and developing countries. Add to this that the world’s population is increasing at close to an exponential rate and its demand for energy grows with it.

Now pause awhile and consider how countries like the Ukraine and other former Russian states are currently in the grips of Vladimir Putin’s Russia for their energy supply and consider where the U.S.’s National Security/Economy will stand if we rely upon imported energy resources from any other nation.

Let us then look to the truly long-term and consider how these sunny N.M. and adjacent counties could provide a long-term and sustainable energy supply. It’s the same one that has completely rejuvenated and saved the small/holdings/farmers in not very sunny Germany and several of its surrounding countries, the sunny Middle East and even in less-sunny locations in the United States.

All reliable data resources agree that the conversion rate of sunshine energy into electricity by the ever-improving solar converters is increasing. Similarly the growth/conversion to liquid fuel of cellulose and other plant materials (algae) is making it possible to both farm and set up large-scale efficient low water-use hydroponic growth units.

If either progressive existing Public Energy Suppliers or better still land-owner owned COOPS:

a) Enabled these small-holders to install or rent serviced solar to electricity units via long-term rentals or ownership,

b) Link them to the electric-grid,

c) Purchase their surplus electricity,

It would provide a sizable and non-polluting sustainable electrical supply and a permanent income for the small holders, plus a local industry to grow and process the bio-fuels. I have seen with my own eyes that this type of plan is already working profitably in several of the above-mentioned countries.

Realistically of course consumers may never again get an abundance of energy, which usually means, much to waste anyway. Future mankind will almost certainly have to get culturally used to just an adequate energy-supply for its personal/transportation needs. 

New Mexico and the United States had better start thinking seriously about the morally/scientific/economic/non-CO2-poluting reasoning for the oil/gas/shale drilling bans described above and then include the nation’s long-term sustainability and desired-way-of-life, soon. 


Gerald B. Ansell is a retired LANL scientist.