Drilling on campus might present educational opportunity

Each week, I sit down at my computer and start spilling out my opinion about an issue that seems to get my feathers ruffled. I take this time and opportunity for granted because utilizing a computer is such a commonplace task these days. This week when I sat down, I couldn’t help but think about energy.

Energy is what fuels our choices, actions and lifestyles, yet the smallest things such as turning on or off a light, typing an article or cranking up the heat on a cold night are left unappreciated. We are currently in an energy craze, yet as a society we are so detached from our sources. When I stand on the escalator in the bookstore I haven’t the slightest thought about what makes the stairs move or where the energy is coming from. My coffee has its origins from my coffee pot that is plugged into my wall, not the oil rig, gas drill, hydro power plant, nuclear plant or wind turbine. We want the energy and we want it cheap, but we don’t want to see what it is or where it is coming from; no way, not in my backyard.

There has been much controversy about drilling for natural gas on campus, and I was riding the fence on this issue for a long time. I kept trying to weigh the pros and cons as an energy consumer as well as an environmentalist and potential activist. I finally came to the conclusion that perhaps drilling on campus is a positive step as a consumer, student and environmentalist.

One way or another gas is going to be drilled, thus why not put it in an urban area rather than a secluded forest causing potential damage to a healthy ecosystem? There are concerns about the surrounding neighborhoods, but if we demand lower energy prices, we need to be willing to pay for them or shift our lifestyles to live a simpler, less energy-dependent life. If not drilling in one neighborhood, it will be in another or a natural area, and whichever it is, I don’t think everyone will be happy.

The perks to drilling in an urban setting, specifically TCU:

First, we are allowing students the opportunity to see how energy is obtained – from more than just a switch or plug. And with hope, the TCU Energy Institute will be allowed a position in the drilling process, enhancing the education of students.

Second, with drilling comes an allotment of money to restore or enhance a natural area within the vicinity, particularly an area on campus.

Third, a parking lot is already an ecologically-disturbed site. Drilling in an urban space is sparing the environment and all the plants and animals that reside in a natural habitat.

Fourth, we will be getting cheaper, homegrown gas rather than getting it overseas.

Fifth, we would be taking responsibility for our actions as energy consumers.

And last, I hate to say this, but gas is a step cleaner than oil. So it certainly isn’t natural, clean energy like photovoltaics or wind turbines, and it still aggravates my environmental senses, but it is loosening our grip on oil.

So, there actually are benefits to drilling on campus. This is making the best of a bad situation. People must come to the point in their life where they either decide to keep on with their dirty energy dependency —- politically and environmentally – or take the drill and put it in an area that is already ecologically disturbed.

I am certainly no advocate for extensive, unnecessary energy consumption, but I have struggled through this issue for a while now, and have tried to rationalize how this can be a positive experience for us all at TCU. I am guilty of using my computer and occasionally leaving lights on, but I am willing to pay for these actions. I support urban drilling versus ecosystem damaging drilling.

Gretchen Wilbrandt is a junior environmental science major from Woodstock, Ill.