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  • Writer's picturePayton Pan

West Texas and the Battle for a Clean Energy Future

It takes strength to stand against the times. And ignorance too.

These were my thoughts as I drove drown a dusty road towards Midland, a small town in the West Texas desert. It’s where I took the photo (Green Future) Grim Present.

The town was built on the foundation of a booming oil industry, a foundation that has provided steady income and a thick flow of jobs through countless pumpjacks. But this foundation is cracked, and grows weaker every year. With the generation of green energy on the horizon, it's not hard to see a future where renewable energy sources become cheaper, safer, and more accessible than their greenhouse competitors. The proposal of a carbon tax that's floating around now is an idea that would bring us to this horizon even sooner. Surely this transition is one that would be positive for our planet and economy, but what will it mean for all the workers in the non-renewable industry, like those I met in Midland?

There are so many people in this world who can’t afford to worry about Climate Change. When you’re close enough to the bottom line, the only choice you have is to punch a card and feed your family. Environmental impact plays no role in this decision nor should it. But as a country, is it not our duty to provide more options to working-class Americans? Oil used to be the lifeblood of Midland, Texas- its only industry. But with the arrival of renewable energy options, everything changed. New jobs were installed alongside the towering wind turbines.

Coal and Oil towns across the country have two choices. They can follow the suit of some towns I passed in Texas, where residents clung to what they knew, and remained hopeful for a fossil fuel bounce-back. In these towns, the remaining pumpjacks are being slowly surrounded on all sides by solar and wind energy. It’s truly an eerie sight to see these turbines rising up above the hills, encroaching on the rusty, creaking jacks.

The second option is one of hope, not brown dust. We can embrace the future, and instead of letting towns wilt into ghost towns, we can provide a new avenue of jobs to embrace the workers in need of options. The time has come where we can no longer cling to the past and its energy sources. The longer we wait, the more innocent towns will meet their deserted end. I hope these photos express the stark contrast between the two options we all have. And remember them the next time you make a big decision, whether it’s choosing a car, or choosing a senator.

Go green or go home,


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