Mark Twain has been attributed with saying "whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over," though I can't find where the man said it. Whether it's true that Mr. Twain said this insightful thing or not doesn't change the sentiment. Nor apparently, does time. Just as the cowboys of 1880 American did, 21st century Americans have still got plenty of whiskey and still need water but these days it can most arguably be said that if we Americans unite to fight for anything, it's oil, coal and natural gas. We are fossil fuel whores and it's pathetic who we will beat, pillage and rape to keep the cheap energy flowing.
Even the water wars of the American West have been forever changed by our quest for never ending fossil fuels. Colorado provides us with a key example as several conflicting interests head to battle over the state's scarce water resources. So far this spring more than 37 square miles of land have been burned due to drought induced wildfire. More than 900 homes in the state were evacuated, many burned to the ground. Multiple firemen were severely injured fighting the flames, which have only just begun to burn. This is a serious concern because we aren't even halfway through April and with at least six more months of water scarcity threatening lives in Colorado, and we haven't even gotten to the scary part of this story yet.
The scary part of this story is that we still have those farmers that Mark Twain would have been talking about. They are still out there fighting for their water rights, only now they don't have to fight each other, now they have to fight the fossil fuel industry for every drop they get.
It is reasonable to assume that this wildly uncharacteristic early season drought is most likely one of the predicted ramifications of global warming, which we know to be caused by burning fossil fuels. As we approach peak oil and near the end of the reserves of easy to procure oil and gas, we are forced to use more and more extreme ways of drilling for gas and oil.
Colorado, like many states, has resorted to using our precious and scarce resource - water, in a process known as hydrofracking to drill for previously inaccessible reserves of natural gas. This process involves mixing a secret combination of chemicals with up to 5 million gallons of water - per well - and forcing this mixture into the earth till it crumbles the rock layer that is holding a pocket of natural gas and forces the gas out. This process has been speculated to cause earthquakes and is known to cause large quantities of water to be poisoned by chemicals kept secret under industry trade laws. Hydrofracking has gained momentum and it is estimated that 80% of the wells in the next decade will use this technique as we flog the earth in our last desperate attempt to draw its remaining fossil fuels from its crust so that we can burn them and pump them into our atmosphere.
We have a terrifying situation forming where we are taking our water, which was already a scarce resource, and we are not using it to make more of our other scare resource - food, but instead we are using it to drill for more gas in an environmentally questionable manner.
Doesn't this remind anyone of the ethanol disaster of 2008? That was when we took our scarce resources and used them to create a fuel in an environmentally degrading way instead of food. People starved. Remember?
When we violate ourselves in this manner, so that we can burn more energy and worsen our global warming problem we increase water scarcity. We worsen severity of our extreme weather events like droughts, and forest fires and in doing so, we put real live heroic human beings at risk. That's just wrong.
This is a no win situation. Pretty soon we won't even have enough water with which to make whiskey! Then what will we do? I say that with tongue in cheek, but even with a mouthful of sarcasm I am more than a little scared for Colorado as I watch it burning in its fight for water and I know that millions of gallons of water are being used each day in the pursuit of natural gas.
I don't really know if Mark Twain really did make that apt observation about whiskey and water, but when I look at the entitled attitudes of Americans and the way the way they live as though the world owes them fast streaming ipods, two dollar gas, and never ending disposable plastic grocery bags... I can't help but imagine old Mark saying something smart like, "Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first."