Dirty Technology: Whose Fault?

No one alive today is unaware of the strong arguments in favor of finding "alternative" energy sources - meaning alternatives to fossil fuels.  The reasons for turning away from these dinosaur energy sources are many: they exist only in limited supply, mining them is eating up our natural landscape, and they leave behind pollution in many forms.  And besides, we may be able to get a lot more bang for our buck out of solar, wind, or algae.

But last week's chemical spill in West Virginia emphasized yet another problem about fossil fuels: we have to treat them with some pretty nasty compounds in order to make them usable.  One of these coal "washing" chemicals spilled out of a storage facility and into the Elk River in West Virginia, poisoning the water supply of hundreds of thousands of people.  The substance was so toxic, residents couldn't even wash their clothes or their hands in tap water. You can read about the spill and the resulting crisis here and here.

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How did this happen? The scariest part of this story is that no one seems to know who failed to contain the chemical properly, because no one seems to have been in charge of this dangerous substance.  No specific group was watching how it was used.

It's easy to want to blame Freedom Industries, the company that owns the facility where the leak occurred. But, it turns out that their plant hadn't been inspected by a government agency in over 20 years, because the chemical they were storing hasn't been studied enough to be considered toxic.  (It is plenty toxic, it just doesn't have the correct paper work to prove it...)  So, I think this makes for a juicy topic for debate. Whether you're looking for a writing topic for school, an application, or just for your own practice, check out the prompt below.

Prompt:

In a world with increasing demands for energy, whose responsibility is it to monitor the use of toxic or harmful substances that are used to process the energy we all use?

Submit your response for a chance to be published on WholeEd.com! Paste your essay into the body of an email addressed to megan@wholeed.com