More Than A River

I grew up in a small town of Northeastern Pennsylvania called White Mills. As a young kid, I would regularly pester my parents to take me fishing in the lakes and streams of the Upper Delaware Basin until I reached an age where I could wake up at 4AM and hike out on my own. The amount of money that I must have saved my family through my bountiful catches that this area provided me must have been tremendous. Though I am what you would call a millennial, I hardly identify as one. I have had an interest in local and national politics for as long as I can remember, even if my parents did not. Instead of living a life from a smartphone, I would regularly walk these woods and fish these streams. This continued through high school where I graduated near the top of my class and was accepted into the Pennsylvania State University’s Chemical Engineering program. Not wanting to leave this beautiful area, I commuted to the Worthington-Scranton branch for my first two years until I was forced to transfer to University Park in State College, Pennsylvania to finish my degree.

When the time came for me to transfer to main campus I was in crisis. I had been reflecting on the sheer amount of chemical concoctions that have limited studies and unknown effects that are regularly invented and dispensed upon our environment in the name of corporate greed. This was the field that I was most likely to be a part of. In the end I decided that I wanted a change. As an ASABE competition participant, I had pondered a long time about our energy demands and the benefits and negatives of the various energy sources that our blessed nation possesses. When I wrote my paper for the competition I was only 17, and wrote about how we could process oils from algae in order to create fuel. However, now I was 20 and much more of a realist. I was working hard to put myself through school while affording my own housing. In my life, I had seen the devastation on our environment that fuels such as coal and oil had done by growing up in old coal country and by living near one of the most polluted rivers in the nation. I decided I would promote energy independence and clean energy for our nation by switching to Nuclear Engineering with the hopes of joining the nuclear power industry. Though this could seem hypocritical, the only pollutants created by nuclear plants are those during construction and the inevitable radioactive waste is simply stored onsite and not dispersed out into the environment. I graduated with a B.S. degree in Nuclear Engineering in May 2016 and have had multiple interviews since. In April of 2017 I passed the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam in Pennsylvania on my first attempt and have since become a licensed Engineer in Training.

While attending university, the natural gas boom happened. While it does have flaws like every energy source, it presents us the capability to truly be energy independent while switching to a much cleaner source than we have used in the past. Though I still hope to contribute to nuclear energy as I truly believe it is the energy of the future, it is impractical to rely on one source. A complex nation such as ours necessitates a diverse energy portfolio, and natural gas must be a part of that energy diversity if this nation is ever to move towards cleaner energy independence. One energy source with the capability to cleanly power earth for thousands of years has essentially been passed up because of an over-regulating government compounded with the public’s irrational fears and misunderstandings. Said government is now bailing out the very industry it paralyzed because the nation desperately needs it. With the current politics surrounding natural gas we seem doomed to repeat that same mistake and inevitably hinder ourselves until we are stuck with the status quo, which is nowhere near the potential that a great area in a nation such as ours could reach. The area I grew up in has decayed since its heydays. The area I grew up in is poorer since coal moved on but natural gas has provided an opportunity for rebirth and a cleaner future that the Upper Delaware Valley would be fools to deny for themselves.

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