ConsumerismEconomicsEnergy SystemsPeak OilSoil Erosion & ContaminationWater Contaminaton & Loss

Colbert and More on Fracking

The low hanging fruit of the world’s energy tree is so, so gone now that we’re throwing caution to the wind, frantically shimmying up the trunk, clambering out onto the limbs and putting all the weight of our demands onto its uppermost, and very tenuous, branches. The laws of supply and demand mean that as a resource declines, its worth goes up, and thus there’s not only ever greater pressure to drain the very last drop, there’s also increasing incentive to do so — at least for industrialists without a conscience (they themselves being a ‘resource’ in seemingly unlimited supply…).

Unfortunately it works like this until the cost of retrieving an energy source is higher than than its usable value. Even then, if it no longer makes financial sense, we can just jiggle the books until it looks attractive again. We’ve done it with corn ethanol, by ignoring the cost differential and subsidising the hell out of it with tax-payer dollars, and we’ve done it with oil, by using taxpayer dollars to finance military intervention to secure it. We can continue cooking the planet, just by finding imaginative ways to cook the books. As Bush senior said, the American (high energy) way of life is not negotiable — even if we must ignore the exponential function and every mathematical law to do so. Even though many suffer the consequences, it seems that, with fracking, so long as there are still a few making a buck, it will continue.

And, thus, to get the greatest return on investment in the expensive equipment necessary to undertake this exploitative work, there’s also a huge incentive to externalise all overheads associated with it. The invisible hand works wonders here. The less gas remaining to be fracked, the more you can sell it for, but the harder and more expensive it is to retrieve. This translates to turning a blind eye to collateral damage to people and place. Clean-ups cost, as do precautions.

Instead of objectivity ruling over this free-for-all nonsense, short-term economic gain takes precedence above all else.

As an example, less than a month after a report came out on how much money New York was losing due to its fracking ban, the ban was lifted.

Fracking is supposedly a bid to reduce dependency on foreign oil. But it’s more than that. Foreign oil is drying up too. Saudi Arabia, supposedly the most blessed in energy of all nations, is itself reaching deeper into its own cupboard, trying to pry out some of its uglier stores — those they’ve not wanted to approach until now — whilst worldwide demand is still growing. This year we’ve hit a record worldwide consumption rate of 88 million barrels of oil per day. As both the quantity and price of the oil we consume rises, the energy component in our national budgets is getting out of whack compared to items in the other rows on the spreadsheet. Yet, we are not so much giving up on the energy as we’re just playing with the figures. As energy costs rise, shopping trolleys are getting lighter (instead of raising prices, we just shrink the product!).

Energy-hungry Europe is now lined up to be the new fracking frontier. Poland is being described as ‘fracking heaven‘ (an oxymoron if ever I heard one).

Unfortunately, even if short-lived, it seems the immediate future for fracking looks ‘bright’, even if the road to this future will be littered with toxic watersheds and diseased people and eco-systems.

There is some good news to be had in this — France has banned fracking within its borders. We the people need to stand up and ensure those who are supposed to be working in our interests and on our behalf are doing just that. If these things are left to market forces alone, well, we’ll end up in ‘fracking heaven’.


  1. “…turning a blind eye to collateral damage to people and place.” The invisible hand doesn’t allow this, government creating laws that protect favored industries do.

  2. Here near Guy Arkansas we have homes exploding during quakes -water wells spouting gas with officials pretending to be dumbfounded -Large trucks releasing frack water for miles down rural roads killing fish in ponds.
    At a forum at one of the Colleges with Josh fox and local officials poor local enraged and crying people were lined up at the microphone to tell their story, most were denied. City leaders were on the defensive -those made rich mum. Anything new? Saw a poster with “FRACK YOU MOTHER FRACKER”

  3. JBob – government doesn’t even need to make laws protecting industry, they just have to fail to enact laws to protect people and place from industry. i.e. All they need to do is get out of the way of industry, and leave them ‘free’ to do what they want.

    Would you have France repeal their ban on fracking?

  4. Craig, Government courts are not protecting the private property rights of those damaged by fracking side effects.

  5. Not knowing you Harry, I find it difficult to tell if thats sarcasm or not. Normally I would just accept that suggestion that nuclear is clean and green was clearly a joke, but in these times of carbon dioxide panic I see there is a strong potential for us to produce even more toxic waste than we already have, which will continue to poison ecosystems long after humanity has ceased to exist.
    I have been working on a new data center in Sydney, which will provide space for servers for online gaming and the new cloud approach to computing. The cooling of this facility and power consumption have put the fear in me as it defies belief. Our capacity to consume an ever increasing amount of electricity per person, while increasing the world population to 7 billion, makes any suggestion that we could use nuclear a real sore point for me. The news that there will be about 10 dams down the amazon in the near future is also horrifying. While we continue to maintain this lifestyle of obscene (and sometimes hidden) consumption of energy we will be marching rapidly towards making the surface of the planet uninhabitable. I find the knowledge that in my lifetime I will witness the last natural ecosystems poisoned and contained so that some mall-rat gamer can play their online game, some moronic public servant can show their friends their photos online or some ridiculously hard working people can sit grid locked in traffic for 3 hours a day because they see no other way, insanely disappointing.

  6. Craig,
    You mentioned “government doesn’t even need to make laws protecting industry, they just have to fail to enact laws to protect people and place from industry”. Have you thought what these protection for people and place entails? If you follow this thought, you should arrive at the same conclusion as JBob, that all the government needs to do is actually to protect the rights of the people from violations. When the government upholds these right which is so basic, there should be no need for fracking ban since it would be redundant.

  7. Hi Johan

    I’m sorry, but I wholeheartedly disagree. Again, the ‘philosophy’ fails when it meets practice. Watch the video embedded in this post, and tell me how implementing your view would help the people crippled and/or made ill:

    Some people can be permanently disabled through industrial negligence. Punishing them with fines after the fact won’t cure them. In these matters a preventative approach, by implementing laws to protect people and place are the only way to go. Or do you think it’s acceptable to wait until people are permanently hurt or killed before taking action?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles

Back to top button