To Frack or Not to Frack?

I used to subscribe to the theory that you need to move every five or six years just so you can keep ahead of the crap that accumulates in your garage. A good weeding out is essential from time to time. Nothing like a purging garage sale to lighten up.

I feel the same way about clearing off the mess on your desk every once in awhile just to see what’s buried there. I did this the other day and found this piece among the flotsam and jetsam that has washed up on my desk over the past few months.

Since I have not posted anything in quite some time I thought it might shock my few readers to actually find something new on the blog. I have been fitfully working on a short story and my version of the “History of the Early Years of VeriFone” but it may take some time before they’re ready.

This was a letter in response to an old friend who is a passionate believer in global warming and vocal opponent of hydraulic fracturing, the modern method of extracting natural gas that has revolutionized the oil and gas business.


I’m glad you sent along your “remarks” (more a rant or screed actually) since it will save me the trouble of offering you a bunch of articles or papers with evidence different from your own that you will ignore. This subject is highly personal and emotional to you and that pretty much rules out any rational discussion of the issue. I will, however, offer a couple of thoughts for your consideration.

First, it’s not too often we get naturally occurring experiments opposite each other so that we can compare results and come to some conclusions based on facts and not opinion. It’s social and political science devoid of political spin. This has nothing to do with fracking (we’ll get to that a bit later) but you made some traditional slurs on business, “greedy corporations”, nasty oil companies, etc. This is, of course, the rhetoric of the far left, firm believers in socialism who are absolutely convinced that if only the government ran everything, all would be just peachy.

So let’s talk about North and South Korea. The people of these two countries are genetically and culturally identical, yet after 50+ years or so of communist rule in the North and free market capitalism in the South the results could not be more dramatic. South Korea is a booming prosperous economy and North Korea is in the dark ages. After decades of starvation the average size of the N. Koreans is substantially smaller than their cousins to the south. Only 23% of N. Korean homes have electricity!

<b>North</b> <b>Korean</b> <b>Homes</b>

What about East and West Germany? It’s another naturally controlled experiment between two genetically and culturally identical populations with a similar outcome as Korea. They had to build a heavily defended wall to keep their people inside the miserable East while the West prospered.

The same results can be found but on a less dramatic scale in the comparison of countries around the world: The more socialistic, the lower economic growth and prosperity for its citizens. Even the US states are experiencing this kind of competition and performance. (Why have Buffalo and Detroit, just to name two, lost more than half their populations since we got out of high school.) (See “The Buffaloization of American” on this blog.)

Which brings us to New York and Pennsylvania. I would think that you would agree that the people who live above the Marcellus Shale, that straddles counties on both sides of the NY/PA border, are pretty much the same economically, culturally and even genetically. Yet the differences in income, unemployment, tax revenues and prosperity since PA opened up drilling for natural gas and permitted fracking are substantial. I know you do not give a shit about these facts so I won’t bother to innumerate them, but should you, by some chance, be curious how much money NY is leaving on the table, check out the Manhattan Institute study of 2013.

Beyond economics, fracking has been around for decades and if you really look at the facts, the environmental impact is nominal or non-existent. All the hysteria surrounding it is just political bullshit and I had hoped you would do a bit more critical thinking before embracing that disinformation with such passion.

I will leave you with this final thought, then consider the matter closed. The article I sent you enumerated the benefit to the poorer consumer of natural gas price reductions brought on by hydraulic fracturing. Prior to the boom the price was $10/MMBTU dropping to under $3.00 for a time, and now has settled in at about $3.50/ MMBTU. This is a great benefit to poorer folks who spend a disproportionate percentage of their incomes on heating. This, of course, will be more important as the climate cools and the winters are longer and colder. Dismissing fracking out of hand shows a shocking disregard for poor families. Furthermore, the low cost of natural gas permits substitution for coal in electrical generation. Coal, of course, is the evil incarnate for global warming true believers like yourself.

It seems the residents of New York want to enjoy the fruits of low gas prices without allowing any drilling. If you are faithful to your beliefs that fracking is terrible policy, you should demand that the NY state government tax natural gas up to the pre-fracking price of $10/MMBTU. That would be a true test to see just how worried New York residents are about the environmental threat of fracking.

I will anxiously await your passionate letter to Gov. Cumo insisting he raise the tax on natural gas.

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