Should We Really Re-Elect This Fracking President?

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Fracking is the energy industry's answer to peak oil, catastrophically offloading the increased cost of oil and gas extraction onto farmers, ranchers, humans who drink water, and the environment itself. It's about as ethical and responsible as the brain deciding to mine the liver and sell the contents. And it's national energy policy under the Obama administration.

Should We Really Re-Elect This Fracking President?

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Any time someone mentions corporate American technological innovation, you should think of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Fracking is how enormous amounts of oil and gas that used to be beyond the reach of energy companies is now being extracted across much of the United States. Barack Obama is the Fracking President. In his 2012 State of the Union he repeated the oil industry's absurd and irresponsible claim that fracking would create 600,000 jobs.

...the U.S. president made clear in his State of the Union address that when it came to the other big eco-controversy in America—hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” to access natural gas reserves—he was siding with the oil and gas industry.

'We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years, and my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy,' Obama proclaimed. His remarks were a clear indication that, while environmental groups, celebrity protesters and a handful of jurisdictions including Quebec and New York state continue to resist, the mainstream is prepared to ramp up gas production—and abide with the environmental risks involved.”

But the risks are beyond rational calculation.

Fracking is the explosive injection of huge volumes of water combined with secret mixes of toxic chemicals, heated hundreds of degrees past the boiling point of water and at hundreds of atmospheric pressures into deep underground rock formations where the amounts of gas or oil used to be too small to be worth going after. Some of that poisoned water seeps off to pollute finite underground water reserves. The rest is pulled back to the surface mixed with the oil, gas or whatever is being sought. When those things are removed, vast amounts of what used to be water, now irretrievably poisoned, are pumped deep into the earth.

That “water” eventually returns to us. It comes back in springs which are the sources of streams and rivers, and in wells used for irrigation and drinking water. People in areas where fracking has gone on for some time can often set afire whatever issues from their household plumbing. Fracking and disposal of large quantities of waste water may even be implicated in some seismic activity; earthquakes.

Fracking is the energy industry's answer to peak oil. It keeps oil companies profitable by catastrophically offloading the cost of oil and gas extraction onto farmers, ranchers, humans who drink water, and the environment itself. And it's national energy policy under the Obama administration.

Let's be clear. Fracking is about as ethical and responsible as the brain deciding to mine the liver and sell its contents.

But the US is run by capitalists, and for them fracking makes good sense. Capitalism after all, is based upon externalizing, offloading your cost onto someone less powerful, or onto nature itself. Thus capitalists make workers pay their costs by keeping wages and safety standards low. They make the public at large pay their costs by getting public subsidies and tax breaks, also by keeping safety standards lax or nonexistent, or sometimes through privatization, the handing over of public assets to private operators.

Nobody offloads costs onto the public and the environment like energy companies. Think about the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which everybody is paying for except BP. Fracking allows energy companies to use million-year old underground water reserves (that's why they are called “fossil waters”) their private toxic sewers.

In 2008 Obama supporters projected their environmentalist beliefs on him, pretending that he stood for “green jobs” and conservation. Since Obama announced himself, at the 2008 Democratic convention as the candidate of “clean coal and safe nuclear power” this was quite a stretch. They will have to stretch even further in 2012. The Obama administration is bullish on fracking.

There's an enormous amount of local organizing across the country, from Ohio and New York to Colorado and California, opposing hydraulic fracking. But such efforts get little news coverage locally, and are invisible in national corporate media news. Thus environmentalists who want to support Obama can, if they try really hard, console themselves with administration fairy tales of “safe fracking,” or be content with regulations that might require companies to tell us what toxic chemicals are used in the process.

Fracking is reckless, irresponsible and downright evil. But the unwillingness of environmentalists to oppose energy policies from the Obama White House that they would never have tolerated from Republicans makes Barack Obama, as Glen Ford frequently puts it, “the more effective” not the “lesser” evil. Of course Mitt Romney is evil as well, and one of them will be president until the end of 2016.

What with choices limited to greater and lesser evils, or more and less effective evils, it might be time to ask ourselves, how is this politics of choosing evil working out for us? Can we, and why should we hold our tongues and noses to re-elect this fracking president?

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him through this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)

1 Comment

Gas Fracking, Tar Sands & Deep Sea Oil, 'Green' Nuke Power &

'Clean' Coal's [definitely an oxy-moron] Mountain-Top Removal- Are the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse [or is that 5]- for looming environmental disasters. 

The only reason why oil corps are now engaged w gas fracking, tar sand oil & 'Drill Baby Drill' [= Spill Baby Spill] deep sea oil drilling- is because the current price of oil is sky-hi at about $85 - $100+ / barrel [FYI: during the1973 oil embargo a barrel of oil went from $3 - $12 eventually reaching $35 -$38 during the Reagan era & then fell back below $20]. Some say this indicates Peak Oil 1.0 [most of the easy to get oil is running out, so now its profitable for oil corps to go for hard to get oil]. 

Tar-sands oil uses enormous amounts of fresh water along w relatively cheap & clean burning natural-gas to produce an oily substance that's dirtier than standard crude- at sky-hi prices. Plus seemingly much/most of this dirty oil as going to be exported- which is why many of the associated pipe-lines run straight thru to ports in the Gulf of Mexico [so much for the excuse that tar-sands oil is all about US' oil 'security' & ending US' dependence on 'Islamic extremist' oil]. So why not just use much cleaner & cheaper natural gas directly??? Oh- Because It IS Much Cheaper Than Tar-sands Oil [IE: US & Canadian Oil Corps can make far more Profit$$$ w Canadian tar-sands oil]!

Gas Fracking can be effectively replaced by a well developed Bio-gas digester infrastructure. Bio-gas is a fairly simple technology that takes organic waste [IE: spoiled / rotting food stuffs, human & animal excrement, etc] & breaks it down into methane gas [the cleanest burning of all hydro-carbon fuels] & organic fertilizer- which can replace toxic & soil-depleting & damaging petro-chem based fertilizers.  

Deep sea oil drilling can be replaced by systems that convert ocean tides into electo-mechanical power [IE: the Salters' Duck Technology] without risking BP Gulf & Niger Delta type Oil Disasters.

As for so-called 'green' [fission] nuke power ['atoms for peace'] which some so-called 'green' gurus [IE: NASA-GISS' global-warming 'guru' Jim Hansen & also 'green' author George Monbiot] advocate- besides 3Mile Island, Chernobyl & now Fukushima [as if thats not more than enough to slam on the brakes RE: fisson nuke power]- the uranium fuel cycle, like coal, is plenty dirty on both the front & back ends. Plus- The fact is that the US' [& also the UK's, France's, etc] so-called 'peaceful / civilian / non-military' nuke power progs was/is merely a PR front for their nuke-weapons prog [the same way NASA's space-prog was/is a PR front for the US' ICBM missle & spy-satellite prog - that's partly why they're all in a hissy-fit about Iran's nuke power prog]. Furthermore- According to environmental author Mark Hertsgaard for a DN! interview immediately after the Fukushima disater- even if fission nuke reactors didn't go Chernobyl-Fukushima [which of course they somes DO]- If the same amount of $$$ & effort went into energy efficiency / conservation & developing a renewable energy infrastructure- you'd cut 7Xs the amount of green-house gasses as compared to nuke power [so much for so-called 'green' {fission}nuke power].

Recently Mr CO2 350 activist- Bill McKibben- did a peice crediting Obama for increasing CAFE mileage standards for cars in the US to 40mpg by 2025. The fact is that should have already been the standard- but Detroit's Big 3 car makers got everyone hooked [stuck on stupid] on SUVs [for which UAW leadership was seemingly complicit- Note: GM in 2000 showed real 'vision' {NOT!} when they literally killed their protype electric car]. I'd been more impressed if Obama made the CAFE targets 40mpg by 2016, 50mpg by 2020 & 60mpg by 2025. Plus Americans need to curb their craze for so-many personal cars & definitely shouldn't be over-hyping & exporting that craze to other countries [IE: China, India, Brazil, etc].

A word about so-called 'Bio-fuels'. Currently 25% of the corn grown in the US is used to make the so-called 'bio-fuel' ethanol, & up to another 50% is used to fatten cattle - which natuarlly should eat grass [leaving just 25 - 30% of US corn crop to actually feed people - but much of that is used to make hi-fructose sweetner]. So they've used a phony so-called 'green' 'free-market' solution to incentivize taking food & instead of feeding hungry people, use it to fuel cars in the US & EU instead- leading to global food prices being jacked-up thru the roof. And in Brazilian Amazon, & parts Africa & Asia too- theyve incentivized cutting down large swaths of one of nature's best carbon capture systems [old-growth rain-forests] to grow sugar-cane & oil-palm for so-called 'bio-fuels' for cars in the US & EU. IMO: If we can't find a better way to make bio-fuels than this [IMO we definitely can]- we just need to X-out bio-fuels.