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Will the collapse in oil prices diminish fracking activism?

Fracking Protest

The dramatic fall in oil prices of late comes across as a pleasant surprise at first blush. Anyone who drives has presumably noticed the lower prices at the pump, and I don’t expect to hear much complaining about it. There’s also a certain schadenfreude in seeing speculators lose their shirts. That happy news is somewhat leavened (for me, anyway) by an exasperated sense of “what did you expect?” towards places like North Dakota that have bet heavily on the industry.

When you let drillers come in, create wild and uninhabitable boom towns, foul the environment and drag their feet on remediation, put people at a wide variety of risks, chew up the infrastructure, and so on – when you let all that happen during the good times, how do you expect it to be when it all goes south? Oil and gas extraction is not just cyclical, but notoriously prone to wild booms and busts. Whatever the dubious merits of giving the industry a free hand when extraction is profitable, doing so creates a positively bleak picture down the line – and degrades liberal democracy from the very beginning.

So while it’s nice to see drilling activity start to be affected by the glut, it’s also worth asking if that’s the best way for it to happen. One could take a practical view and say, who cares what’s causing the reduction in fracking as long as it’s happening? Does it really matter if it’s because of global over supply, or unexpectedly rapid well decline rates (that 200 year supply doesn’t look so sure these days, Aubrey), or a string of activist victories, or hell – because astro space zombies uprooted all the drilling rigs and launched them into the sun? Those of us opposed to fracking are starting to see the results we want; don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

Still, there have been important wins this year, and it would be a shame for the issue to be treated with less urgency because of geopolitical intrigue. Fracking bans in New York state and multiple towns should be built on, efforts like the citizen audit of ODNR should continue, and so on.

A slowdown in new fracking operations doesn’t mean the impact of existing ones are diminished. It doesn’t cause gigantic methane clouds to dissipate. The health, environmental and community impacts will continue – they just won’t accelerate as quickly.

In fact, a time like this could be well used in making elected officials more responsive to public sentiment. An industry hemorrhaging money is one with reduced political clout. Now might be an especially good time to make lawmakers survey the wreckage and tell us how well giving drillers carte blanche has worked out for citizens. We may be entering a very receptive environment for new safeguards and regulations. Lord knows that won’t be the case once the price rout ends. Rather than become complacent or distracted, this is a moment to redouble our efforts.

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Will the collapse in oil prices diminish fracking activism?

Fracking Protest

Cross posted from Pruning Shears.

The dramatic fall in oil prices of late comes across as a pleasant surprise at first blush. Anyone who drives has presumably noticed the lower prices at the pump, and I don’t expect to hear much complaining about it. There’s also a certain schadenfreude in seeing speculators lose their shirts. That happy news is somewhat leavened (for me, anyway) by an exasperated sense of “what did you expect?” towards places like North Dakota that have bet heavily on the industry.

When you let drillers come in, create wild and uninhabitable boom towns, foul the environment and drag their feet on remediation, put people at a wide variety of risks, chew up the infrastructure, and so on – when you let all that happen during the good times, how do you expect it to be when it all goes south? Oil and gas extraction is not just cyclical, but notoriously prone to wild booms and busts. Whatever the dubious merits of giving the industry a free hand when extraction is profitable, doing so creates a positively bleak picture down the line – and degrades liberal democracy from the very beginning.

So while it’s nice to see drilling activity start to be affected by the glut, it’s also worth asking if that’s the best way for it to happen. One could take a practical view and say, who cares what’s causing the reduction in fracking as long as it’s happening? Does it really matter if it’s because of global over supply, or unexpectedly rapid well decline rates (that 200 year supply doesn’t look so sure these days, Aubrey), or a string of activist victories, or hell – because astro space zombies uprooted all the drilling rigs and launched them into the sun? Those of us opposed to fracking are starting to see the results we want; don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

Still, there have been important wins this year, and it would be a shame for the issue to be treated with less urgency because of geopolitical intrigue. Fracking bans in New York state and multiple towns should be built on, efforts like the citizen audit of ODNR should continue, and so on.

A slowdown in new fracking operations doesn’t mean the impact of existing ones are diminished. It doesn’t cause gigantic methane clouds to dissipate. The health, environmental and community impacts will continue – they just won’t accelerate as quickly.

In fact, a time like this could be well used in making elected officials more responsive to public sentiment. An industry hemorrhaging money is one with reduced political clout. Now might be an especially good time to make lawmakers survey the wreckage and tell us how well giving drillers carte blanche has worked out for citizens. We may be entering a very receptive environment for new safeguards and regulations. Lord knows that won’t be the case once the price rout ends. Rather than become complacent or distracted, this is a moment to redouble our efforts.


Batocchio has posted his annual Jon Swift Memorial Roundup. Al Weisel, who passed away in 2009, ran the blog Jon Swift as a conservative parody. Here is a particular favorite of mine. Al was a great and generous supporter of bloggers, and a big believer in its ethos: individuals running small but independent sites as alternatives to more established outlets.

The blog world feels a little smaller these days. Some bloggers got picked up by mainstream sites, others went dormant as the novelty wore off, and still others largely migrated to social media where they were a better fit. But as Batocchio’s post shows, blogging is alive and well. See for yourself. And rest in peace, Al.

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