Just one fracking minute

Late last week, McClatchy Newspapers dropped a turd in the form of a hilariously uninvestigative report entitled Shale boom may help lead U.S. to energy independence.

As the technically-accurate headline indicates, the article focuses primarily on the Marcellus Shale’s potential to meet American short-term energy needs. Unlike other papers of record – that take the time to interview upwards of fifty people on subjects of even limited substance – McClatchy’s reporter bothered to speak with only a few, advocates of energy industry to a man.

Here’s one representative quote from one such representative:

“We’ve got a supply of natural gas. We need an energy policy that reflects that,” said Kristi Gittins, vice president of industry and public affairs for Chief Oil & Gas, a Dallas-based driller that’s drilled more than 150 wells along the Marcellus Shale formation and has three that now are operational.

I’ve already shared my opinion on fracking in brief as it relates to water quality in a remote Nepali village and a New York City Jamba Juice, so I won’t take time to rehash that here.

But here’s the problem: McClatchy doesn’t seem to have been interested in taking that time either.

The article confines a single environmental objection to a single paragraph toward the end of the article, and follows up with two more intended to mitigate potential concerns about a process that involves injecting millions of gallons of unknown chemicals deep into the earth with unknown effects on the water supply. The actual content of those paragraphs speaks volumes:

Bradford County residents, including Wyalusing volunteer fire chief Adam Dietz, share many of those concerns, but some consider it a chance they’re willing to take.

“Forty years from now we might look back and say, ‘What the hell did we do?’ Or maybe not. Life’s a gamble,” he said.

Financial institutions and other large corporations have recently come under attack for engaging in behavior that internalizes benefits but externalizes costs. But a measure of that criticism is unfair: even Wyalusing volunteer fire chiefs can pull off the same trick when agreeing to lease drilling rights could mean hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of dollars in royalties today.

Burn the fossil fuel, raise the temperature, pollute the aquifer, frack the Earth – I’m sure it will turn out fine, so instead of taking the time to do it all right, we’ll just check back in on how we’re doing forty years from now.

Life’s a gamble, alright: one best taken on somebody else’s dime.

Dimes, incidentally, unlikely to be worth a penny in another forty years.

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