Commentary

M.D. Harmon: Oil barons, leftists bury good news about hydrofracking

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Matt Damon

Some ironies are just too delicious to ignore, and one of them is that Matt Damon’s new anti-fracking movie “Promised Land” is partially financed by a foreign country.

But not just any foreign country. Instead, the financier in this case is Persian Gulf OPEC member Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Yes, Mideast oil barons are conspiring with Hollywood liberals in trying to scare Americans into rejecting a technology that would help liberate the United States from their conspiracy to keep oil prices as high as possible.

While lagging box office figures show the film is “bombing,” the mere fact that it could be produced says a lot about U.S. filmmakers’ ideological inclination to act contrary to their nation’s best interests.

As the conservative web site CNSNews.com put it, “The film’s Abu Dhabi connection is significant, because the UAE is the world’s third largest oil exporter, according to 2011 figures from the U.S. Energy Information Agency. The country also holds the 7th largest proven reserves of crude oil and natural gas in the world. The UAE was ranked 17th in the world in natural gas production in 2010, according to EIA.

“That the UAE is a major natural gas and oil producer puts it in direct competition with U.S. natural gas producers, who have seen a revolution in production with the increased use of fracking—an old process that has found new uses as technology has made it possible to drill new wells and open up gas reserves that were once thought inaccessible.”

“Fracking,” sometimes called “hydrofracking,” is an abbreviation for “hydraulic fracturing,” a recovery process used to extract oil and natural gas trapped in porous rock formations far below ground level.

The process involves injecting a mixture of water, sand and solvents (99.5 percent of it typically is composed of the first two ingredients) into those formations under high pressure. The mixture breaks up the rock, releasing the hydrocarbons, which then are pumped to the surface and separated from the injected material, which is then carefully disposed of or recycled for reuse.

While fracking has been demonized in liberal circles for causing earthquakes and contaminating ground water supplies, actual studies say any tremors are typically mild and usually indistinguishable from natural ones, and since the levels at which the injections occur are thousands of feet below the water table, no verified examples of contamination have occurred.

The film tries to show that fracking can put methane in drinking water that makes people and animals sick and can even be set on fire, but those claims are entirely made up.

Even an extreme environmentalist like outgoing EPA administrator Lisa Jackson has said publicly that no pollution has occurred, telling Fox News in April 2012 that “In no case have we made a definitive determination that the fracking process has caused chemicals to enter groundwater.”

Part of the benefits that federalism has produced is that various states can adopt certain policies (or reject them) and the results can then be observed. Right now, Pennsylvania and New York State are conducting such an experiment on fracking, and the differences are spectacular.

Nationally, the fracking industry has added about 600,000 jobs to the national economy since 2008, and the number is growing daily.

And while New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has twice postponed allowing fracking to continue, heeding environmentalists’ demands for “more study,” the Quaker State has plunged ahead—and is reaping the benefits in creating thousands of jobs, increased state revenue and growing local prosperity in the western, central and northern parts of the state where the Marcellus Shale gas deposits are located.

The formation extends well into New York, too, but thanks to government cowardice and dependence on green shibboleths, no such gas-and-oil-related prosperity has been seen there.

But now The New York Times (of all papers) has ripped the lid off a cover-up that shows the pernicious influence of the green left: As it noted in a Jan. 3 story headlined “Gas Drilling Is Called Safe in New York,” the state Department of Health produced an analysis “early last year” saying that “the much-debated drilling technology known as hydrofracking could be conducted safely in New York, according to a copy obtained by The New York Times from an expert who did not believe it should be kept secret.”

The Times continued, “The eight-page analysis is a summary of previous research by the state and others … (that) delves into the potential impact of fracking on water resources, on naturally occurring radiological material found in the ground, on air emissions and on ‘potential socioeconomic and quality-of-life impacts.’ … (It) concludes that fracking can be done safely.”

Still, it was hidden by the state. Why? The Times concluded, “The analysis and other health assessments have been closely guarded by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his administration as the governor weighs whether to approve fracking. Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, has long delayed making a decision, unnerved in part by strident opposition on his party’s left.”

Note that the report is a year old. As one commentator said, governments used to bury reports because they contained bad news. Now they bury them because they have good news that influential pressure groups don’t want the public to hear.

Meanwhile, energy experts are finding that increased production of domestic natural gas has led to more and more electricity being generated using it as a fuel, rather than coal.

One result is that U.S. carbon emissions have fallen 12 percent between 2007 and 2011, with another 4 percent decline depicted when 2012 figures are in. If that is the case, carbon emissions will have reverted to 1995 levels, despite a substantial economic expansion (even including the recent recession) since that year.

And all that happened without this nation adopting the Kyoto Protocol.

The impact of the U.S. gas boom is being felt abroad. CNBC.com reported Dec. 27 that “Europe risks losing new petrochemical investments to the U.S. and other countries because of its reluctance to embrace shale gas, the head of the industry’s biggest company has warned.”

France, on the other hand, is losing out because it has banned fracking. The United Kingdom, on the other hand, has authorized it after long delays imposed by heeding green lobbying groups.

The New York Times reported on Dec. 26, in a story titled “High Energy Costs Plaguing Europe,” that Europeans are paying four or five times as much for natural gas as Americans, and they are actually increasing their use of coal to generate power, a shift caused in part by Germany’s decision to phase out carbon-neutral nuclear power plants under pressure from that nation’s Green Party.

And in a report headlined “Saudis Sweat Bullets as Energy Revolution Changes the Rules,” the American Interest blog noted that “The U.S. could surpass Saudi Arabia as the world’s leading oil producer by 2020,” with major benefits for the U.S. economy.

Speaking of Kyoto, it has lapsed after failing to gain any support (outside of green activist circles) for renewal. It was supposed to produce cuts in carbon dioxide emissions, but that’s not what happened.

Instead, as the British magazine The Spectator noted on Jan. 6, “Not that anyone has noticed, but the Kyoto Protocol expired on 31 December, with carbon emissions up by 58 percent over 1990 levels—instead the 5 percent cut the signatories envisaged. All that fuss for worse-than-nothing.”

And Kyoto has not been replaced, because “a new era of climate change rationalism is slowly taking root,” The Spectator said. “As Nigel Lawson (British energy minister under Margaret Thatcher) predicted, the hysteria of the last few years is cooling. There’s no point legislating for change that’s not going to happen.”

With nations all over the world abandoning the fruitless effort to halt “climate change” (or never taking it up to begin with), all this nation can do by adopting the green movement’s nostrums is hurt our own economic output and give our competitors an underserved advantage.

Are we foolish enough to continue to try to do that? The next four years will tell.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:mdharmoncol@yahoo.com.

About M.D. Harmon

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at: mdharmoncol@yahoo.com

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