Shale shocka from our moral and intellectual superiors

The back page of the "Life" section of today's Ithaca Journal has a full-page ad (and those don't come cheap—paid for by "Social Ventures") with the header " Our Water Is Their Future." It consists of four quotes and a "what you can do " section, just to get your activist juices flowing.

From Sandra Steingraber (whose book was brandished by the lead singer of a rather weird band at an unsuspecting audience at Dryden Dairy Day in June during a tirade against BGH (bovine growth hormone)—that didn't sit well with the folks from the Grange): "Fracking is the biggest threat to children's environmental health that we've ever encountered..."  In the background is a tug-at-the-heartstrings photo of children holding hands with Cayuga Lake behind them. A couple of things come to mind...

Fracking is the environmental threat du jour.  It may well (no pun intended) turn out to be the equivalent of environmentalists'-sweetheart Rachel Carson's DDT.  That turned out well for all the children around the world who have died of malaria as a result of her crusade, didn't it?  And all those kids in that photo by the lake?  How many of them will still be in this area after age 18?  Not many, I suspect.  As a parent of children ranging in age from 34 to 14, I can tell you this: they don't hang around and they go where the jobs are and temp jobs at Cornell (and while local institutions of higher learning may have protected us from economic buffeting so far, they probably won't forever) aren't sufficient inducement to keep them here for any length of time.  Of course, once the "sustainability" folks get their way and none of us have cars, the inability to leave may stem that particular tide.

And by the way, Sandra Steingraber is in "good" company:

Over the years, In These Times has published the work of a wide range of noted writers, including fiction by Alice Walker and Kurt Vonnegut; reporting by Clinton speechwriter David Kusnet, former New Republic editor Andrew Sullivan, and current Salon Editor-in-Chief Joan Walsh; and political commentary by former presidential candidate George McGovern, environmentalist Sandra Steingraber, the late Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, novelists Barbara Kingsolver and Dorothy Allison, and a number of contemporary members of the House of Representatives who contribute to the magazine’s “House Call” column.

From Robert Howarth: "Shale gas has the largest greenhouse gas footprint of any fossil fuel..." We've said it before and we'll say it again—there's a lot of disagreement on this particular point. And while anti-anti-frackers (I won't call them pro-frackers—it's not necessarily the same thing) are always portrayed as being in the pockets of evil Big Gas, anti-frackers are never painted as having any ulterior motives—pure as the driven snow are they. So you may want to see Joe Nocera's op ed in the NYT as well as South of 5 and 20's post for some perspective on Mr. Howarth's objectivity.

From Tony Ingraffea: "A record of 1 blowout every 1000 wells and 1 cement failure every 20 wells, with tens of thousands of wells planned for New York, means the possibility of blowouts in your neighborhood and the ruin of your water supply..."  Another example of "it's a fact that it's a possibility."  And as Nocera points out in his NYT column

The truth is, every problem associated with drilling for natural gas is solvable. The technology exists to prevent most methane from escaping, for instance. Strong state regulation will help ensure environmentally safe wells. And so on. Somewhat to my surprise, this view was seconded by Abrahm Lustgarten, a reporter for ProPublica who has probably written more stories about the dangers of fracking than anyone. In a comment posted online to my Tuesday column, he wrote that while the environmental issues were real, they “can be readily addressed by the employment of best drilling practices, technological investment, and rigorous regulatory oversight.”

From Dr. Adam Law: "Permitting hydraulic fracturing is like conducting a medical experiment using members of our community as subjects..."  I put it to you that forbidding hydraulic fracturing (as well as other forms of energy development) is like conducting a social experiment using local communities in an experiment to see what the desired end, the de-development of society à la John Holdren, will look like. It's not just a coinkidinky that the anti-frackers sound an awful lot like the "sustainability" folks, who sound an awful lot like the local town and county planners, who sound like the local "social justice" folks and so on.  It's because they're all working off essentially the same blueprint for creating heaven right here in our backyard.  Ain't it grand? 

The six-point activist list at the bottom of the ad includes references to Walter Hang's (who spoke at Left Forum 2011 and Left Forum 2010) company, Toxics Targeting (no agenda there. of course), as well as NYPIRG.  But wait...aren't these various state PIRGs just nice, neutral organizations of energetic young people who come to your door in the summer with petitions and pleas for money? Um, not so much.  You may be interested to know, for instance, that the U.S.’ largest Marxist organization, Democratic Socialists of America, has a new national director, Maria Svart, who cut her post-college teeth as a campus organizer with the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group.  Just sayin'.

All of life is a risk; but right now, we appear to be suffering the tyranny, not of the majority, but of the most vocal, who also seem to be the most risk-averse of all.  As Joe Nocera wound up his piece on the Marcellus Shale

...those of you who live near this tremendous resource have two choices. You can play the Not-In-My-Backyard card, employing environmental scare tactics to fight attempts to drill for that gas.

Or you can embrace the idea that America needs the Marcellus Shale, accept the inconvenience that the drilling will bring, but insist that it be done properly...

Let's not make the best the enemy of the good.