Who’s fracking whom?
Bob Fulkerson of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada was finishing his testimony in November before the Nevada Land Management Task Force when he nearly screamed, “And now there is fracking in Nevada!”
Yes, there is one exploratory well near Elko. Nevada is not known for its oil, as only a handful of low grade wells are pumping. If this new fracking technology shows promise … well, Nevada could be the site of a major natural gas boom such as the Dakotas are enjoying. With Nevada’s unemployment rate what it is, any kind of boom would appear welcome. But PLAN says—not if it’s caused by fracking!
The left’s own EPA has given fracking a passing grade. Why are so many environmentalists opposed to fracking?
Perhaps they hate it so because fracking has been the major force in lowering greenhouse gas emissions over the last 10 years. Fracking has done more to accomplish the goals of the greens on their critical issue of reduction of greenhouse gases than all the cap-and-trade, regulate-and-delay, inspect-and-fine tactics they love to pursue. It is simply a free market miracle. Because of fracking, the U.S. has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990s levels.
The green left was for fracking before it was against it. They envisioned fracking only as a “bridge” to renewable energy. They believed the state would heavily subsidize solar and wind energy, while energy production would slowly convert from King Coal to natural gas. This would marginally improve things for a while, until their beloved renewable technologies would arise like butterflies from their tax-funded cocoons. Then there would be no more need for the nasty job of sticking pipes into Gaia and injecting water and sand and a small amount of chemicals into her writhing body … sorry—environmental fantasies can get kinky.
But soon it became apparent that renewables were nowhere near capable of competing with natural gas for the foreseeable future. What if they never could compete? The progressive vision of a world run by highly educated technocrats in charge of enormous bureaucracies that can do the proper cost benefit analysis and produce the correct five-year plan is in danger of being out-innovated, out-produced, out-performed environmentally by just lowly, relatively free, markets? Without a photo-op? That is dangerous libertarian thinking!
Could Adam Smith have been right that individuals and firms acting for their own self interest cannot help but produce benefits for society? Could Ludwig von Mises have been right that government can’t calculate? Because government cannot calculate the free choices of millions of individuals, it cannot possibly do a complete cost/benefit analysis. No government agency has the knowledge necessary to calculate all the opportunity costs associated with regulatory controls. For example, the European Union caps on oil have only forced them to import more dirty coal from the U.S.! Now the E.U. is poised to embrace fracking. Et tu, Europa?
The best way to determine costs and benefits and allocate resources is through the process of free markets operating within well defined property rights negotiating win-win opportunities. The fracking phenomenon suggests we could eliminate all the time, energy and money invested in political lobbying and allow free markets to produce the best possible outcomes.
The green left is doomed to constantly produce far less than optimal results, and often quite negative results, because of its marriage to centralized big government. Henry Thoreau, the father of American environmentalism, believed the government that governs best, governs least. The environmental movement needs to take Thoreau’s ideas back to heart or risk continued irrelevance in the 21st century.