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Is the Natural Gas Industry Fracking Itself?

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FRACKING SPILL BRADFORD COUNTY PA
Getty File

The number of social, political and economic problems we're facing today are nothing short of daunting. With the momentum of privatization of otherwise public works, and even subordinating elected officials to the whim of corporate profiteers as in Benton Harbor, MI, gives some indication of how powerful the corporatization of these United States of America is. On last week's front cover, Time Magazine pictured the Constitution with its ends being frayed with the query "Does it Matter?"

One is thrown to ask, what is becoming of the American Psyche? Has this robust nation been subterfuged by the torpedoes of reality TV and the myopia of texting? Are fast food, micro-waved cooking and the fast-paced, cell phone, SUV culture with nary a care in the world grinding to a half, coming home to roost empty-handed?

Thoughtful individuals who really care about our country and its values are giving all of this a lot of thought. And so interestingly, is one of the most hyped and fast-paced, money-at-any-expense industries in our nation: the natural gas industry.

It wasn't long ago that natural gas was fairly simple and not costly to extract. It's not a sustainable technology but wasn't unreasonably considered a transition fuel while the more intelligent countries starting fueling, that is funding, renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar and geo-thermal.

However, over the last number of years, the easier gas layers have been extracted, leaving only deeper layers, much harder to access, and can only be accomplished through the use of exceedingly toxic chemical injected into the shale, toxifying the water table, liberating otherwise dormant methane, said to be the most injurious of all gases to exacerbate climate change, and polluting the air. Reports from academic institutions such as Duke University and many others have proven that the process called "hydro-fracking" is highly injurious to the regions it is employed, so much so that the water can often become lit on fire. This was demonstrated in many a youtube video and in director Josh Fox's film Gasland, nominated for an academy award for best documentary.

The gas industry, through its lobbying organizations, has sought to downplay the toxicity of the process, yet perhaps millions of people at this point -- or likely soon -- across the 34 states currently suffering from this extreme process of chemical extraction, can no longer drink their own well water. Gas industry experts and executives won't touch it, let alone drink it, all the while claiming that "it's fine".

Then why don't they drink it themselves and serve it up to the members of their families? And why doesn't this question ever get directly answered? We probably know why.

Constituents of many states are completely up in arms about fracking and a major movement in NY, PA and NJ has been mounted to counter what is considered the gas industry's propaganda and monetary control over the respective legislatures of these states.

New York State Senator Tony Avella has reviewed the data and came to the resolute conclusion that fracking could jeopardize the drinking water for NYC residents as well as NYS, and drafted legislation to not just extend a moratorium currently in place, or at least it was until last week, but to actually ban fracking, unless it could be proven to not be harmful and toxic. It doesn't get fairer than that. Avella has been receiving increasing support for this legislation.

What's interesting however, is that facts and common sense get people close to nowhere when money is being spread among politician's campaign coffers. It's like heroin -- apparently very hard to resist once addicted. So despite the science that clearly shows the dangers of the process, politicians, with a few exceptions such as Tony Avella, Brian Kavanagh, Scott Stringer, and a handful of others, bend to the whims of the gas industry.

But what's most interesting is that the industry itself is facing increasing criticism internally from those who are coming forward to say that the process of fracking is so expensive that the bottom line is nothing very interesting at all, is highly speculative and other industry experts are actually suggesting that promises made of big returns simply cannot be met, giving the industry the look of a big Ponzi scheme.

A series of New York Times articles have been suggesting this and led to this notion that the gas industry is "fracking itself," fracturing from within, no longer able to withstand the pressure heaped upon it by strong community groups getting stronger, some politicians who cannot be bought and the science that continues to show how potentially deleterious fracking can be to our water supply. Add to this the suggestion that it's not mildly, but highly speculative and associated with Ponzi scheme-style business activity, it's a wonder that Governor Andrew Cuomo just voted to lift the moratorium put into place by former Governor Paterson.

So while much is yet to be discovered about the full effect of the fracking process relative to air and water contamination, what is known to date scientifically would suggest that the gas industry would want to really take a good look at developing a long-term investment strategy of renewable resources, quickly.

As for Governor Cuomo, his constituency who put him into office was surely not expecting him to side with the gas industry -- quite the contrary -- and the industry's own internal fracturing should give him plenty of good reason, a good 'out' so to speak, to endorse Senator Avella's ban on the process "unless or until proven safe" immediately. Perhaps we need to help the governor make the right decision. More information on how can be found at the Participatory Democracy link at www.abetterworld.net.

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