Outrun Change

We need to learn quickly to keep up with the massive change around us so we don't get run over. We need to outrun change.

New York State bans fracking and economic growth

The official position of New York State is to ban fracking for natural gas.

A December 19 editorial in the Wall Street Journal blasts the decision: Cuomo Bans Fracking – Editorial points out since regulators in New York State have decided that fracking possibly, perhaps, maybe, might have some danger that haven’t yet been established, they must ban fracking in the gas rich Marcellus Shale area of the state.

Ridicule alert

If you don’t like heaping helpings of ridicule poured on the heads of foolish leaders, you might want to skip the rest of this discussion. Might be better for you not to click the link to the WSJ editorial.

Okay, you’ve been warned.

Environmental risks

As for the known environmental risks, the editorial points out:

The most definitive study, published in a September issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found eight cases of gas polluting 133 drinking water wells in Texas and Pennsylvania, none of which were caused by fracking. Most were caused by faulty well casings and cementing.

By the way, a random survey of 30 groundwater wells in North Dakota by USGS found zero leaks. None. Nada.

Oh, as for methane in ground water, it has been found all over North Dakota, including water wells that are hundreds of miles from the nearest oil well. Methane in water wells has been an issue in the state close to a hundred years. Unless drilling causes problems for a hundred mile radius and causes leaks many decades in advance of the first drilling, methane in well water is completely unrelated to drilling and fracking.

The WSJ editorial cites the state’s announcement:

Until “the science provides sufficient information to determine the level of risk to public health from health from (sic) HVHF to all New Yorkers and whether the risks can be adequately managed,” health regulators recommend banning fracking. Yet as the report notes, “absolute scientific certainty” regarding fracking’s impact on public health “is unlikely to ever be attained.”

Paraphrase: Until we get absolute, double-blind-tested, verifiable proof there is zero danger, we conclude there is unacceptable risk.

The WSJ’s summary:

In other words, all of the Governor’s men couldn’t find conclusive evidence that fracking presents a significant risk to public health or the environment. So they’re going to ban fracking until they do.

A severe, proven, indisputable danger

The study does identify one severe danger from fracking. I actually agree.

There is one massive risk from fracking.

It is related to this tidbit:

A 2011 Manhattan Institute study estimated that each Marcellus Shale well in Pennsylvania generates $5 million in economic benefits and $2 million in tax revenue.

The indisputable danger from fracking?

Economic growth.

Read the last of this part of this horrible indictment of drilling:

Mr. Cuomo’s science deniers also lament that “there are numerous historical examples of the negative impact of rapid and concentrated increases in extractive resource development . . . resulting in indirect community impacts such as interference with quality-of-life (e.g., noise, odors), overburdened transportation and health infrastructure.”

To which the WSJ agrees:

Economic growth sure can be a nuisance. The fracking boom in other states has led to overbooked hotels, restaurants where you can’t get a table, and the quandary of how to spend disposable income from rapidly rising wages. Life is tough when people have more money. The burdens on roads and public services are real, but fracking also produces the extra tax revenue to finance them.

We certainly don’t want to have to build more roads and hospitals and sewer treatment plants to serve of all those previously unemployed people who will be working in the area for the next decade or two. Of course, there will be a flood of severance tax dollars flowing in to fund that, but the horrible problem remains.

Strain on the banking system

And let’s don’t even talk about the systemic strain this unacceptable economic growth places on the already fragile banking system.

We just can’t let continue the terrible problem that exists in North Dakota of having frightened farmers walk into a bank with their first (monthly!) check for twenty-five, fifty or a hundred thousand dollars and ask their banker’s advice on what to do with the money.

There aren’t enough tax accountants in the region to handle all the tax planning complexities that arise.

We must protect innocent, naive people from such problems.

And anyway, we all know the American banking system just can’t take that sort of pressure.

The wise leaders in New York have concluded it is better to prevent such problems before they start.

I’ve seen the horrors of economic growth with my own eyes

I saw that terrible problem of fracking firsthand in Williston this past October.

My wife and I were driving around town and decided to stop during the lunch hour for a sandwich at Subway.  We found a parking spot in the far back of the lot.

Even though there were four people working behind the counter (can’t get more than that many staff lined up behind the counter at a Subway store!), there were about 15 people in line in front of us. We left without a sandwich after about 10 minutes, even though the staff were working as quickly as they could.

That is improved from a year before, when I heard you could easily stand in line for 30 or 45 or 60 minutes at lunchtime to get your meal in a fast food restaurant.

Oh, and the disruption. There was construction eeeeeeeverywhere!

Seemed like anyplace you looked there were apartments getting framed in and housing tracks laid out and people moving in to new apartment buildings and new houses and new apartments and stores just opened and new shopping centers going in.

It was awful.

It was so slow to get around because roads are being built all over the place. Inexcusable!

Two years ago there were zero hotel rooms available in Williston. Every room was rented out weeks in advance. Reasonably priced rooms were actually available on the weekend 45 minutes away. Since then, there have been a dozen or two new hotels built in Williston.

Oh the horror of all those construction jobs then and all the hospitality jobs now!

And the wages! Wal-Mart has a sign out front offering $17 an hour to start. Entry level.

Seventeen dollars to start.

It inexcusable to expect people to work for that pittance. Human beings ought not be forced to survive their first few months in town on that measily entry-level wage.

I hear tell that new trucks are available for more than list price. And the dealers are moving out lots of vehicles.

Three years ago, there were articles about roughnecks getting in trouble at a bar who then posted their $5,000 bond from cash in their wallet.

And the truck traffic!  I would estimate that on U.S. 2, the main route through town, about 1 out of very 3 or 4 vehicles was a big rig. If there are a dozen vehicles waiting at a light (yes, that is typical at an intersection on US 2), there might be 2 or 3 or 4 of those huge trucks. There are lots of big rigs in the far southeast corner of town, but that’s the industrial area.

Yes, there is a terrible, proven, known downside of fracking. All those people who now have jobs and money to spend actually want to spend the money they have in the few hours they aren’t working.

It is such a good thing that New York won’t have to cope with that terrible pressure. The voters downstate will be much more comfortable and happy without all that money floating around in their communities. They will get to keep enjoying the pastoral tranquility of their dying towns.

The non-ridicule and sarcasm-free story

12/21 – Walter Russell Mead at American Interest – The Fallout From the NY Fracking Ban – The areas of New York that are lagging economically would have been the biggest beneficiaries of what could have been an economic boom from fracking. Folks there are disappointed they won’t see any of the growth.

12/18 – New York Times – Shock in Southern Tier of New York as Hopes of Gambling and Fracking Both Die – More detail on what economic boom times that could have been but won’t be happening and the people who will struggle to survive as a result.

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