14 thoughts on “Fear Of Fracking”

  1. Subsurface minerals are the property of the landowner, and not the [U.S.] government.

    As Thomas Sowell points out, private ownership is the number one economic driver. Number two is so far back it isn’t worth mentioning. This is a perfect example.

  2. fracking and the proliferation of cheap gas, Merrill suggested, likely means the end of the nuclear power industry in the United States and has thrown the coal industry into a tailspin
    Laughable. Most nuclear power plants in the US were built at a time when there was a shortage of neither and back then oil extraction costs were a lot lower than these will ever be. The US was self-sufficient in its oil needs until sometime in the 1970s. This was one of the causes of the 70s oil crisis because otherwise OPEC could have never used their production as leverage. It will not be cheaper than nuclear. I doubt it will be cheaper than coal either. These reserves of oil and natural gas are large yes but the extraction is not going to be cheap. This is not like in the old days where you just drilled a hole and the internal pressure made high quality oil come up by itself.

    It also threatens the future of alternative energy technologies dependent upon government subsidies for their economic viability
    Not really. Large reserves of natural gas only make large scale wind and solar power more feasible since you need to cover generation shortfalls with some other generation source and hydro and natural gas are the peaking power generation sources of choice. Coal and nuclear are more suitable for baseload generation.

    concerns range from stresses on local infrastructure to increased pollution accompanying development to earthquakes
    This is quite likely to occur. The HDR (Hot Dry Rock Geothermal) people have had the same issues when injecting water deep underground. HDR was forbidden in Switzerland when a test drill caused an earthquake in Basel in a place where there was no otherwise significant recorded seismic activity in recent history.

    Will exploration still happen? Of course. Demand is at an all time high and even if North Dakota needed to be evacuated it would still happen. In practice there will only be a couple of low intensity earthquakes and some runoff water pollution. “Climate change” is a non-factor.

    1. It will not be cheaper than nuclear. I doubt it will be cheaper than coal either.

      It will be because of the artificial market government has made in both. It’s hard to build a new oil refinery but not nearly as hard as trying to build a new nuclear plant. And Obama has been working to shutdown the coal industry since he started stumping in 2007.

  3. Subsurface minerals are the property of the landowner, and not the [U.S.] government.

    Interesting, I thought this was only true in Texas, as a special right they negotiated when they joined the union.

    1. No, that system is part of our heritage from English common law and the way land rights were structured. When you buy a piece of land along with the mineral rights, the claim extends to the center of the Earth. This created an interesting historical puzzle, as geologists noted that almost all major mineral resources were located in unstable countries (outside of the Anglosphere). This made it pretty obvious that countries that lacked our system of land ownership were destabilized by major resource discoveries because any person who could claim government ownerhip of the region or country’s mineral rights got all the money from them, which gets used to pay for soldiers and pay off the public.

    2. You may be thinking of waterway ownership. One of the amusing bits of arcana I picked up from Caro’s endless multivolume Johnson biography was that when Texas was admitted to the union, they failed to transfer the ownership of waterway streambeds to the federal government. This apparently blew up in the face of the New Deal contractors building a dam on the lower Colorado River on what they *thought* was federal land. Bzzz! Your federally-funded project just became a particularly hilarious case of mass trespass and damage to state land midway through construction! Everybody panic! And Johnson rode to the rescue…

      1. Heh, I did read one of Caro’s volumes and maybe I misremembered it from there. Or it may have been while reading interminable discussions about JFK conspiracy theories…

  4. If fracking would lead to the end of the nuclear power industry, it wouldn’t be the best outcome for those “concerned” with AGW (or the environment in general).

    1. Fracking will bring about the end of the Republican Party.

      You see, with a Star Trek level of abundance of cheap energy, there will be enough primary input into the economy to allow for the Star Trek socialism of “we don’t use money anymore.”

      1. I remember reading an essay where someone claimed the fall of the Soviet Union was due to them having an oil production shortfall which made their planned economic system fall down like a house of cards as it couldn’t adjust to the new economic reality quickly enough. So your idea isn’t wholly without precedent. I doubt this oil will be that cheap although it will certainly be abundant.

      2. “Too cheap to meter” is a phrase you hear whenever someone’s about to radically misunderstand the economics of resource exploitation. We’re already near the point where natural gas prices won’t sustain much more further investment and exploitation, at least until the market adjusts. This is why the petrochemicals industry goes through particularly extreme boom-and-bust cycles.

        All that gassing about “novel problems” is kind of foolish. From what I’m hearing, the most significant environmental issue with Pennsylvania fracking has been accidental lost-well blowouts when they bring up a new well connected strongly enough with the old abandoned well in particular. This isn’t the first visit to the rodeo for Pennsylvania, it’s just been so damn long since the last time that people have forgotten where all the old wells (and god almighty are there a lot of them in the Northern Tier) are buried.

  5. “While there is little empirical evidence confirming that such contamination has occurred thus far, and energy experts often downplay such risks, concerns about groundwater are understandable.”

    But we are required to wring our hands, just the same!

    I used to work in the oil field outside Bakersfield. Some of the older people out in Taft where I lived would tell you that they could tell that the water tasted different AFTER the oil companies started pumping steam down the older wells to get the heavy oil pumped out. They could never agree on when that actually happened, but they agreed on the ‘fact’ that the water WAS different, and that it HAD to be from steam contaminating the water supply. I’ve heard stories about water burning, wells exploding, all the same stuff we hear about fracking.

    The majority of the water out there comes from the aquaducts, very few people have a well now that COULD be contaminated. But the tales persist.

    1. If there is something to water contamination stories, modern chemical analysis could be counted on to detect it. Presuming that proper before and after samples are collected. One catch with oil fields is they can have traces of oil before any drilling is done.

      1. Otherwise, in the 1800’s the oil fields may NOT have been found. Or at least according to the Kern County Oil Museum in Taft, CA anyway.

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