Fracking’s Broken Promises

By Kristen Johnson

Big oil, fracking, natural gas, renewables – it’s all over the news and more so now than ever with reports of the big boom in “energy independence” in the U.S. It’s hard to make heads or tails of it, particularly when we try to sort fact from fiction, and falsehoods from exaggerations.

Richard Heinberg’s book, Snake Oil, How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future, takes a good, hard look at the recent boom in “fracking” technology and what it means for the future of our energy independence, the environmental consequences, and the dangers of believing this kind of technology will last. Although it’s tough not to get distracted by the rather dry facts and figures, it is an overall informative, educational look at the facts of this technology.

Unfortunately, Americans are energy hogs, and we are controlled (plain and simple) by big, powerful companies with massive media relations machines that  continue to sell us a bill of goods that runs the gamit from exaggerations to outright lies. Mr. Heinberg does an excellent job of laying out the facts of the situation – the technology does exist, but it is absolutely not cost-effective, it abuses human capital, it will not (in fact) last forever, and the costs to the environment are demonstrably horrifying, and obviously not worth the effort.

As usual, the only people who really benefit from energy deposit “booms” are the fat big-wigs at the corporate top. It’s the little people who always suffer, particularly the poor landowners who allow their lands to be leased for fracking at a huge cost to their land values and personal health. The unfortunate truth is that this technology causes more harm than good, it is in fact temporary in nature, and it really doesn’t benefit society in the long run.

The author concludes in the end that the only real solution (as we very well know) is to invest in renewable energy sources – things like solar and wind power. Unfortunately, these sources of energy have their own challenges, and our government seems completely unwilling to invest heavily in these technologies. (It’s no wonder – we all know they are bought and sold by big corporations, and that certainly includes oil, coal, and fracking technology companies.) Luckily, other Western countries are beginning to invest heavily in renewables, but it seems to be too little too late.

One final thing that really struck me was that Mr. Heinberg did mention nuclear energy at the very end of the book, but he mentioned it as pretty much a non-viable option due to the huges costs associated with these types of projects. As one who worked for physicists on a thermonuclear project in the mid-90s (the ITER Project), I was mostly heart-broken to hear about the non-viability of this kind of option. We worked so hard on it (for more than a decade) in a wonderfully multi-cultural 4-country project and the science and documentaiton were absolutely fascinating and the idea so thrilling. It is disheartening to hear that it will likely never reach viability even after all this time.

I highly recommend this informative book because it has many compelling arguments against fracking, and it provides a wealth of information for readers to ponder as they sort through the truth of energy “independence” in this and other countries. It is my hope that my country will someday commit to a vast amount of resources for renewables, but I don’t see that happening any time soon. I will continue to lobby our leaders for such investments, as I have done for many years thus far.

Proverbs 27:18 (NRSV): Anyone who tends a fig tree will eat its fruit, and anyone who takes care of a master will be honored.

Serve all with love.

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