FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Fracking Fraud

 

Hucksters for high volume hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling, the intensely industrial process by which x percent of natural gas and oil are mined in the United States today, loudly tout multiple benefits of the practice. Fracking reduces dependence on imports of crude oil. It generates jobs, profits and tax revenues. Fracked gas burns cleaner than coal, reducing smog and carbon pollution. Fracking leads to lower prices for gasoline and other petroleum products. It’s a variant of the last claim I examine here.

I live in Upstate New York, a place spared the direct ravages of hydrofracking by an especially vigorous years long opposition campaign that led Governor Andrew Cuomo to “ban” the process in 2014 (the next governor could reverse Cuomo’s decision). The state still suffers myriad indirect insults from fracking, including mile-long oil trains from the Bakken Shale, and a network of proposed pipelines, storage facilities and giant compressors to move fracked gas from Pennsylvania to New York and New England. Setting aside the grievous environmental damage of pipeline construction and the ‘round-the-clock threat of another Lac Megantic, New Yorkers were supposed to benefit from the lower costs of heating fuels promised by fracking supporters.

Northeasterners use a wide variety of fuels to ward off the winter chill: electricity, wood, corn, pellets, propane, kerosene, oil, natural gas, even coal. Natural gas is most common. Despite the promises, fracking has not prevented spikes in fuel costs. In recent years, several severe winters caused heating oil and electricity prices to skyrocket.

Given the flood of fracked gas from shale formations as close as the Marcellus, the price ought to have followed that of gasoline. Yet, while current wholesale natural gas prices are twenty-four percent lower than last year, Capital Region of New York customers of National Grid (the local utility) can expect a two percent drop in their bills. That adds up to about $12 for the average household over the five-month heating season. The price of electricity—also mostly generated by burning natural gas—is slated to drop four percent, thinks National Grid, saving the average user $17. Some significant portion of the savings is due not to the utility passing its lower costs on to consumers but to a predicted drop in demand from what’s forecast to be a milder winter.

The utility blames a regressive state tax for its inability to pass on lower costs. But the tax, known as 18 (a) and first enacted in 2009, adds but six cents to the price of a therm of gas this year, and is to be phased out over the next two years (though it would not be surprising if it lived on; it was supposed to sunset already). The larger point is that all surcharges (including, for electric bills, the systems benefit charge, renewable portfolio standards charge, and the gross receipts tax) make up but a small percentage of a utility bill. “Commodity” charges and “delivery” charges dwarf the surcharges on a utility bill.

The upshot? All the messes made by and left behind by fracking for natural gas—the polluted air, water, and land, the depleted aquifers, the ruined roads, the human health effects, the boom and bust cycles—will save National Grid customers less than thirty bucks this winter. And that’s if the predictions are accurate. Should supplies again tighten and the temperature plunge, even these measly savings will evaporate.

How is this a sane energy policy? Long-term thinking?

More articles by:

Steve Breyman was a William C. Foster Visiting Scholar Fellow in the Clinton State Department, and serves as an advisor to Jill Stein, candidate for the Green Party presidential nomination. Reach him at breyms@rpi.edu

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael Duggin
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail