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28 March 2011 @ 11:53 am
fracking problems  
Some of you may already be familiar with hydraulic fracturing, known as "fracking", which is a way to extract resources like oil, gas or water, from deep below the surface of the earth. By boring deep into the ground and pumping fluid into the hole, miners increase the rate of fracturing in the material below, creating larger fissures through which the material can flow into a well for collection.

Unsurprisingly, given how fracturing works, and the way everything's all connected in those cracks and fissures under the earth, there's a lot of mixing that results in this; chemicals that are used in fracking pretty often wind up in groundwater supplies. And, of course, these chemicals are often harmful to human health and life.

Fracking is actively in use in 37 states in the US.

The recent documentary movie Gasland focuses on this issue, and has created quite a fuss in the oil and gas industry. I'm not going to link to the petroleum-industry-sponsored "debunking gasland" document, but I will link to a pdf debunking "debunking gasland", which quotes from the industry document and rebuts its points.

I haven't watched Gasland, yet, and I honestly don't know if I'll be able to -- this kind of thing is so infuriating to me, and I feel there's so little I can do to change it. I don't want to become a living-off-the-land survivalist; I want to keep living a life that looks a lot like the one I currently have, and that requires using energy and other resources that we have to get somewhere, so I'm part of the problem.

But I get really stuck in thinking about the people who make the decisions to drill hundreds of wells that have the potential -- indeed the likelihood, statistically speaking -- of poisoning hundreds or thousands of people, and I wonder how they could choose money over those people? Or how can they choose money over the future productivity of huge swaths of land in the United States? What good does that money do if people can't survive there?

I was talking about this with a new acquaintance this weekend, and expressing my confusion about how the math works here, when he pointed out, quite rationally, that it's a very smart decision for those people, because they're not worrying about all the people in the world. They're worrying about themselves and making sure that they have enough money and resources to always be able to buy as much water as they need, even if there's only one good well in the entire country. It's an approach so singlemindedly selfish, so anti-humanist that I literally cannot hold it in my head long enough to follow it from start to finish. But I can't imagine anything but that mindset that would allow some people to make the decisions they do. It seems like not all people are people in that framework, and the future isn't for everyone.

It's really upsetting, start to finish.
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I'm feeling: enragedfurious
 
 
 
"I've been ionized.  But I'm okay now."gentlescholar on March 28th, 2011 06:59 pm (UTC)
It seems like not all people are people in that framework, and the future isn't for everyone.

Yes, I believe this is how a large fraction of the "human" race thinks. And I believe that failure to grasp that point is nigh pandemic in the rest of the population.
stephanie m. clarksonthespian on March 28th, 2011 07:09 pm (UTC)
the other problem is that those people, the one making that decision to possibly poison all those people, tend to genuinely believe that in their position, everyone else would also make the decisions that they do.

Oh, they understand intellectually that some people might, but they ascribe that to different selfishness - that you would make the decision not to mine that way because it would directly profit *you* in some other way.

They do not believe that anyone else is not just as self-focused as they are. They do not understand you to the same extent that you don't understand them.
Doug Orleansdougo on March 28th, 2011 07:42 pm (UTC)
I don't want to become a living-off-the-land survivalist

The ironic part is that the living-off-the-land survivalists are the ones whose wells are being poisoned.
ruthless compassion: martini handsaroraborealis on March 28th, 2011 07:46 pm (UTC)
Not exclusively their wells, though.
Doug Orleansdougo on March 28th, 2011 07:52 pm (UTC)
Sure. I just meant, you might think you could escape the problem by going off the grid, but that would actually increase your chance of being affected.
Chance: eyes are the window to the soulmiss_chance on March 29th, 2011 03:08 pm (UTC)
If I'm not mistaken, the goal of going off the grid would be to escape contributing to the problem, not really to escape the effects of the problem.

There are problems with that approach, too, though. I know people who, for instance, burn their junk-mail for heat in the winter. But that kind of solution does not scale, and causes far more air-pollution per-capita than using industrial fuel heat. I believe a modern gas-furnace or even a modern oil one is far better for the environment than the output from a wood-burning stove, no matter how efficient. My understanding of this, though, came before I knew about fracking. I suspect that the impact of fuel-extraction is not fully calculated in these equations, but then again, the junk-mail, or fire-wood, has production-impact, too, and if 1% of Americans tried to heat their homes by burning sticks and wood they gathered I imagine we'd be in deep trouble, too.
sarahshevettsarahshevett on March 29th, 2011 05:13 pm (UTC)
Off grid doesn't mean anything
There are many many reasons that people are off grid, and around here (Northern Ca)it is usually because of inaccessibility to the grid, not from some ethical choice. They also run generators, that run on gas..
Some just don't want to be tied to it, so yes, they are indeed avoiding the effects OF the grid

I am at the end of the power line, so all my neighbors past me are off grid, and we also all burn sticks that we gather to heat our homes in the winter. You might be surprised to find out how many Americans do this, because most everyone I know does this, or at least heats with wood heat gathered locally.

Just because someone isn't hooked to "the grid" doesn't mean they have made some ethical or ecological choice. Everyone is different.

I have a barn that is off grid, and I would have it on grid in a second if I could. That generator is loud!
DancingWolfGrrldancingwolfgrrl on March 28th, 2011 07:52 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I have a similar line in my head about factory farming: it's so far into obviously-terrible-ville that I don't even want to be able to grasp what is going on in the minds of people who decide to perpetuate that system.
sol3sol3 on March 28th, 2011 07:54 pm (UTC)
I've long felt that, left to its own devices, capitalism is inherently anti-humanist - even more-so with a market that favors short term gains over all else.
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T Streich: avviesweetbaboo on March 28th, 2011 11:46 pm (UTC)
I can associate anything with money. Therefore we are doomed.
m.entrope on March 28th, 2011 07:56 pm (UTC)
The oil and gas industry is abominable and exploitative all around. I worked for/with/around it for several years and it left me with an enormously bad taste in my mouth.

Here are a couple other horrifying tidbits: Cracking is part of the petroleum refining process where petroleum molecules are broken into shorter ones. Thermal cracking is done at very high heat in boilers, which have historically been lined with asbestos, which of course causes mesothelioma. The companies did not generally stop lining the boilers with asbestos when it was found to be a health risk. You have most likely never seen so many wrongful death suits so vigorously and mechanically defended.

Oil and gas companies benefit greatly from the abysmal economy in rural Texas and Oklahoma. In a lot of towns, the commercial district consists of one gas station (how ironic). It's pretty hard to turn down an offshore drilling job where a few months' work will give you enough money to subsist for the rest of the year, even if you know it to be risky to both body and environment.

Anyway - anger and a lack of comprehension. I share it.
funner'n a sack a weaselsmoominmolly on March 28th, 2011 08:17 pm (UTC)
Yeah.

I actually want to see Gasland but I can't for the life of me figure out the right setting to do it in.
existential hot showerveek on March 28th, 2011 08:27 pm (UTC)
A drinking game? MST3K?
Medyanimedyani on March 28th, 2011 08:24 pm (UTC)
I haven't watched Gasland, yet, and I honestly don't know if I'll be able to -- this kind of thing is so infuriating to me, and I feel there's so little I can do to change it.

It was on in a hostel I was in last August (in Guat) and I watched most of it for this same reason. Still, hugely informative, and at the same time, while the problem is enormous, even the doc offers some hope (and some great "heroes" in the mix, fighting the good fight against horrible odds).

That having been said, I think there is hope. Just the fact that you actively think about how to be part of the solution -- and do what you can -- is, I think, part of the solution. And I disagree with another commentator who says "huge fraction" although I do think it is a significant fraction that has excessive amounts of power.

And yes, I also find fracking very upsetting (I'm sure you already figured as much). But in spite of the Koch brothers (who are also exploiting fracking: surprise = not) and there ilk there's a lot of other people trying to turn things around and stop them. I think there's hope.

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Chance: you should come homemiss_chance on March 29th, 2011 03:11 pm (UTC)
As it happens, I'm reading Grapes of Wrath right now.

The choices some people make for themselves and their families, at the cost of the lives of others and their families are very much on my mind these days.
Kcatkcatalyst on March 29th, 2011 04:26 pm (UTC)
I'm coming to this party late. But I'm not sure I understand your non-understanding. It seems to me there's a quantitative difference between the choices that you and I make that contribute to the problem and the ones you are finding incomprehensible, but there's virtually no qualitative difference. In all cases, we're saying "this thing that I want is worth more to me than the good feelings associated with not doing this particular harm". We've established what we are, now we're just haggling over the price, where price = size of harm, size of benefit and social immediacy of the people harmed.