Cross posted from Pruning Shears.
The quality of reporting on fracking in large outlets has been of varying quality. Day-to-day coverage of the latest developments is usually pretty good, but bigger picture trend pieces have a tendency to be positively fawning towards the industry. A couple of recent articles in the New York Times have been particularly bad, and one of them also foreshadowed an additional development.
The first was a credulous look at how great fracking is for the communities it occurs in. We are told how fat fracking checks are “swelling the bank accounts of some working-class families” in “amounts the recipients say are a bit disorienting.” Even better: “More is probably on the way, potentially much more.” So these struggling families have suddenly had their financial anxieties erased, their future incomes assured. I’m sure the ombudsman would say that the hazards of fracking were beyond the scope of the article, but wow does it read like a love letter.1
The Paper of Record followed that with another blow job the next month, this one the heartwarming tale of “a rare victory for the littlest of the little guys in global trade.” It turns out there’s a bean in India that is absolutely essential to fracking, and the Halliburtons of the world are just showing up and handing out big bags of money: “Tractor sales are soaring, land prices are increasing and weddings have grown even more colorful.” (Note the True Love theme.)
The piece includes the obligatory party pooper caveat: fracking “may also have spoiled some rural water supplies and caused environmental damage in parts of the United States” – yes, it may have (via) – but don’t let that dampen your spirits: “Farmers, traders and processors around Jodhpur admitted fulfilling some long-held dreams with the profits they made last year. Some took trips to Europe; some bought gold; others got married.” Isn’t that touching? Fracking is allowing them to fulfill long-held dreams like getting married!
The subtext of both pieces is identical: Hardscrabble life in wretched backwater transformed by heavy industrialization. The second story also has this: fracking “has led to a surge in natural gas production, a decline in oil imports and a gradual transition away from coal-fired power plants.” A couple of weeks later NPR elaborated on that theme, which was then followed a few weeks ago by the news that carbon dioxide levels had dropped to a twenty year low.
This in turn produced a round of thoughtful chin stroking from commentators who claimed to have been on the fence about fracking but, now that it turned out to be such a boon to humanity, damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead. Sure it may cause some pollution in a few places, but it’s wonderful in others, and in case we need a tiebreaker just look at how it reduces greenhouse gases.