Frack Heads: Conservatives Prepare for Battle in New York, and Beyond


The national fracking issue has become so huge and so divisive with so much money at stake that it’s forcing elected officials and institutions – including media outlets – to show their true colors. And, as you might expect, the New York Post has no problem with that.

The notoriously conservative tabloid is calling on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to revoke his state’s moratorium on fracking that’s been in place since December, when David Paterson was governor. Cuomo took the helm in January.

It would seem the “frack heads” need to get after the new governor. Residents in other states are bound to wonder why New York banned fracking in the first place. The Empire State’s opposition to the highly controversial industry practice raises a vital question for others: Can states simply ban fracking?

You can’t feign surprise that the Rupert Murdoch-owned NY Post is following its leader in its editorial stance. The paper shares a building with Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. And the paper’s editorials are often a reliable blueprint for how Mr. Murdoch and other conservative media elites will deploy their rhetoric.

So we can expect the usual conservative, pro-business talking points: (1) We need jobs more than a healthy environment; (2) It’s not a real problem, only a “perception” problem drummed up by liberals; (3) The eco-Nazi lefties are using this issue to raise money; (4) Trial lawyers are evil; and (5) Did we mention jobs? In addition to the usual points, though, we will see conservatives move their flocks to suddenly embrace global warming as a real and persistent threat – rapidly evolving from a “non-existent lefty conspiracy” only months ago. That’s because conservatives can use global warming arguments to support the need for natural gas use, and thus, the accompanying reckless drilling practices.

The Post explains that fracking is controversial because “…hard-core lefties and environmental groups say the process – which is banned only in New York – contaminates groundwater.” And comments from shady sources who say things like “…the controversy over the shale, he said, has been a gold mine for environmental groups – which have raised funds by alarming folks about the alleged dangers of hydrofracking.” The Post also uses phrasing we’ll see again, like “…New York is not so rich in new energy sources that it can afford to let the Marcellus Shale, which stretches across upstate’s Southern Tier, remain untapped. And the region can ill afford to bypass any opportunity to add some 5,000 new jobs. …Cuomo should lift the ban – if not now, then certainly when it expires in July.”

Editorial pages are, of course, the proper place for such arguments. But as we’ve seen before, Mr. Murdoch’s media empire faces a challenge in keeping these attitudes from seeping into its “news” coverage. At least now, we get a little better understanding of the talking points now bouncing around the conservative media echo-chamber.

Until you get onto the right-wing messaging distribution list, you can take second-best and read the NY Post take here:

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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