The Fracking War: A Fight Over Production Not Product


In some corners of the investment world, the analysis may stop short of the doom-and-denial rhetoric of embattled drilling industry spokespeople, but there’s still a clear tone of happy days ahead for energy-extraction companies.

It’s the “soft sell” approach to drilling and fracking, and a recent post at “Capital and Energy” offers a good case-in-point with Editor Keith Kohl noting that “…[the] shale war isn’t being fought over the actual oil and gas resources, but rather over how companies are producing it.”

In his “can’t we all just get along?” support of the industry, Mr. Kohl calmly notes a key talking point thus:

…as you know, hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) is the dominant method being used to extract oil and gas from those shale formations. The process involves injecting the geologic formation with fluid, 99% of which is composed of sand and water. The fluid fractures the rock, allowing the resource to flow freely. Sand or ceramic proppant is used to keep the fractures open…by now, you probably realize most people don’t take issue with the water or the sand part of the equation. Their problem is with less than 1% of the hydraulic fracturing fluid being used in the procedure. That cocktail of chemicals used by companies can be deadly if it gets into our drinking water.

This is the industry’s “let’s be reasonable” talking point. It’s the industry saying it wants to dump a bunch of poison into our water. Then we say: “Hey, don’t poison our water!” And the industry responds with: “Well, let’s compromise. We’ll just dump less poison in your water.”

We should reference a recent Business Week story out of Bismarck, North Dakota, where a wellhead fire was finally extinguished after burning for two weeks. Listen to this report on the cause of the fire: “Lynn Helms, the director of the state Department of Mineral Resources, has said a hot engine from a pump truck likely ignited hydraulic fracturing fluid from the well. McKenzie County Sheriff Ron Rankin said flames from the well roiled up to 80 feet in the air.”

Well, Mr. Kohl, it’s clear that despite the claim that “99%” of fracking fluid “is composed of sand and water,” that remaining 1 percent is obviously HIGHLY flammable – and we probably don’t want it in our water…thank you very much.

The industry insists we trust but don’t verify. That’s why industry officials continue to cling (for dear life) to an exemption from clean-water laws and refuse to disclose the chemicals they’re pumping into the earth to bring natural gas to the surface.

The soft sell sounds good, but even Mr. Kohl himself sees through it. In his investor-targeted blog, he says “all bets are off” until technology offers a better solution than those mysterious toxic chemicals being used today.

Take a look behind the soft-sell curtain here:

Here’s the Business Week story on the fracking fluid fire:

For more information on “fracking” and related radiation issues, see our new Facebook page:

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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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