Stossel on Fracking

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

John Stossel writes about the latest left-wing smear campaign which, not too surprisingly, is aimed squarely at America's ability to produce energy cheaply:

[W]hat's the explanation for the most dramatic part of the movie [Gasland]: tap water so laden with gas that people can set it on fire?

It turns out that has little to do with fracking. In many parts of America, there is enough methane in the ground to leak into people's well water. The best fire scene in the movie was shot in Colorado, where the filmmaker is in the kitchen of a man who lights his faucet. But Colorado investigators went to that man's house, checked out his well and found that fracking had nothing to do with his water catching fire. His well-digger had drilled into a naturally occurring methane pocket.
Stossel later notes something about fracking that many members of the general public will likely be confused about:
[H]ydraulic fracturing is a wonderful thing. It's not new. Companies have done it for 60 years, but now they've found ways to get even more gas out of the ground. That's the reason gas is getting cheaper and panicky politicians no longer rant about America "running out of fuel."

Natural gas is not risk-free, but no energy source is.
Read the whole thing. Stossel notes early on that, unlike many other left wing hack jobs, this movie has a more "convincing" feel to it. He also suggests a better remedy to the kinds of problems Gasland claims to be occurring, and it isn't the government regulating how we acquire our fuel.

-- CAV

----- In Other News -----

Ars Technica features an interesting post about how social influences lessen the wisdom of crowds -- at least in terms of an "average" of their answers being correct: "[W]hen someone sees that the rest of the crowd is giving an answer close to their own, it gives them greater confidence that their answer is likely to be right. " This could result in, "the range that the social panels produce [being] centered on the wrong value, and [possibly] so distant from the correct one that it's excluded entirely."

In "Federal Food Police against Business and Science," Steven Malanga notes, among other things, that, "lowering sodium consumption not only doesn't benefit most people, it may actually increase risk of heart attacks for some." Forcing us to abide by advice -- bad or not -- is the opposite of the purpose of a proper government. It is particularly galling that, on top of the fact that we are not being left free to judge such advice ourselves, it is as if the long history of reversals and declining certainty in much of the research used to justify government guidelines and regulations has no weight with the people making them. It's bad enough to be forced to follow someone else's advice, but when that advice is bad, and following bad advice can be worse than having no advice at all...

Drat! I keep forgetting to switch over to a Hellenic keyboard mapping! Thanks for reminding me, Google: I'll try to remember to do that next time. (If this confuses you, see image at the (possibly upper) right.)


Anonymous said...

Regarding Stossel:

I was reading about the Kelley/Peikoff split recently. In an article by Peter Schwartz, he comments that we should not associate with Libertarians because it sanctions their irrationality.

So I was wondering if you had an explanation as to why ARI has been appearing on the John Stossel show (I believe he's a Libertarian). Or even why we're going on the Glenn Beck show (is there a fundamental difference between Libertarians and Conservatives that would change the circumstance of going to a Conservative rally as opposed to a Libertarian one?)

I'm inclined to think that they (ARI) are right in going on the Stossel and Beck show, but I can't figure out how it's justified. Do you have any ideas?


Gus Van Horn said...


The relevant issue is not whether we should associate at all, ever, with a libertarian or a conservative, but the nature of such an association. (i.e., whether such an association grants moral sanction to irrationality).

I obviously can't speak on behalf of ARI, but in their case, to appear on a television show hosted by a conservative or a libertarian is fine so long as it is clear that one is identified correctly as being from ARI, or at least that there isn't something about the appearance that would cause a reasonable person to conclude that, say, ARI is a libertarian organization, or that the speaker sees Objectivism as compatible with libertarianism or conservatism. As far as I know, neither Stossel nor Beck unfairly edit their guests or otherwise make them look like they support views they don't support, and their audiences know their guests' views are distinct from the hosts'. In other words, nobody thinks Yaron Brook might be receptive to anarchism or the idea that there are many mutually contradictory philosophical bases for something vaguely known as "liberty" just because John Stossel interviews him.

Contrast this to a hypothetical case of a professed Objectivist taking part in a debate, hosted by the LP, whose subject is the question, "Is limited government or anarchy the proper goal of individualists?" Since the Libertarian Party sees this as an open question and, as Schwartz makes abundantly clear in "Libertarianism: The Perversion of Liberty," its adherents fundamentally reject the need for philosophical principles in answering political and practical questions, the professed Objectivist is treating that debate as if it is a rational discussion.

Or, to take a really clear-cut example from my college days, when I was young and foolish, what would it mean to "debate" a creationist on whether evolution occurred, if, no matter how good your arguments were, he'd just say, "I have faith?" The minute he says that, he might as well say, "I reject reason." To continue the conversation is to help him pretend (to himself or others) that he is rational. Now, you can't read minds, and sometimes you can get surprised by such things, but suppose I were warned beforehand -- in the form of an invitation to take part in such a debate by, say, Campus Crusade for Christ?" You KNOW, by the nature of such an organization that it regards reason as optional, so your participation in that debate could reasonably be construed as your belief that it will be a fair fight. You'll get nowhere -- except towards helping them look good to people who might not know better. You argument, no matter how good, will be undercut by your implicitly saying, "I agree that faith overrides reason, when push comes to shove," which you did when you agreed to speak on terms you knew to be unfair.

I hope this helps.


Ryan said...

Chesapeake Energy has just been slapped with a $1 million dollar fine for methane contamination. Last I checked there was no proof that it was because of fracking or that it was anywhere near unsafe levels.

The people around here, of course, immediately assumed it was true. The moment that the drillers got here in Pennsylvania the locals started with their dire predictions. They focus on all the negatives and ignore the economic value.

I've been somewhat quiet on the issue because I actually like to have the facts before I speak. I don't want to sound like I'm dismissing actual damages.

Gus Van Horn said...

Well, Stossel doesn't speak directly to the story you bring up, of course, but his column is an indication that you might be on to something.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for your response.