More on the Gentry Class and Its War on Rural America

gentry class - Tom ShepstoneTom Shepstone
Natural Gas NOW


A self-interested gentry class sees rural America as parkland occupied by low class rubes who don’t know what’s best for them; a foundation for fractivism.

There has been an ongoing war against rural America and it’s middle class for over a century as the gentry class has attempted to make a wilderness out of communities and lands it wants for itself.

That war, which I first wrote about here (and here), has been no better illustrated than in the battle of over “fracking,”a process otherwise known as hydraulic fracturing, the slang term for which has been co-opted by radical environmentalists or “fractivists” who desire it to mean anything connected with natural gas development. The stealing of the term is no coincidence as the basis of the opposition isn’t really fracking, but development – any development – and it’s being financed by the wealthy members of a gentry class who are exploiting true believers to achieve their wilderness dreams, crushing middle class opportunities in the process.

gentry class 220px-Lovey_Howell

“Lovey Howell”

The gentry class has always had an environmental bent, captured in the stereotypical snob characters from dozens of film and television shows who live off of old money and occupy their time doing dinner parties to save the pelicans or some other cuddly species. They are engrossed in simultaneously illustrating their moral superiority and furthering their own special interests. The fractivist movement is much the same. It is overwhelmingly upper class, overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly academic and urban in nature – folks who live isolated from the daily worries of earning a living. Oh, yes, there are exceptions, but that is a fair description of the lot as a whole.

When you bring this sort of point up, of course, you’re treated to a litany of rationalizations suggesting these folks are necessary to the cause to counteract the economic forces of the oil and gas industry and its supporters or some such similar drivel that evades the point and operates from the premise that the gentry class is motivated by a sense of noblesse oblige or something.

I’ve never bought into the whole noblesse oblige thing. Most human beings operate from self-interest at some level. It’s just that some are smart enough to realize the Golden Rule is a two-way street. They are, one hopes, enlightened in this regard by religious values and a sense of morality that channels self-interest in a positive way with surrender of self (pride), but self-interest always remains even if it’s limited to getting to Heaven.

gentry class 300px-Tesla_Model_S_Indoors

The Tesla – Not Exactly a Peoples’ Car

Fractivists and their funders are, in fact, awash in self-interest. Take the electric car, for example, which is being promoted as the green replacement for the evil internal combustion engine as part of a utopian renewbles campaign. Elon Musk is a super-promoter and has advanced that idea everywhere, that is to say when he’s not hustling money from New York State to invest in a solar business that depends on subsidies and still loses more money every year than the last. Here’s what Gary Libecap had to say about Musk’s Tesla on the Hoover Institution’s blog (emphasis added):

…it is politically popular in many states, especially California, for government to promote renewable fuels and zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) with subsidies and to regulate and raise the costs of power generation from fossil fuels. These efforts are designed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and mitigate possible climate change. There are numerous problems with these policies, most notably the lack of a global census to confront GHG emissions internationally. Absent cross-national collaboration, efforts in California or in the US can be fully offset by noncompliance in China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, or where ever. Hence, there are no obvious direct benefits from these actions.

But they are costly nonetheless. They not only divert tax revenues from other uses, such as schools, hospitals, highways, but raise consumer prices by increasing energy costs. Poorer tax payers often pay more of their incomes in taxes and consume more of their incomes, relative to wealthier citizens, who are the main members of environmental lobby groups and lobbyists for environmental regulation.

Consider Tesla, the premier zero-emission vehicle (ZEV). The purchaser of each Tesla Model S that costs $70,000 or more receives a $7,500 federal tax credit, plus state credits. Within California, for example, purchasers can get a tax rebate of up to $2,500 and opportunity to access special freeway lanes, an important benefit in traffic-clogged California. Moreover, the Tesla company receives 4 ZEV credits that it then sells to other car dealers in the state because the California Air Resources Board requires all dealers to sell a fixed number of ZEVs each year. Because other car companies cannot meet that mandate given tepid demand, they must purchase credits from Tesla, effectively raising the costs of their cars and subsidizing Tesla. Few inhabitants of South Central Los Angeles, one of the poorest parts of the city, know about Teslas, its alleged environmental benefits, or what each vehicle costs them. On the other hand, those in wealthier Brentwood and Beverly Hills have a far better sense of what they gain from a Tesla purchase.

It is clear that low-income citizens are subsidizing the wealthy in this case, and as more and more state resources are devoted to such policies, the overall economy becomes less vibrant, generating fewer blue collar jobs and other opportunities for those who are struggling the most in the society. For these people, an abstract notion of reducing GHG emissions and climate change in the face of worldwide free riding has little appeal. Yet, the wealthy and other related constituents who value efforts to confront climate change and bear few of the costs are strong supporters and lobbyists in the political arena.

Just check out the membership characteristics of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and Friends of the Earth. These individuals lobby politicians and regulatory agency officials (many of whom support an added mandate) to provide environmental public goods because they receive private benefits. They value the public goods more; receive subsidies; and they pay relatively little of the costs.

The Tesla, in other words, is a gift to the wealthy and it comes wrapped in the green ribbon of demonstrated social conscience among a jet set eager to establish its bonafides in that area and assuage it’s ridiculous sense of guilt. That guilt is, of course, felt most acutely by the second, third and fourth generations of wealth who played little role in its accumulation and, therefore, have the most to gain, pride-wise, from driving the Tesla.

gentry class tesla_ot_1031133_600

Best of all they give up nothing for it, as the poor and middle classes subsidize their purchases, allowing them to rationalize denying economic development opportunities to rural areas who can and do produce the oil and gas that is a much more economical alternative. The rural poor and rural middle-class, in fact, get cheated twice; once by having to subsidize the Tesla (primarily an urban vehicle) and then again through political correct anti-fracking policies that make urban voters feel good and leave rural voters without income opportunities they might have otherwise had.

But, it’s more than that and one of the best pieces I’ve seen on the subject is this post by Martin Durkin. I don’t know Durkin or anything much about him but he captures the essence of what seems to drive so much of the fractivist movement. Here are a few excerpts (emphasis added):

It is more than ironic that the anti-consumption rant comes from people who are, by global standards, rolling in the stuff and from a superior social class…Charles Secrett, former executive director of Friends of the Earth helpfully explains, ‘Among the aristocrats there is a sense of noblesse oblige … a feeling of stewardship towards the land.’

Brendan O’Neill says in The Guardian, ‘It is remarkable how many leading environmentalists come from wealthy or aristocratic backgrounds.’ And adds, ‘There is something irritating – actually, let’s not beat around the bush – there is something monumentally infuriating about rich people telling the masses that they should live more meekly.’

It seems that it is not any old consumption that upsets the Greens.  It is mass consumption.  The Green foodies don’t mind expensive organic free-range food, or hand-made cashmere sweaters, or costly Italian floor tiles.  They don’t rail against posh cheese shops or vintners.  The problem is not fine-art auction houses or Persian-rug sellers. The problem is mass production and consumption.  Greens John Cavanagh and Jerry Mander deplore the vulgar bargain hunter for whom, ‘everyday low prices are the ultimate human conquest.’  The Green group Earth First went so far as to organise a ‘puke in’ in a shopping mall…

The mass production and distribution of food is deplorable to them.  In fact the mass production of goods, whatever they may be, renders those goods nasty and soulless.  The mass production of houses, the mass consumption of culture … everything to do with the masses, it seems, every form of economic activity that benefits the many-headed, is held to be vulgar and an offence against the natural order.

Edward Goldsmith decried ‘the mass production of shoddy utilitarian goods in ever greater quantities.’   The debased creatures who buy this stuff constituted a different kind of human – Homo Sapiens Industrialis

And the same goes for the Green outrage at mass tourism, ‘The ‘conscientious consumers’ love air travel – for themselves.  They just hate cheap air travel that everyone else can enjoy.  The reason they first got into tourism was to get away from us. Now that we are all following them, ruining their isolated spots in Ibiza and the Dordogne, they need a reason to stop us.  Not to put too fine a point on it, concern over CO2 emissions came after the prejudice that mass tourism was a blight.  Global warming predictions [and fractivist predictions, we might add] provide a useful, quasi-scientific justification for anti-working class prejudice.’

…But to say that mass consumption was ‘the antithesis of wisdom’ was clearly not enough.  The Greens needed some solid reason why economic progress should be rolled back.  Conveniently, three years after Small is Beautiful, Lowell Ponte published his big scary book, The Cooling, which predicted that pollution from our consumer society would blot out the sun and push the earth into an ice age.  Mass consumption wasn’t just morally depraved, it was now dangerous too.  Ponte warned, ‘prosperity could mean disaster.’  In fact ‘the cooling has already killed hundreds of thousands of people.’  This was a disaster with a moral message.  The masses must tighten their belts, ‘Note this word need. It is readily confused with the word want in industrial societies, where the dominant value is consumption rather than conservation.’

…Green anti-capitalism is Snob anti-capitalism.  This is not mere name-calling.  It goes to the very heart of what ‘Green’  is about.

Gentry Class - Adelaide Park Gomer

Adelaide Park Gomer, Park Foundation

I agree with Durkin’s assessment. I don’t wish to annoy our many readers who see global warming as a legitimate issue that gas can help address, but I’m not trying to make a point about global warming.

What is the point is that fractivism among the gentry class is motivated by the posh anti-capitalism among the snobs from the Haas, Heinz, Park and Rockefeller families who see natural gas development as tacky industrialization of land they think might be better be emptied of these lower class folks. That way they can go about using it as parkland for their own enjoyment while gaining plaudits among their high-society peers for their environmental consciousness. This is what motivates their war on rural America.

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3 thoughts on “More on the Gentry Class and Its War on Rural America

  1. Don’t forget that somehow groups like the Working Families Party and Citizen Action thought it was a good idea to work against workers (and working or middle class consumers) on natural gas development in ny state as well. You can look at that in terms of employment or wages or energy cost –take your pick –and see if that is not an example of being led not to work for your own self interest or the interests you are supposed to represent.)

    I agree that this fracking war was also waged on the majority of non-important urbanites and middle class suburbia downstate as well. I mean fracking was billed as the most important issue in the state for years and years and years at least according to famous chefs, celebrities, wealthy people, lawyers with influence, politicians or the reporters who just repeated those words. Some of us downstate might have thought other issues were actually more important. (Side note–Renowned economist Janette Barth of fractivist fame of course contributed some pithy “opinions”, or what i would call blather,on the Port Ambrose LNG import project as well.) So food activists’ opinions or the Park Slope Food Coop’s opinions trump actual farmers views in this case. And restauranteurs and chefs particularly in new york city want to make out like first of all they don’t use natural gas or energy or that they are able to run their businesses because of the economy or ‘market’ downstate? Do people think that artisinal mayo stores exist everywhere? This Joe Levine I imagine of NYh20 and/or Damascus Citizens were people with no influence which is why these folks were in Vanity Fair? Interesting photo in that article. In between the No fracking signs is a sign that looks like it is going to read No LNG. That’s because its at an event where the antifracking movement used the proposed LNG import project known as Port Amborse and any possible concerns citizens might have had with that specific project as an opportunity to further their own agenda, their war on fracking.

  2. I came from Idaho with 5.5-6 c/kWh power to this screwed-up state 14 years ago for an interesting job.

    To my astonishment, power was ~15 k/kWh at that time. To my delight, as more manufacturing moved out of state (and people with it!), the power rate went down to the 12 c/kWh league. But now in the last 2 years, it has crept upward to the >15 c/kWh area again, due to the do-gooders’ forced closing-down of the cheap coal-fired power plants, and the addition of ever-more high-cost wind-power and a smidgeon of higher-yet cost solar power.

    Again, the ‘Gentry Class’ has saddled we ‘normal people’ with excess costs to support their utopian ideas! When will it ever stop?

    But I suppose I should be happy that even those prices do pale against Germany’s ~35 c/kWh power cost — again the result of the ‘gentry class’ doing the thinking for the rest of us.

    I have the monthly cost-data and chart to back this up….. time for a NaturalGasNow article!

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