Back to the Past: Playing Proletarian with Shale Gas Politics

Shale Gas - Tom Shepstone ReportsTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.



Shale gas opponents love playing proletarian because they tend to be socialists at heart, profoundly radical, guilt-ridden and irrelevant.

One of most frustrating things in discussing shale gas issues with a relatively non-political general population is the difficulty in getting across just how profoundly radical (and hollow) most fractivists really are. They are seldom driven by environmental issues alone or even principally. Scratch the surface of their opposition campaign and you find a socialist movement at work in one of its various guises.  Ultimately, they always lose because reality intrudes in the end. Still, we risk wasting a lot of time if we don’t call them out for what they are, as it goes to their credibility and, more specifically, their lack of it. This was all brought to mind again when this silly website solicitation was brought to my attention (click photo to go to website):

Shale Gas - Fang

It’s an invitation to some training exercise of the sort we’ve seen Alex Lotorto conduct from time to time, so there’s nothing especially surprising about the whole thing. A little research on the organizer, Nick Katkevich, though, reveals another “serial protestor” who seems to wish he was born in time to be a Bolshevik. Katkevich is 29 years old or so and has quite the protest record. Here are a few examples:

Phoenix, AZ – Nov. 18, 2011 Protest against city ordinance prohibiting camping in public spaces.

Seekonk, MA – Nov. 23, 2012 Protest of Wal-Mart workers’ wages and benefits

Providence, RI – May 3, 2013 Protest demanding coal divestment at Brown University

Katkevich is also involved in fossil fuel divestment campaigns, efforts to overrule the Citizens United Supreme Court decision by state referendum, “Occupy Phoenix” initiatives and numerous other leftist causes. He is also the founder of a business called Proletarian Life, which describes as a business created to help fund social movements, by which one presumes he means paying some of his expenses for playing proletarian at events all over the country, including one in Tunkhannock on Monday evening. More on that in a moment.

The Proletarian Life website includes a blog that consists solely of photos and images such as this one:

Shale Gas - Occupy

It’s called a “retro poster,” evoking Stalinist imagery, as if the Soviet Union, which starved millions of its people in the 1920’s and 1930’s, somehow presented a laudable vision of what America could be without this damnable capitalism.

Proletarian Life’s “business” is selling trendy clothing such as this charming sweatshirt for $33:

Shale Gas - Proletarian

You’ve always got to be on the cutting edge of fashion if you intend to play proletarian. It’s about being one of the people, but you still have to stand out, right? What better way than in sweatshirt screen-printed using natural gas powered dryers. The ad says this:

Proletarian (def): a member of the laboring class; especially : the class of industrial workers who lack their own means of production and hence sell their labor to live.

Printed on American Apparel

A portion of proceeds go to supporting nonviolent social movements.

Notwithstanding this self-righteous pap, Proletarian Life is right about one thing; it clearly doesn’t understand capitalism, as it has been in business since October, 2012 and recorded only 15 sales. The FANG fundraising effort is going  about the same. They already completed their little foray into Pennsylvania and have collected only $1,345 to cover the expenses, including $185 from this trustfunder.

Side question: Is there no one in this movement of the spoiled who is not a trustfunder?

Perhaps that explains the pitiful performance of FANG on Monday night. The event was one of several hearings being conducted by Pennsylvania’s Environmental Quality Board regarding some very specific changes to its Chapter 78 Oil & Gas Regulations. All the usual suspects (Vera Scroggins, Craig Stevens, et al) were there to engage in all the usual antics they’ve been using for years now. Craig, the trial lawyer advance man, took his brown jug to the lectern and forgot to even say anything about it, so wrapped up was he in repeating his “sixth-generation” schtick.

Two members of FANG stood out for their ability to deliver irrelevant testimony. The first was Nick Katkevitch himself, Mr. Proletarian, who came back from the future, he said:

The whole thing is laughable, of course, and our readers from down south will be amused by the childish use of the term “y’all” (which, coming from Rhode Island, he was unable to pronounce correctly) as he addressed oil and gas workers in the audience who he must have imagined were Texans or something (even almost all workers today are local).

It was a revealing moment of condescension, by these fractivists and leftists, toward the fellow human beings for whom they profess such deep love or agape. It also offered some insight into their incredibly shallow thinking, as if this constituted serious argument befitting of the hearing, or “Back to the Future” was somehow clever.

The reality is that Katkevich’s prescription for every ill he imagines in our human existence is to go back to the past. He despises the modern life even while he exploits it. His Proletarian Facebook page, in advance of their trip to Pennsylvania talked of “The Connecticut and Rhode Island car is en route to Pennsylvania!” Gee, do you suppose that car used any fossil fuels to get to Pennsylvania, or how much fossil fuel was involved in generating the power if it was an electric car?

Katkevich apparently wants to go back to a socialist political system that has been tried numerous times over human history and failed every single time, delivering misery and a wretched environmental record wherever it has been attempted. There’s no future in the way the “man from the future” would have us all live.

Then there was this “valley girl” testimony from someone who was obsessed with going back to the past and worried that “we are extracting the dead” to fuel our cars and heat our homes.

She gets the award for the single most irrelevant testimony, that has to be watched to be believed, especially when she appeals to the regulators to “let the dead rest and the mountains live.” She was talking about the fossils, of course.

Pause here to let that sink in.

I must admit this is a novel approach but, somehow, I doubt an appeal to respect things that died hundreds of millions of years ago will resonate.  It’s the ultimate in the back to the past philosophy of these folks. It’s a philosophy that is anti-capitalist at the root; a revolt of the spoiled children of wealth not willing to give any of it up like St, Francis, for example. Yet, they’re more than happy to lecture all of us about the dangers of capitalism to lessen their sense of guilt at having done so well for reasons they can’t appreciate.

It’s no trip to the future, but a step back into the past and into self-aggrandizement. That is the nature of the profoundly people who represent so many of the fractivists.

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18 thoughts on “Back to the Past: Playing Proletarian with Shale Gas Politics

  1. i have to quote from the movie ” when harry meets sally” in the NY deli scene. i want the same food they are having, it makes them so happy and up there in the clouds.what will be next?in a socialistic country they would have to work to feed the elite:this would not be possible for them to do.only here in a free country can they do what they are doing.maybe the girly should learn a little more about history, clean out her head of cobwebs and try again.

  2. Tom Shpstone, oil industry tool who will say anything to detract from the environmental devastation his paylords are causing to innocent victims throughout the US, not to mention all of the CO2 they want to dump into the atmosphere.

    Yo,Tom, tell me again how people who complain about flamable drinking water have no credibility and are just a bunch of whiners. Tell us again how global warming is a hoax! LOL,

    • Get your facts correct, Steve. We have dramatically lowered CO2, thanks to natural gas and if you want to visit Salt Springs State Park you, too, can light the water on fire just like residents have been doing for 200 years.

  3. Pingback: Marcellus & Utica Shale Story Links: Fri, Jan 31, 2014 | Marcellus Drilling News

  4. Pingback: Elitist Foundations Fund Fracking Opposition - Natural Gas Now

  5. In an attempt to paint Katkevich and others as hypocrites, the author Shepstone (inadvertently?) introduces a logically flawed criticism using electric cars: “Gee, do you suppose that car used any fossil fuels to get to Pennsylvania, or how much fossil fuel was involved in generating the power if it was an electric car?” True, a gasoline, diesel, or natural gas car will only run on fossil fuels, forever dependent on them; And an electric car may run on fossil fuel sourced energy, however it may run instead on (up to 100%) a variety of clean, carbon-free, renewable energy sources, as long as there are viable and affordable consumer choices to do so. Technology and the market has now proven that electric cars with hundreds of miles of range that can charge in tens of minutes are now feasible (Tesla Motors)…and that certain types of electric cars that meet 75% or more of all driver’s daily needs without range limitations (Chevy Volt) are now as affordable or even less expensive than average gasoline-only cars. And renewable non-fossil energy is very feasible and ever becoming more affordable. In fact for many, home electricity from 100% renewable sources (0% natural gas or any other fossil fuels) in now an affordable choice. For example, my personal electric car when charged up at home overnight both fossil-free and much more affordable than gasoline. I’m sure if Katkevich and others in this movement currently had such choices, they would choose fossil-free (as well would Shepstone but for purely personal economic reasons). Just because some support but might not yet have such choices does not make them hypocrites, it makes them progressives. In time, we will all have both the choice and the profit motive to provide clean energy for our homes, businesses, and vehicles. Fossil fuels such as natural gas will become little more expensive footnotes of lessons-learned in human technological progress, right up there with whale oil (lamps) in the history books. How energy industry players choose to plan and prepare for this eventuality may define their long term business success…or failure.

    • Your comment is articulate and well-reasoned but you’re still dreaming because we can’t begin to create all the electricity we need from just renewables, not yet anyway and not for a very long time. The EU is learning that lesson. Moreover, the opposition to the earth and sea disturbance from the vast land areas required to generate any significant amount of electricity from renewables would generate such a humongous backlash from NIMBYs it can never be achieved. I’ve represented wind projects and know what I speak of in that regard. Moreover, wind energy almost always has to be subsidized and we don’t have the money to do it on a large enough scale. If what you theorize was practical we’d have wind generation off the coast of Nantucket today but, sadly, we don’t because the same people who object to oil and gas also object to other energy projects. They only liked natural gas when they thought it wasn’t the future. Now that it is, they hate that, too, and they’ll hate whatever source of energy is feasible at any given time and always prefer something that is not.

      • Tom wrote: “…you’re still dreaming because we can’t begin to create all the electricity we need from just renewables” Actually the point is, it’s NOT a dream and we CAN BEGIN to do this. It’s actually a goal, and an achievable one through baby steps. Germany is an example of a country doing just that. Over 23% of German energy now comes from renewables (was just 3% in 1990); industries generate 25% of the energy they use on site; and Germany’s goal is to reach 35% renewables by 2020 has been deemed achievable. Then they can make 50% their next goal, and so on. Now I realize the Germany is NOT the same as the US…but it is the largest economy in Europe, 4th largest in the world, and a modern hi-tech society and economy that is still growing …and arguably is beginning to benefit greatly from their investments in clean energy over just ~2 decades. We put men on the moon in 1969…we can do this, and without undue burden to industry, economy, or society.

        • You are not following the news on Germany or you would know it hasn’t worked out so well for them. Moreover, capacity is not generation. I agree we can begin to do this but the idea that we should ignore the benefits of natural gas and its natural role as a complement to renewables doesn’t hold water with me. Renewables have a future but they will most likely not replace fossil fuels anytime in either of our lifetimes. Moreover, Germany is building coal plants and its emissions are rising while ours are decreasing.

          • No, I am following the *news* about German and it shows (as is even mentioned in the Telegraph opinion piece masquerading as news that you linked) that “emissions (temporarily, not year over year) are rising” due to the fact that Germany is ambitiously phasing out nuclear power at the same time as phasing in renewables. As a result of the Fukushima accident, this was accelerated and Germany closed nearly half (8/17) of its nuclear plants in one year alone. So gas/coal/etc plants are temporarily making up the difference. This is separate from the success that renewables have been; in fact Germany has an excess of power (a net exporter of energy) and is considering reducing incentives for solar and wind as they are gaining competitiveness (fact). Another sign of the policies working (my opinion). Not that there aren’t capacity and pricing kinks to be worked out. And as I do agree with short term “all of the above” energy strategy, so I’m certainly not one to claim that NG and other fossils have a “natural role as a complement” as you described it. It’s just that I see them moving into a secondary supporting role, like the gasoline in my Chevy Volt: Use a little for occasional long trips, a little when it’s bone cold, etc…but otherwise run on electrons (92% over 40,000 miles), now generated by renewables. So that’s the analogy for natural gas and it’s natural role…prepare for it to be relegated to a supplementary energy source, sooner or later, be it our lifetime (preferable) or our kids/grandkids – Because it’s only going to get harder, more expensive, and more environmentally damaging to extract and burn as time goes on. Sooner or later, our descendants will take a stand, “Not touching that stuff anymore.”

  6. I like how this article only focuses on demonizing someone for what they believe in without ever addressing any of the concerns he and his fellow activists share. It is a weak position which focuses only on attacking the person and not addressing the issues at hand.

    • The lack of credibility IS the issue and a fair one. Moreover, read this blog and you’ll find tons of discussion on the other issues. Finally, please tell me where there has been one ounce of meaningful discussion from Katkevich, whose testimony consisted of ridiculing oil and gas workers with his “Yo’all” routine, thinking (wrongly) that he was addressing folks from Texas and Louisiana.

  7. I couldn’t post a reply, to Tom Shepstone: “Fair enough…You say it’s (additional of German coal energy to supplant nuclear) temporary. I doubt it.”

    However If Germany meets its recently revised renewable goals (see link below) of 45% renewable energy by 2025 and 60% by 2035 (as they have met/exceeded goals so far with excess supply) then their carbon emissions will have no where to go but down in the next 20 years. It is certainly interesting times, and if a major power like Germany can cross over that 50% renewable threshold, think how well prepared they will be when the next oil/gas supply/price shock hits.

    Shepstone: “the economic issues the EU is facing are not a matter of a few kinks” Challenges may be a better term than kinks – and regardless of what the rest of the EU does, the Germans are rising to the challenge:

    We need this kind of political courage. What’s your plan?

    • My plan is the same as your – all of the above. Use natural gas as the transition and backup. It doesn’t require subsidies, it’s clean and it supports rural America. I don’t think your optimism about Germany recognizes the realities of the economics, the earth disturbances required, the difficulty in securing approvals for large renewables projects, the challenges of storage and transportation of energy from renewables or the capacity versus generation issue. See (and this source is a very renewables friendly blog).

      • It is puzzling to me why Germany abruptly closed eight of its nuclear plants. I mean as I understand it, they are a long term investment, and I believe not even of the same riskier design as Fukushima. If it were me, I’d keep those dang things running right up to the date that they too could be supplanted with steady state renewables (biomass, hydro, etc), or when they needed some serious overhaul and capital investment, whichever came first. They are choosing to “hybrid” their grid in the wrong way. For me, adding coal plants is like me buying another gasoline only car or hybrid to add to my car fleet, after I have already owned and experienced the benefits of owning a Volt. Also, because Germany has a surplus of power, I think they need to rein in the renewable producers that are not really benefiting their own country, and not let the power get sold so easily on the regional market. It will be interesting to see how they handle the next stage of “growing pains”.

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