Why Shale Gas Fractivists Are Doomed to Lose

Tom HeadshotTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.


Shale gas fractivists are predictable true believers, the sort who are always around regardless of the issue, and we should never be discouraged at what sometimes appear to be victories on their side.  They are losing the war.

Now and then, the opposition to shale gas development momentarily appears to gain some traction here and there.  This invariably worries some on our side who become dispirited as they see irrational, fact-deprived opponents seemingly win a few battles.  Notwithstanding these butterflies, the reader can be assured we are winning and they are losing the war.  They will cause delays in places like New York where political insanity often reigns for long periods before rationality sets in, but, ultimately, our shale gas resources will be developed because the facts are with us and the country needs to do it.

More than that, the shale gas opposition is, at its core, essentially negative and Americans are never long seduced by the wailing of complainers and naysayers.   We are a forward looking people more likely to adopt “can do” than “can’t” as our motto.  The typical shale gas opponent or “anti” is a member of small band of radicals whose inherent negativism is being rejected, and will continue to be rejected, because it is backward looking, uncompromising and unreasonable – in a word, shrill, and shrill voices seldom prevail in the end.

Shale Gas Opponents sean-lennon-yoko-ono

Why are antis so shrill?  Well, one must understand who the typical anti-gas ideologue (as distinguished from ordinary citizens who are just honest skeptics) is to answer that question.  Here are a few of my observations from 40 years of dealing with some of these individuals in matters that cover the gamut of trendy causes.

  1. The typical anti doesn’t have to earn a living off the land he or she insists on protecting.  They want to protect others’ land from its owners on the theory they know better what to do with it, but have no real economic-dependent stake in the matter beyond this fervent belief that they’re smarter.  They have either already made their money elsewhere, have inherited it or or otherwise living off previously created wealth.  The number of trust-funders (e.g., Sean Lennon) engaged in the cause is nothing less than stunning.  Meanwhile, most landowners struggle to make a living and pay the taxes on the land they keep in the open space the anti is determined to protect for his or her own enjoyment.
  2. The typical anti has no long-term investment in the community as “home.” Antis are often second-home owners, occasional visitors or transplants with little or no connection to the shale gas region as their ancestral home.  Home is more likely the “Big Apple” or some other city far removed from the place they love to visit. Josh Fox is, perhaps, the perfect illustration.  His father owns about 20 acres in Milanville, Pennsylvania, that he loves to call home and visit (even voting there) but his real base of operations is New York City where he grew up and went to school.  His natural gas heated headquarters are there and that’s where his friends and associates are.  He owns no land in Milanville and didn’t even bother paying his annual occupational taxes the last time I checked. Moreover, he is a member of none of the community organizations to which a typical resident might belong (e.g., fire company, service club).
  3. The typical anti is one by nature – a natural born protestor. If it wasn’t gas it would windmills and if wasn’t windmills it would be any one of dozens of other causes ranging from the “occupy” movement to public television access to genetically altered food products.  Any development project, any land use or anything at all that doesn’t spring from their own minds is ripe for opposition, a convenient excuse for demonstrating what they perceive as a superior social consciousness that needs to be imposed on others, at no cost to themselves, of course.
  4. The typical anti has no children seeking jobs locally.  While there are exceptions, most antis are either childless or the parents of already grown children who are employed elsewhere.  Those who are worried about the futures of their children and how to keep them close by tend to be supporters of natural gas and other development.  They understand the importance of gainful employment to the health of their families, in contrast to antis.  Think I’m making this up?  Well, look at this poll and Questions 15 and 16.  The greatest opposition to shale gas development comes from the oldest and wealthiest of those surveyed.
  5. The typical anti comes from an urban culture and knows little of how either their food or their energy is produced.  An individual living in New York City or any other city is accustomed to food and energy being available at their fingertips. They have little or no knowledge of how either is produced or what is involved.  They have the luxury of not knowing – it all just comes to them.  It’s easy to segment production from consumption in such minds because the former always takes place out-of-sight and usually far away.  Turning the thermostat one way or the other is all that is required to get heat or air conditioning.  The blatant hypocrisy of opposing the development of natural gas one uses for their own benefit never even occurs to an anti raised in this environment.  Sean Lennon, who dwells in the famous Dakota building, which was recently converted to natural gas to meet emission standards, comes to mind.  He has made a spectacle of himself opposing the fracking that heats his opulent apartment.
  6. The typical anti tends to be artistic, emotional and guilt-ridden, rather than analytical. He or she often seeks power to dominate discussion and impose what they hold to be superior and enlightened ideologies on what they perceive to be a unenlightened hick culture.  Hence the anger, condescension, name-calling (wish I had a dollar for every time I was called a “shill”) and smugness – all geared to dominate debate by shutting it down.  They desperately seek to assuage their guilt at having done so undeservedly well by substituting their consciences for those they believe they can dominate.  They also attach themselves to various causes they hope will allow them to do so without sacrificing any of the privileges that give rise to their guilt.  Eric Hoffer examined much of this in his famous book, The True Believer.  Read it.
  7. The typical anti is both unrealistic and uncompromising.  This dangerous combination is what invariably dooms the ideologue, when the cause is not based on facts or logic, to an ignominious defeat.  Yet, the anti persists in the strategy, denying the facts and pretending we can shift away from fossil fuels in a heartbeat, while continuing to use them to meet their own needs. (Tony Ingraffea, who lives in  a natural gas heated home in Cayuga Heights, New York, is a perfect example.) The anti repeatedly falls for such foolishness and is easily taken in by Gasland and other similar cartoonish enterprises, because they childishly hold to the view that wishing it to be, makes it so.  Moreover, they aren’t willing to confront a truth that would destroy their artificial social construct.

This brings us to the more important point – that such individuals never prevail but for a short time.  Every cause, whether good or bad, whether destined for success or failure, attracts such true believers (e.g., the American Revolution), but only those causes founded on facts, logic and objective truth ultimately prevail, while the others burn out quickly with a bright glare that fades to dark before we know it.  The fractivists are very much in the latter category.  They have nothing but baseless speculation on which to rely.  As shale gas continues to prove itself and spread worldwide (both are taking place), the typical anti is pushed further and further to the edge and tries raising his or her voice to be heard; hence the ever more shrill tone.

Shale Gas Dakota New York

The Natural Gas Heated Dakota Building

The anti has a small chance in the short term, though, if the rest of us are silent and do no more than complain to ourselves.  We have to be engaged.  We must combat the foolishness of the anti cause with facts by attending municipal meetings, speaking out, writing letters to the editor, demanding action and calling out our friends on the other side.  We must be organized to protect property rights and the truth.  We must be vigilant and recognize there will always be antis to confront.

Today, we face the fractivists; tomorrow it will be someone else or, more likely, the same folks with a different cause.  They’ll always be there because their psyche demands it from them.  We must always be there, too, and we will be because Americans are forward, not backward, looking.  We are happy warriors and that’s why we’ll win.

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21 thoughts on “Why Shale Gas Fractivists Are Doomed to Lose

  1. Tom: perhaps one of the most insightful pieces I have ever read with regard to what drives these people and their perception of life and living. I have bookmarked this article and many of the links. The only part of your article which could use a little more emphasis: the anti’s hypocrisy. As I mentioned in my earlier post about Fox not having a solar array on his father’s summer home…….this is typical of the anti’s mentality – “don’t do as I do, do as I say”. Thanks and keep up the good work!

    • Why? Do you think the leaders of tomorrow need to base their conclusions in this debate on generalizations, stereotypes, conjecture and misleading statements?

  2. The typical anti also doesn’t have as much invested in American energy independence because not very often is it the anti’s brother/sister/son/daughter going to fight our wars over energy. It’s usually ours.

    • The US hasn’t and isn’t fighting any wars for oil. There is no oil in Afghanistan, and the oil in Iraq is being sold on the world market, which means Iraq receives all the money from the sales.

      A number of companies from other nations are supplying the technical expertise to recover Iranian oil. American companies are there, but we don’t dominate, and we certainly don’t get a special deal on the oil.

      Meanwhile, domestic production of oil has hit an all-time high of 7.5 million barrels per day — which means we import less from countries that dislike us — the middle-east nations.

      Our largest oil imports come from Canada and Mexico.

    • “Fight our wars over energy”? Well, at least you’re being honest –What’s our oil doing under their sand!!?? If you stop to think about it for more than one second, you’ll see that we could have purchased every drop of Iraqi oil on the open market for far far less $$ than that senseless war has cost us –and we would have saved countless lives, as well. War is very very expensive in both blood and treasure –on that, I’m sure the “antis” and the “pros” could agree.

  3. Yoko and Sean enjoy the benefits of hundreds of millions of dollars derived from John Lennon. Undoubtedly much of that money is in stocks and bonds. However, even if the money managers handling the Lennon accounts were told to stay away from oil & gas investments, the investment firms themselves and hundreds of millions of Americans derive investment income from the energy industry.

    When I see these two clowns complaining about human use of hydrocarbons I think of fish protesting the abundance of water.

  4. It would be amusing to read an energy analysis of the lives of Sean and Yoko. How much oil, gas and coal is burnt for their benefit? Between heating and cooling their huge space in the Dakota Apartment building, their motor vehicles, their air travel, their cooking, their entertaining, their other homes, in total they probably burn more BTUs than Al Gore.

    Perhaps Sean and Yoko would show their utility bills to people who’d like to know how much anti-energy people spend on energy.

  5. I agree with this one, Mr. Shepstone!

    To nitpick: The more-anti-drilling-than-thous ALREADY lost, by a few years before the production end of fossil fuels came to their back yard, by apparently (what I do know in this connection is that I didn’t even know 99% of them until 2010!) WAITING UNTIL it came to their back yard to join me in being a basher of fossil fuels as I’d been trying to be for my whole life.

    And that is why we’re going to frac. I’m sorry it looks like you’ll have to wait a little bit (although I bet not too long) before my buddy SWN comes to your watershed to frac it as I’m enjoying having them frac mine. I guess you shouldn’t have defended Cabot, and/or you should have joined me in telling Tom Corbett to pay his DRBC dues.

  6. “They desperately seek to assuage their guilt at having done so undeservedly well by substituting their consciences for those they believe they can dominate. They also attach themselves to various causes they hope will allow them to do so without sacrificing any of the privileges that give rise to their guilt.”
    Interesting. I’m definitely looking into “The True Believer” as I think it will help my discussions with folks about natural gas drilling. Thanks.

  7. Good paying jobs are hard to find! But destroying the environment for greed and money is still senseless! We only get one earth! Now my son in law works for the gas rigs and i don’t want him to lose his job, but i do think they need to come up with less destructive ways to harvest the resources!

    • I appreciate your honestly expressed opinion but I don’t understand why you think the process is destructive. Finished gas wells are non-obtrusive and there is no evidence of problems from fracking, although drilling can occasionally result in methane migration – same as with drilling a water well.

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  9. a company that is set in shale gas hell and is a blaze with hydraulic fracturing should not be preaching about good sense .The ego of which you speak of is very enormous, to claim to know society so well, and the typical anti is you guys, with your anti democracy,anti health,and environment and anti conscious over all
    seems like you are a machine to me,
    Is this an accurate portrayal? perhaps you had failing as an artist growing up, perhaps you have worked to hard to enjoy LIFE, i won’t hold anything against you, while you encourage rape of our land, my family as there is no no other way to produce energy (right?) we can all fight for a drink of water from a polluted puddle after they get all that wonderful fracking.
    Bring your straw Tom,
    Don’t worry about the kids, they will fend for themselves out there right? What do they know about where food comes from, of the water in their glass, surely they are to ignorant to appreciate it scientifically and financially . it’s just unconstitutional to teach children environmental management these days, how dare them pro life people speak out against pro destruction for profit groups.shame shame.

    • Ms. Cookson’s overall demeanor and rebuttal speaks volumes about the blind ideology and total lack of technical expertise that drives her and her ilk. They constantly preach to us about using renewables while they themselves do not have them but expect us “gassers” to spend exorbitant amounts of money to buy them. I have a photovoltaic array and rest assured it will never be able to power a large city as a single cloud knocks its output by 80+% as seen by the digital readout of my inverter which converts the solar panels DC voltage output into usable AC. Intermittent power cannot drive our civilization now or in the future. Keep up the good work Tom as this thread is bringing “them” out of the woodwork.

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