Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Fracking Ban

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Fracking Ban

Article excerpt

The week before Christmas, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a permanent ban on fracking in New York State. The reason he gave was concern about the health risks posed by fracking technologies that inject sand and chemicals into rock formations to extract oil and gas. But the real reason was pressure from environmental groups.

As has been the case with the Keystone pipeline, in New York the opposition comes from those concerned about global warming. Super-rich activists like Tom Steyer have adopted the cause, which today plays much the same role that fears of overpopulation played in the 1960s and '70s. Back then the rich promoted abortion and contraception. To address global warming, Steyer and others fund groups that use whatever means available to fight any expansion of the "carbon economy." In New York, the means happen to be the dangers of water contamination and other health hazards.

In all likelihood there are health risks associated with fracking, just as there are health risks associated with oil refineries, steel mills, and automobile factories. These risks need to be addressed by regulation. But as we deliberate about what to regulate and to what degree, we also need to think about the benefits. In the case of fracking, we need to consider the ways in which increased oil-and-gas production contributes to economic growth and thereby helps the working class.

North Dakota is in the midst of a tremendous economic boom. It's a place where a high-school-educated man can make a very good living in the expanding oil-and-gas industry, whose expansion depends on fracking technologies. …

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