Shale Drilling Dreams, Propaganda and Politics

by S. Tom Bond on February 10, 2013

Marcellus Gas Wells

Shale Drilling Dreams, Propaganda and Politics
Commentary by S. Tom Bond, Resident Farmer, Lewis County, WV
When Shale gas drilling began, expectations were exceedingly high.  Since then the ultimate recoverable reserves projected have declined to a fraction of the original estimates.  Recovery of the gas in place is a disappointment, only 10% at best, as is the rapid decline of individual wells.  Nor did anyone foresee the inelasticity of demand and the decline in price.
Now few comprehend the oversupply due to so much drilling beyond needs, and the likely continuation of that oversupply for some two years or more.  In fact, the entrepreneurs who managed the “gold rush” seem to have been blissfully unaware of quantitative aspects of what they were doing, although they were experts on leasing and garnering investment.
Shale drilling went through no “scale up” phase to determine effects on the world around it.  The industry used toxic substances in truckload lots, and explored the depths with hot liquids without investigating solubility of minerals buried there.  Ignoring the industry record of casing failures, and lots of “wishful thinking,” brought the industry from George Mitchell’s financially successful experiment into widespread use of his methods in little more than a wink of the eye.  It was all finance and engineering, not much thinking of any other kind. 
Today, propaganda is used to bridge the gap between those early dreams and the observations of people who look with eyes wide open.  Propaganda is designed to influence people not especially informed about a topic. It seeks to make people confident about what they don’t understand. Any questioning of ideas and/or methods presented by propaganda is resented and discouraged, because propaganda is based on authoritarianism and doesn’t like intellectual standards of free inquiry. 
Doubtless, propaganda has been around since tribal times, but it has gained force in civilized society.  Modern mass communications, being one way from the speaker to the listener, is ideal for propaganda. More recent person-to-person communication, such as telephone and internet, makes propaganda easier to counter.
Advertising is doubtless the most familiar and widely accepted form of propaganda.  No one expects the business to give a well rounded account of characteristics of the product. (Tobacco companies had to be forced to put a warning on cigarette packs.  Drug companies are forced to include warning in their ads. The rest largely go free.)
Politics is a very powerful aid to corporations.  A few people can work together on a boat or in a small factory or on a farm without favorable legislation, but no corporation of any substantial size can work without favorable legislation involving many phases of its operation.  These range from gathering capital to labor relations to distribution of the product.
In politics, both electing politicians to office and lobbying for favorable legislation, is preeminently a matter of propaganda.  Can you imagine any politician really “coming clean” and telling the public why he/she might not be good for the body politic?  Can you imagine a lobbyist explaining the “con’s” of a law he is paid to advance as well as the “pro’s?”
Modern man swims in a sea of propaganda. Advertising increasingly resembles the stuff of dreams. Beautiful models sell cosmetics and cars, even to the homely and poor. 
Reasoning about utility of the a product is almost unheard of.  And reality in the form of contrary experience or scientific investigation is fought bitterly by the elite.  All too may people do not recognize the validity of sensory experience resulting from direct contact or of carefully gained analytical, scientific fact.  In the words of T. S. Eliot, “Mankind can not bear much reality.” 
With shale drilling, propaganda is a form of projecting power, like war or bribery would be.  All three methods rely on economic strength.  Wars are ridiculously expensive and risky, bribery soon exhausts the economic strength, but propaganda is affordable and safe.
Our society accepts propaganda, including the shale drilling story, and many do not distinguish the story from objective reality.  People in contact with the reality wonder why the unaffected individuals adopt a viewpoint, a picture, so different from the scene. There is no question why an elite projects the picture, though. It advances their organization and prerogatives. 
The problem for those in the scene is to penetrate the propaganda to protect their interests, and society’s, using the facts on the ground. We must study and communicate, our best tool.  Use pictures, scientific data, and testimony of the affected.  We must never let up.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

R. Scott Mick February 11, 2013 at 7:51 am

I hope that people do just that. Ask hard questions and expect real answers. We need to express to our governments that we EXPECT protection of our lands and the health of our people. We must continue to educate and look at the realities of this industry and not the propaganda spread like manure on the fields. We need to dig a little deeper and push for honesty.

If you see illegal dumping and disposal or even think it then report it. When you know that large volumes of chemicals leaving in the form of dust clouds around fracjobs is not good for you and environment, take pics and report it. We must make a stand today or we will continue to fall for anything, this has went to far and we as a community need to take action to ensure our futures and way of life in appalacia. Educate on facts not propaganda, look at sources of info and question what motivates them.


Sharron Burgess February 12, 2013 at 1:14 am

This is one of the best, if not the best explanation of the problems with fracking and the political, economical problems facing this country. Couldn’t agree more!!

Sharron Burgess


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