Naturally this made them none too popular with the locals who proceeded to make a bit of a fuss, blocking roads and occupying sites. With the international media starting to sniff around and realising they were sitting on a bit of a PR disaster, Chevron responded by going around handing out flyers explaining why having a shale gas well in your back yard is kind of swell.
It would seem to be yet another example of an all too typical tale. Representatives of a corporation show up with a truck load of money outside the door step of some impoverished government. In return for which they get Carte Blanche to do whatever they want in said country. Inevitably this leads to exploitation and repression of local communities and destruction of the environment. A good example is the actions of Chevron’s in Ecuador and the toxic legacy they’ve left behind. Here they began using drilling practices and waste disposal techniques that were illegal in the US causing enormous harm to the Jungle environment.
The new Grapes of Wrath
Now some readers might well say, oh isn’t this terrible, but that’s some rural Eastern European backwater, why this sort of thing could never happen in a Western Country like the US. Couldn’t it?
Well look no further that the Fracking boom in the North Eastern USA for proof. Here we hear tales of worker exploitation, where many who flocked to the jobs on offer, like some modern day Grapes of Wrath. Now they have to work long tiring shifts for limited pay, often living in their cars or in trailer parks without access to running water. Indeed running water is now so scarce local businesses in the area have to lock their toilets to stop them being turned into impromptu shower cubicles by oil workers!Those lucky enough to secure a roof over their heads have seen rents sky rocket. A beat up motel room in Hicksville North Dakota will now set you back more per month than an apartment on Manhattan. And given the nature of fracking, whereby wells tend to have a very short active life span, there is a constant need for such operations to move, uprooting workers and all the associated hardware and leaving an awful mess in their wake.
And if a shale gas well blows up in your back yard, what can you expect from Chevron? A free pizza! So okay, not quite as bad as Romania!In short the Shale oil and gas fields of the US are starting to resemble something of the wild west. Now while some Americans, who have learnt their history via Hollywood movies, have various romantic notions about the cowboy era, in truth it was an era when crime, violence, prostitution and debauchery were rampant (and indeed there has been a jump in crime in some areas where fracking is taking place). An era where the only real winners from oil booms of the past were the “robber baron” billionaires (such as Rockerfeller) of the time who’d make the Koch Brothers look like Gandhi.
Another factor related to shale gas fracking has been the level of methane leakage from such wells. Given that methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas any significant leakage of methane would represent a significant level of greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed some worry that shale gas might be worse than coal as far as overall greenhouse gas emissions. Recent evidence now points to the possibility that the leakage levels have been significantly underestimated…by as much as 50%!
There are in short, many reasons for opposing shale gas drilling and pursuing alternatives to fossil fuels. Climate change is one, the destruction of the environment another. But the corrupt dirty politics of these industries is clearly one of them. Ultimately we have to ask aloud the question, do we really want to see this played out in the UK?