Fraccidents coming to a neighborhood near you, soon

The “Texas House Approves “Denton Fracking Bill”” aka HB40, marches closer being signed into law by Governor Abbott. All those places, like say, Austin, where fracking is something mostly invisible that happens way out west, need to wake up.

The bill at his heart, stops cities from banning fracking within the city limits. When fracking is out of sight, it’s mostly out of mind. Flying into Dallas Forth Worth airport this morning surprised me though at the scale of the problem. You can see from the following picture I took out the window of the plane, to many it’s already a reality.

Fracking 1

Which would all be fine if you are inclined to believe the industry, and that the earthquakes are coincidental, and the groundwater pollution is unrelated and the methane naturally occurring, you’d think you’ll be OK. With this State law in place, there is nothing to stop them fracking the Eagle shale in say Zilker Park or Auditorium shores. Seriously.

Of course, even if the earthquakes and methane laced water are not their problem, the frackers still have their issues, these are captured and documented on the earthjustice page. I’m left wondering though if these are all the accidents, or just those reported. If you cruise around some of the Texas County Roads it’s not unusual to find this sort of hastily laid pipe which crosses creeks on pieces of wood support, hastily strung under bridges, and generally, out of sight, out of mind, in this case County Rd 615 in Alvarado, Texas

Why Nations Fail, does this apply to Texas?

Why Nations Fail is a fascinating book, by Acemoglu of MIT and political scientist, James Robinson. They posit that economies that have abundant natural resources can be easily captured by groups that become politically powerful. The authors view is that an abundance of natural resources, which may seem like a blessing, often turns out to be a blessing for a select few and, for the rest of a country’s citizens, a curse. It’s called the natural-resource curse.

east-texas-oil-field[1]The natural-resource curse is well understood economic equation, there are a number of papers on it, this one by Sachs and Warner, the show that countries with great natural resource wealth tend nevertheless to grow more slowly than resource-poor countries. Resource-abundant countries tended to be high-price economies and, benefited by the few.

With the media here in Texas, and especially Austin, currently focused, on prices, the tax burden; the impact of the thousands of people moving  Texas;  and John Stewart Daily lampooning Texas, from inside Austin itself; and an increasing sense of conflict among ordinary people, I wonder if Texas, through it’s natural abundance of land, oil, shale oil isn’t in fact setting itself up to fail?

Certainly ahead of next weeks mid-term elections, the 10/1 Austin City Council election, the vote on Prop-1. all the signs are there. While the abundance of natural-resources has lulled people into a false sense of security, allowing various groups to drive conflict in order to gain control of the State Institutions. Classic theory in practice.

While this would normally be something you’d expect in 3rd world countries such as Sierra Leone, Angola, Venezuela and Nigeria, is it so impossible that it could happen here?

The signs are that it is. Texas is increasingly dropping in national ranking, and internationally worse still. Despite the abundant wealth garnered from the Oil boom, and the more recent Gas/Shale boom, the bulk of that money resides indeed in the hands of the few. Texas has

Oxfam has a solution paper to the natural-resource curse. It starts by saying “get your hands on the money”. In this case, I think rather than get our hands on the money, it would be better to follow Norways lead and create a world leading Sovereign Wealth fund and use that to improve the State, and services that Texas itself has. What are we currently doing?  Raiding the rainy day fund to improve the roads, the rainy day fund aka The Economic Stabilization Fund, or the Texas version of a sovereign Wealth Fund, nice.

Water, water everywhere…

It’s not the claim in this article, well researched and with many links that scare me that some 30 Texas towns are running out of water, that I find scary. I’m sure overtime, given the size of Texas there is some natural occurrence of this, and it can be measured and to some degree predicted.

What I find most concerning, and it’s not the first time I’ve heard it, but when you see it in writing on a respectable website, it really hits home. It’s this

We’ve got to get floods. We’ve got to get a hurricane to move up in our country and just saturate everything to replenish the aquifer,” he said. “Because when the water is gone. That’s it. We’re gone.

 

The quote is attributed to a Buck Owens, rancher. Owens reserved his anger for the contractors who drilled 104 water wells on his leased land, to supply the oil companies. Water levels were dropping in his wells because of the vast amounts of water being pumped out of the Edwards-Trinity-Plateau Aquifer, a 34,000 sq mile water bearing formation.

So, lets recap

  • Fracking has accelerated and is draining an Aquifer that is 34,000 sq miles
  • Texas is a Republican mostly “god fairing”, climate denying state
  • We are increasingly hoping for a god or natural disaster to save our water
  • Said natural disaster is likely to cause significant harm to the property and lives of many of its own residents to make a difference
  • The Republican state government in general doesn’t believe in big federal government, but isn’t past asking for our share of its disaster relief when it suits them.
  • Oil and gas from fracking is being shipped offshore to be sold on the international market, it doesn’t directly make us energy independent.
  • If fracking made us energy independent, we’d be preserving it and restricting it’s extraction for when we really need it
  • The reduction in fracking would at least give the aquifers a chance of refilling naturally.

Does anyone else see the conflict going on here?