Saturday, August 2, 2014

The suicide stage of capitalism

Capitalism's glory days are fast fading in the rear-view mirror. All the low-hanging fruit has been plucked. The easy oil, the easy timber, the easy gold and silver are long gone.

But capital needs to be deployed somewhere. Therefore, once the possibility of more Oklahoma gushers was exhausted, you got offshore drilling. That got us underwater gushers, which sometimes kept gushing even when equipment breakdowns prevented the capture of that oil.

BP's Deepwater Horizon catastrophe may have destroyed the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem for the next thousand years, but that was an accident, not a deliberate strategy.

That is where it differs from the next stage of exploiting ever higher hanging fruit. With offshore drilling we may have been taking foolish risks, but we were still basically drilling a hole in the earth to let the oil come out.

Fracking is an entirely different matter. We are not drilling a hole to "let" the oil and gas out; we are using industrial-scale technology to drill holes, into which we pump poisons under tremendous pressure, to force out oil and gas that doesn't want to come out.

How any person with an ounce of sense can let this pass is a mystery. Maybe it's the reassurances of all those industry experts. Maybe it's the promise of easy money. Maybe it's the promise of jobs.

Whatever it is, entire national economies are doubling down on a process that entails grave long-term risks in return for short-term gains.

UK PM David Cameron recently declared his country wide open for fracking. Poland's Tusk has gone down the same road. Hopefully local opposition can stop the madness.

Fracking is also part of the salvation strategy being foisted on the hapless Ukrainian people by their "friends" in Washington. No less a Washington insider than the son of VP Biden is helping to bring fracking to Ukraine.

While industry shills continue to deny it, there is a rapidly accumulating body of evidence linking fracking to contamination of groundwater and to seismic events in American states that have permitted the practice.

We can survive without oil. We cannot survive without water. Water resources must, in a sane world, trump the need for capital to maximize its profits.

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