Saturday, April 14, 2012

Hey, Barack! You Don't Know Frack

I have never seen a dual presidency quite like that of Barack Obama. Candidate Obama is in full-bore populist rampage mode. Fair shot, fair shake, fair share, put the glare on the millionaire! (Romney).

Then, there is President Obama, who is in (literally) full-bore deregulation, pro-business mode. The latest shocker was in the form of a Friday news dump that took even some in the oil and gas industry by surprise. The White House announced the formation of a Gas Fracking Task Force made up of a panoply of federal agencies and industry kingpins. Its purpose is to streamline and alleviate those onerous regulations that now require frackers to prove that injecting millions of gallons of water and toxic chemicals into shale in order to extract natural gas is safe. This is a huge hint that the major fracking polluters will be allowed to regulate themselves, just as Wall Street is starting to police itself again, and e-Coli and salmonella-contaminated factory farms can now inspect themselves to help reduce bad government overreach. Corporations have long complained that rules and regulations designed to protect the public health and welfare make it too hard for them to make a buck. Obama appears to be listening.  

If Republicans were acting like the president, you can be sure there would be an outcry from what is left of the left. But when a Democrat acts like Dick Cheney, and colludes with energy corporations in their ongoing rape of the earth, there is nothing but silence. 

Unlike Cheney, though, the Obama Administration has announced its new Frack Force with openness and self-righteousness. The only sneaky part is that the heavy hitters of the oil and gas industry just happened to be waiting in the wings the minute Obama signed his executive order ("Supporting Safe and Responsible Development of Unconventional Domestic Natural Gas Resources")  and then proceeded for their first sit-down with the government agencies they effectively own. From Obama's official announcement:
In 2011, natural gas provided 25 percent of the energy consumed in the United States. Its production creates jobs and provides economic benefits to the entire domestic production supply chain, as well as to chemical and other manufacturers, who benefit from lower feedstock and energy costs. By helping to power our transportation system, greater use of natural gas can also reduce our dependence on oil. And with appropriate safeguards, natural gas can provide a cleaner source of energy than other fossil fuels.
For these reasons, it is vital that we take full advantage of our natural gas resources, while giving American families and communities confidence that natural and cultural resources, air and water quality, and public health and safety will not be compromised.
Translation: You are all fracked, whether you like it or not. But, skilled politician that I am, I will never use that dreaded F word in any of my spiels. Big Business will rake in record profits and provide a few temporary, low-paying jobs. We say that this cheaper natural gas will help power our transportation systems without mentioning that high-speed rail and other transportation and infrastructure bills have been DOA  for a long time. This Frack Force will aid my re-election bid by allowing me to continue to spout the canard that it will reduce our dependence on foreign oil. This is utter bullshit, since although domestic production is higher than ever,  the oil and gas extracted from our lands are the property of multinational corporations who sell it on the global market. What is fracked in the Banana Republic of the Homeland will not stay here. It will be sold abroad, at a huge profit to our tax-evading corporations, who will continue to hoard their ill-gotten gains 

When it is burned, natural gas of course is cleaner than oil or coal. As the president you elected to serve and protect you, I choose not to mention that the evidence is clear that the actual process of extracting it is a major and proven polluter of our domestic water supply. People are already getting sick by drinking poisoned well water. The EPA is already being forced to deliver potable drinking water to victims of fracking. This, of course, is being done at taxpayer expense. Polluters continue to enjoy our long sacred national tradition of never cleaning up their own messes. We have the SuperFund program for that.

The government bureaucrats are right on top of things, people! Our aim is to lull you and to dull you, and give you that false sense of security. Then, when the next deregulatory disaster strikes, we will have covered our asses through the creation of this phony task force.  Ooops! Mistakes were made!  We tried, or at least made ourselves appear to be trying.  Nobody could ever, ever have foreseen......

The Executive Order of Friday the 13th came mere weeks after oil and gas tycoons griped to Cass Sunstein, the Obama Administration's go-to guy for deregulation, that rules making them divulge the poisons used in fracking are cutting into their bottom line. One of their demands is to be allowed to voluntarily inform the public on just what measures they are taking to keep us safe. The industry currently runs a "disclosure" website called FracFocus, which purports to divulge chemicals used, and other fracking arcana. All their chemicals, of course, are either good for you, innocuous, or rigidly contained within pipes that will never break -- even in manmade earthquakes! The only glitch is thatwhen you visit the website, you discover some of their well data are more than a year out of date! I wonder if the execs were honest about that little catch. I wonder if the White House even asked.

Business Roundtable Chief Lobbyist John Engler reveals on the BRT website that he met personally with President Obama last month to urge relaxation of public health and safety rules in order for the industry to pocket more money, more quickly. He says the Frack Force is a good first step.  But in the spirit of bottomless sociopathic greed, he also complained that Obama is not also forming a task force to explore freakin' fracking for oil, too. There is crude a-wasting in North Dakota, for crying out loud. Public lands, Indian lands, private lands. They want it all.

As Dave Dayen of Firedoglake notes in a post today, not one independent outside environmental group has been invited to meet with the Frack Force. Nobody from the National Resources Defense Council, or the Sierra Club, or the Water Council. And most especially, not film-maker Josh Fox of "Gasland" fame. He might have documented the private discussions, or even offered President Obama a glass of fracky-brown Pennsyltucky well water to taste -- and we can't have that, can we?

The Famous Exploding Tap Water Scene from Gasland


Jay - Ottawa said...

Let's see ... millions of Americans broke with no jobs to allow recovery, millions of people thrown out of their homes, millions of people made so fearful that they'll trade in their liberties for protection. And now millions of acres of the ground under their feet will be systematically poisoned, with related damage to the air and water they just might have to take in at some point of the day.

What's currently happening to the nation recalls one of those classic short stories wherein a well-to-do family for some reason must sell off its heirlooms one by one for stale loaves of bread and is eventually forced to chop up all the fine furniture of the once great mansion so the family can survive a winter. Don't forget the approaching flash of canons lighting up the sky night after night in the distance. The final paragraphs of such tales describe more desperation, but not to worry. We're not quite that far along in the story. But we're getting there.

4Runner said...

BFF a/k/a Barack Frack Farce

Valerie said...

Great post, Karen. Very informative.

Well, Barry has been a busy little boy selling out to the energy industry! Of all the environmental disasters, nuclear and those which threaten the drinkable water supply alarm me the most.

When - oh, when! - will Americans wake up? This is about OUR WATER people!

But then I have to ask, how much of this is being reported in the MSM. Talk about fiddling as Rome burns!

Elizabeth Adams said...

Okay, I have been soooooo wanting to chime in since Karen did the Buffett nursery rhyme. But I didn't have the time until this evening to work on it. Using today's blog post, I came up with:

Shoot in the poisons suck the gas

There is more money to amass

We promise not to raise your rates

For starting fires when washing plates.

Frackety frack (don't talk back)

Karen Garcia said...

Elizabeth, that is just great. Thanks for the laugh.

Elizabeth Adams said...

I was just HOPING it would make you laugh! I then thought it would have been better in the last line to put:

Frackety frack (we love Barack)

Zee said...


If independent environmental groups weren't invited to meet with the "Frack Force," it can only be because they don't contribute enough money to the President's election campaign fund:

Even former Representative Patrick Kennedy calls these "contributions" what they really are: bribes in return for favors from the White House.

'Patrick J. Kennedy, the former representative from Rhode Island, who donated $35,800 to an Obama re-election fund last fall while seeking administration support for a nonprofit venture, said contributions were simply a part of “how this business works.”

“If you want to call it ‘quid pro quo,’ fine,” he said. “At the end of the day, I want to make sure I do my part.”'
--Patrick Kennedy as quoted by the New York Times

Clearly, NRDC, The Sierra Club and the Water Council need to pony up mo' money.

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks, Zee. I was heartened to read some of the more popular comments, none of which defended the president. Barry is not having a good weekend, what with the Secret Service prostitution scandal and now the soft bribery scandal as told by the (gasp!) NY Times.

I recently read a great book on the influence of money on politicians, called "Republic, Lost" by Lawrence Lessig. The author is a recovering conservative (once clerked for Scalia), calls all the presidential and congressional contributors "weighted votes". In other words, a quid pro quo for every big donation is not necessary or expected; rather, the influence peddling is done gradually, over time, and is insidious.

For example, enough hedge fund Obama bundlers were averse to the Volcker Rule (separating private investment banking activities from consumer lending activities) and it was discreetly forgotten. Volcker himself was banished from the White House.

The Buffett Rule makes regular folk feel good and rich people laugh... they can easily avoid it by using other loopholes or just hiding the cash, legally or illegally.

Valerie said...

Elizabeth - Priceless! REALLY great! And I agree - the last line you added/replaced made the poem perfect.

I love that you and Rose are contributing to the comments here. You are both very welcome additions to what Jay-Ottawa has coined the Sardonicky Salon.

Apparently this forming of commissions to "investigate" issues is BFFs (thanks 4Runner) strategy for sitting on an issue and quietly gathering all those corporate vested interests together, until he can do their bidding. It makes it look like he is doing something serious but in reality, he is just giving the lobbyists cover to corrupt the laws. What a fox in the henhouse! As you said, Karen, not a lot of difference between Barry and Cheney on this one.
It seems like the only issues that separate Obama and Romney are abortion and separation of church and state. Other than that, they are two peas in a pod.

On a brighter note - OK, a small glimmer of hope - Ralph Nader has backed Rocky Anderson for Pres. Don't know what is going on with the Greens that Ralph would endorse Rocky over Jill Stein, the Greens candidate, but there you have it. Ralph always has done the right thing over what is politically expedient. (Thanks Jay-Ottawa, for passing along the link:

That settles it for me. I am going to write in Rocky if he is not on the ballot in WA State.

Zee said...


While I would not go so far as to call myself a "recovering Conservative," I would call myself a thinking Conservative who has had his eyes opened to some important truths by some Progressives.

Thanks for pointing me to the book by Lawrence Lessig, which I will add to my semi-infinite and growing shelf of books to be read just as soon as possible.

Denis Neville said...

David Swanson writes, “As We Ruin Our Kids' Planet, They Take Us to Court”:

“We claim to care about children. In fact we do care about children, at least our own children. Yet somehow we mentally set aside the fact that we are condemning them to a future of misery and suffering. Our brains are well-trained to perform this feat. If we did not constantly set aside the fact that we are each about to die, we would go insane. We must of necessity set outside our everyday awareness the single most important fact of our existence: its brevity. Many people aid themselves in this project by fantasizing about a future life in the sky or heaven or paradise or ghost land or whatever. This, too, is perfect mental training for setting out of our consciousness the fact that those we care about and those that they will care about are going to have to live in a severely damaged home. If we could stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and shake ourselves by the lapels, we would -- I have to think -- halt everything we're doing other than pressuring our genocidal government to shift its priorities from making war to protecting our planet.”

Swanson directs us to the story of the kids who are suing the U.S. government on behalf of kids who will come after them:!lawsuit


Swanson writes: “So now it's a case between a bunch of kids, common sense, decency, and science on the one hand, and the U.S. government and some of the world's largest corporations and biggest recipients of federal subsidies on the other. The polluters' defense will be that they have a "legally protected cognizable interest to freely emit CO2." In other words, they've been destroying the sky for a while now and must therefore be allowed to finish the job. Or rather, that would be their defense except that they immediately filed a motion to dismiss the entire case, a motion that will be heard on May 11th.”

“We have, I think, a moral responsibility to support them, to spread the word about what they are doing, to promote their website, to fund their cause, to call radio shows, write newspapers, organize lectures, distribute materials, organize action from the Occupy movement, and if at all possible join in two upcoming events in Washington, D.C., one of them a march, the other the court hearing. Let's swarm the Mall and pack the courthouse!”

“Let's not leave all the work to our children.”


Jay - Ottawa said...

Thanks, Karen, for your post about fracking. It opens up the issue of resource use, which is bigger than all the political theater in Washington, but less fun.

In Upstate New York today the temperatures will reach the high eighties, and a lot of home and office air conditioners will be turned on. That goes for air conditioners in our cars. So what?

Denis tells us the younger generation is, in so many words, taking the rest of us to court for snuffing out their future by carrying on with our customary way of life. How many of us are on the kids’ side? By my way of life it appears I’m cheering for the energy companies, not the kids who are suing.

And doesn’t one administration after another go to all kinds of extremes to protect “our way of life.” That’s the problem: our way of life. If you can count to five on your fingers, you have to admit our way of life is unsustainable in the long run.

Now the number crunchers are telling us our way of life is unsustainable in the near term. Forget about "Après moi, le déluge." The water is already up to our ankles.

To quote Jack Nicholson’s bug-eyed character in “A Few Good Men”: “You want me on that wall!” Yes, we do, Colonel. And, furthermore, we want someone fracking for more energy supplies, despite what we say at our cocktail parties. Fracking, preferably, in someone else’s backyard. Do you suppose you can manage that, Obama, Romney, Anybody? We need you on that drilling rig.

Next to the giant global warming issue, all other issues are pigmies. Fracking won’t put off the day of accounting; it will only hasten it. According to Bill Ayers, the coming revolution will not be a watershed event. Ideally, it must be a long -- but not too slow -- evolution in the way each one of us thinks and lives his or her days.

We have got to face this energy/way of life thing more directly. Otherwise, the revolution will turn out to be a pollution crash accompanied by an energy crash causing a resource crash leading to a dramatic population crash.

Sounds apocalyptic, doesn’t it. I can’t believe I’m talking like this. Maybe James Hansen, Bill McKibben and David Swanson, among others, are the screwballs and the energy corporations and their political backers A-OK in what they’re doing, drilling, fracking and providing us with what we want to maintain our level of consumption, which defines our sacrosanct way of life?

Maybe the cool, only slightly impatient Bill Ayers at the University of Wisconsin can lay it out for you more persuasively in these two 5-minute interviews.

Anonymous said...

Ralph Nader has backed Rocky Anderson for Pres. Don't know what is going on with the Greens that Ralph would endorse Rocky over Jill Stein, the Greens candidate, but there you have it.

This FDL diary suggests something fishy may be going on in the Green party--


At that time I was a mad supporter for Cynthia McKinney. However, I noticed right away that I held many common political beliefs with the Ralph Nader supporters. I viewed them as allies and still do to this day.

However a very different dynamics was developing in the National Greens. I noticed that those Ralph Nader supporters were bringing up very serious concerns about the process. Concerns which I found to be almost completely founded and correct the more I looked into it.

Worse yet, I witnessed what I can only call a systematic attempt to silence and squelch these critical voices of dissent. I watched as people were thrown off Committees, thrown off of the Green Delegates Discussion groups. In almost every case it was a Ralph Nader supporter. Or someone speaking up for their rights. While those who were, let us say not so supportive of them getting away with so much bad behavior without any consequence. It happened over and over. At one point we “dissidents” called this the “Committee To End Free Speech.” It was horrifying. I was one of the last to be booted off and banned from any discussion. I watched as the people who remained cheered, actually cheered as these fine, noble and honest people were stricken from the organization.

In Minnesota meanwhile I was still a supporter of Cynthia McKinney. There was no-one willing to be the statewide coordinator for her campaign. So, myself and a lovely young and dedicated lady called Heidi volunteered to do so. As an aside Heidi also became a National Delegate for the Greens and she was also horrified at what she witnessed.

Heidi and myself started to organize and call meetings, to build up Cynthia’s campaign. On the second meeting we were interrupted. A gentleman called Mark came in and informed us that we were no longer involved in the campaign. That the National Green Party had decided to appoint someone else. His name was David Strand. David then did virtually nothing. The local Mankato Green Party activists, who also loved Cynthia complained to me about not being able to gain lawn signs or any literature. I told them there was nothing they could do. They eventually got a hold of some people in California themselves who provided them with lawn signs. One of which I own to this day.

The man appointed by the National Greens did organize an event. It was in Minneapolis and was in a horrible, noisy location. We could hardly hear Cynthia speak. On top of which, Mr Strand got on to the local community radio station, KFAI and did an interview as the McKinney spokesperson. During that interview all he did was talk about the Democratic Party and their candidates.

By this time I had just about given up on the Green Party. Along with all those dedicated activists who are vital to build up any organization.


If Cavlan's account is at all accurate it sounds like the Greens are turning into another dictatorially-run Kabuki opposition party. In that case Anderson would be the only meaningful alternative.