Saturday, April 7, 2012

Fracking, poisoned water and earthquakes. The market at work

A week or two ago, an editorial in the Wall Street Journal praised the efficiency of the market over the public sector as it usually does.  One has to wonder how any serious journal could embark down such a road after public funds rescued the free market system from the edge of the abyss.  The Japanese nuclear disaster,  BP oil spill and various other market driven catastrophe's (mass starvation, disease etc) hold no sway over this journal of the 1%.  The worse things get, the more praise Murdoch's paper heaps on  the primacy of market forces. But----that's its job.  Were the leaders of the working  class to be such fierce defenders of our interests we'd be in good shape.

When these journals of the 1% (regrettably, many workers adopt these ideas that are against their own interests) tally up the figures as they report on the efficiency of private enterprise compared to the public sector, there is one figure they always leave out; environmental clean up.  As capital flows out of one industry to another or simply shifts production to a more profitable locale, the taxpayer steps in to clean up the mess.

There is a great deal of concern among environmentalists and communities about Fracking or hydraulic fracturing.  Fracking involves injecting a mix of salt water and chemicals in to cracks in rocks buried deep underground. The profit potential is great as millions of cubic feet of once inaccessible natural gas becomes available.

The problem is what to do with the mix of salt water and chemicals that the extraction companies inject to fracture the rock.  What the corporation's are doing right now is paving the way for further environmental destruction pumping the"oceans"  of toxic waste in to deep underground wells, "Out of sight out of mind" as Business Week puts it. These wells are dug for this purpose.

Ohio has 176 of these wells and 80 private companies operate them.  With the boom in fracking as oil is becoming harder to find and extraction more expensive the need for storing the waste is an industry in itself.  So Ohio has become one of the leading importers of this toxic waste. In the language of the 1% this is how we can create jobs and save communities. Oil and gas companies pumped 511 million gallons of this toxic stew in to Ohio's wells last year according to Bloomberg Business Week.

As the 1% shift the burden of capitalist crisis on to the backs of workers and youth through combinations of cuts in public services, wages and jobs, they blackmail our communities in to accepting all sorts of socially and environmentally destructive ventures to raise revenue. In this case, well owners pay the state of Ohio 5 cents a barrel for waste that originates within the state and 20 cents for out of state waste that Ohio imports.  For being a one of the leading dumping grounds, the citizens of Ohio received $1.45 million in fees last year. To put that in perspective we might remind ourselves that Tim Cook, the new Apple boss has been guaranteed a salary of $378 million for his first year on the job.  That's $189,000 per hour by Bloomberg Business Week's calculations.

Ohio's governor, John Kasich is supposed to be introducing new laws to protect the environment but we know that the corporations easily skirt these laws. Kasich has proposed taxing the oil and gas drillers 4% of the market value of the oil the extract.  The industry is not pleased claiming such a tax will "hurt" small companies trying to get a foot up in the industry.  But the issue is not regulation or assisting new entrepreneurs, it is whether there should be such an industry at all.  How we produce energy and who owns and controls that production is the issue.  Energy, like housing or health care or education in a capitalist economy is a business and the aim of business is profit and capital accumulation for the minority that do control and own it. Social need and environmental harmony is incidental to profit taking.

A by-product of pumping waste in to underground wells is toxic drinking water.  But an even more ominous effect is what BW describes as the "bizarre series of earthquakes near Youngstown." where there is no record of such activity prior D&L energy, which is based there injecting wastewater in to wells. Naturally, the corporation claims that a link between the wells and earthquakes has not been "conclusively determined". This is another wasteful enterprise that taxpayers have to oinvolve ourselves in, fighting legal battles with corporations.  Despite massive evidence proving otherwise and hundreds of millions dead or sick as a result of smoking nicotine laced cigarettes, lawyers for these corporations denied emphatically that there was no link.  The costs to the taxpayer of tobacco related deaths and illness and court battles runs in to the trillions.

Capitalism creates this; it cannot end it
The 1%'s mass media wants us to forget about the environmental and social catastrophe's that occur as a result of the market.  As we have raised repeatedly, Katrina, the BP spill, the nuclear catastrophe in Japan are all market driven; they are not "natural disasters" as their media claims all the time implying that they are not preventable as "acts of god". The horrible aftermath of these catastrophe's cannot be understood as the effects will last for centuries.  We have no idea as of yet what effect  the BP spill has had on Gulf of Mexico's ecosystem.  Bluefin Tuna spawn there, we will not know the effect on this fish until the next generations, same with Dolphins.

The capitalist class cannot regulate itself to produce in harmony with nature and for social need.  How we produce energy, food, shelter (housing) and the necessities of life cannot be left to a few hundred thousand individuals and their monopolies.  It is not a personal question, capitalists do what they do because the system demands it. Only a democratic socialist system, a world federation of democratic socialist states can resolve the social and environmental crises that capitalism heaps on society that will eventually lead to the end of life as we know it.   We owe it to our children and the future of humanity to protect the natural world and our species.  No one explains it more succinctly than Marx, who, more than any other economist of the time, unearthed the secrets of the system in which we live:

“Use values must therefore never be looked upon as the real aim of the capitalist; neither must the profit on any single transaction.  The restless never-ending process of profit-making alone is what he aims at.  This boundless greed after riches, this passionate chase after exchange value, is common to the capitalist and the miser; but while the miser is merely a capitalist gone mad, the capitalist is a rational miser.   The never ending augmentation of exchange value, which the miser strives after, by seeking to save his money from circulation, is attained by the more acute capitalist, by constantly throwing it afresh in to circulation." (The Transformation of Money in to Capital)

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