The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Ethical Priorities: frack, kill, keep people homeless

In the US there are five times more houses sitting empty than there are homeless peopleIn the EU there are twice as many empty houses as homeless.  In the US, the EPA’s budget has been cut 25% since 2010.

To say that having houses sitting empty while people have no shelter is an ethical abomination is an understatement.

To cut the EPA while the Oceans are acidifying, fish stocks are collapsing, climate change is continuing and will wipe hundreds of millions of poeople minimum, and while the world is in the middle of a human caused great die-off of species is an ethical abomination.

Meanwhile there is plenty of money for drones and for spying.  And even more money for the bankers who are sitting on empty homes.

This is deliberate government policy.  Be clear, the government effectively owns those homes, since it underwrites almost the entire mortgage market.  It could do something other than just leave them empty, but its first priority is to artificially keep housing prices high by keeping supply off the market, and to slowly transfer those houses to private investors so they can use them as rental property.

Likewise, Obama talks a good game on the environment,  but actual government policy under his administration has been to increase domestic hydrocarbon production as fast as possible: which means fracking and unconventional oil, both of which are vastly harmful to the climate and the environment, and which poison water supplies.  Destroying your own country’s water supply in exchange for a short term boost in oil production is the very definition of short sighted, crazy and evil: the number of people who will die because of poisoned water supplies, and because that water can’t (or shouldn’t) be used to grow crops is immense.

Watch the hand: actual government policy is to impoverish you, destroy the land, air and sea, and to make you sick.

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  1. Pelham

    Re fracking: It’s benefits may be two-fold for industry.

    1) It yields oil, perpetuating our dependence on that particular scarce resource, whose price can be profitably manipulated due to demand inelasticity.

    2) It creates another scarce resource whose price can be profitably manipulated due to demand inelasticity: potable water.

  2. One of the things which constantly amazes me if the total lack of attention paid to Obama’s promotion of hydrocarbon production, other than to applaud him for the economic benefit of “energy independence” which he has provided. It is the most astonishing example of polishing one side of a coin while blinding one’s self to the obverse that I have ever seen in politics. Supporters praise the benefits of his “drill baby drill” energy policy while ignoring the rapine aspects, while opponents merely ignore the whole subject.

    He is drawing praise for dragging his feet on the Keystone pipeline, but no signifi8cant criticism for refusing to forbid it, and meanwhile if opening domestic lands and waters to drilling at a rate that makes the pipeline a proverbial drop in a barrel.

  3. delta_log_R

    The danger of “fracking” has been overstated.

    Think about it this way. There are rock units below the earth’s surface that contain potable water, and there are rocks below the earth’s surface that contain hydrocarbons. Typically several thousand feet separate that hydrocarbon reservoirs from the aquifers. The idea that somehow operators can induce fractures that travel across several thousand feet of very heavy and heterogeneous rock to pollute aquifers just doesn’t hold water, as it were.

    However, there is a real danger in fracking fluid. There are nasty chemicals in that stuff, and oil and gas companies (and service companies) need their feet held to the fire to ensure none of that contaminates the surface ecosystems. Moreover, bad cement jobs can be dangerous as well. If frac fluid or hydrocarbons leak up behind casing, then they will pollute the surface and shallow aquifers.

    All of this is to say that the “fracking bogeyman”, that is, the act of fracking, is not what we should be concerned about; rather we should make sure O&G companies are doing excellent cement jobs, and maybe even limiting the kinds of chemicals that can be used in frac fluid to reduce the danger in case of a spill or bad cement job.

  4. thepanzer

    Eh? Isn’t that like saying the risks of smoking are overstated since it isn’t harmful so long as you don’t inhale?

  5. jumpman

    LOL @ delta, nothing ever goes wrong, does it? Humans never fuck up either and aren’t ever incompetent, what could ever go wrong? I mean, shit, thousands of gallons of fracking and coal mining chemicals didn’t just spill into W Virginia’s water supply and cause a complete fuck up for hundreds of thousands of people. Yup, nothing will ever go wrong. ASSHOLE.

  6. delta_log_R

    @jumpman. Humans most certainly, ahem, “fuck up”– I would never suggest they didn’t. But the capacity to “fuck up” is not limited to the little pet hatreds of yours. I mean, accidents can happen while mining for the nickel and cadmium and REEs you need for your Chevy Volt.

    If you are suggesting that we avoid any activity where “something can go wrong”, then you are suggesting we all lock ourselves in cement cells where we can affect nothing and nothing can affect us. Please feel free to do so.

  7. delta_log_R

    @Ian. That article you posted at propublica is good, and I think it really underlines what I said about the dangers of frac’ing fluids. Historically, Wyoming has been a good example of what happens when you let oil and gas companies develop resources with very little regulation and oversight (i.e. environmental disasters). They’ve gotten better in recent years but still have a ways to go.

  8. Julien

    Trying to find the best way to frack for oil or gas is like trying to find the best way to consume crystal meth. I’m sure there are ways that are better than others, but that’s very much beside the point.

  9. JustPlainDave

    The present equivalent figure of vacant houses would be 17.9 million. However, it’s useful to keep in mind that that figures includes a lot more than houses being held by banks.

    A bit less than a quarter are seasonally occupied and another eighth are classed as occasionally occupied. About a third are either up for sale or rent, or have been sold or rented but are not yet occupied. Seven percent are described as being occupied by people with a usual residence elsewhere (don’t ask me why that’s classed as vacant) and about a fifth are vacant for “other reasons”. That last category is, I suspect, where vacant houses being held by banks live.

  10. someofparts

    Ran across a new term yesterday – empathy deficit disorder. Far as I know it was used tongue-in-cheek, but strikes me as a phrase that will be, unfortunately, pretty useful.

    The most striking thing to me about your post is the clear framing of ethical abominations of staggering magnitude. The mind reels.

    The second most striking thing to me is that the first responses to what you frame so clearly are technocratic and cranky.

    I honestly don’t see our culture finding it’s way out of our moral quagmire.

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