WSJ Pretends Fracking Is A Solution To Poverty In Attack On Clinton And Sanders
Research ››› ››› ALEX MORASH
The Wall Street Journal's editorial board lambasted Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for supporting increasing restrictions and regulations on hydraulic fracturing, also known as "fracking," during CNN's March 6 debate in Flint, MI. The Journal has long claimed that the fracking industry boom functions as an "antipoverty program," ignoring the considerable health risks that the extraction process poses to workers and to the typically low-income communities where many extraction facilities are located.
The Journal Has Long Claimed Fracking Could Be A Solution To Poverty
WSJ: "The Poor Benefit Most" From Fracking. On March 7, the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal berated Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for supporting restrictions and regulations on fracking during a March 6 presidential debate. The Journal claimed that "the poor benefit most" from fracking and that consumers have saved $32 billion "thanks to the fracking boom" (emphasis added):
The average price of natural gas plummeted some 60% between 2008 and 2012 thanks to the fracking boom, and families saved $32 billion in 2012 through lower energy bills, according to Mercator Energy. The poor benefit most, as low-income families must spend more of their earnings on energy bills. Yet Democrats who profess to care for the poor want to disavow lower-cost energy. [The Wall Street Journal, 3/7/16]
WSJ: Anti-Fracking Forces Are "The Liberal Gentry" Trying To "Preserve The Status Quo, Poverty And All." On November 7, 2013, The Wall Street Journal gave a platform to the conservative Manhattan Institute's Fried Siegel, who claimed residents of upstate New York opposing fracking in their communities are part of a "liberal gentry" seeking to keep "the upstate region as a pristine setting for gracious living and tourism." He said this attitude helps keep the poor in poverty and claimed fracking is "not a danger to water supplies" (bold emphasis added):
Fracking supporters know that the process occurs far below aquifers and is not a danger to water supplies -- which in any event proponents would have no interest in poisoning. These advocates are, in the standard sense, conservationists concerned with preserving the land even as they use it. The antifrackers, by contrast, seem most interested in maintaining the upstate region as a pristine setting for gracious living and tourism. Unlike the 19th-century British Tories, who felt a paternal obligation to look after the well-being of the peasants they governed, today's liberal gentry operates on a narrowly self-interested basis.
Great Society liberalism had, for all its faults, an ideal of inclusiveness. The environmental anti-industrial liberalism is implicitly organized around exclusion. Environmentalism, with its powerful not-in-my-backyard and not-in-your-backyard currents in upstate New York, has become an ideological cover for the pursuit of self-interest. New York's liberals are fighting to preserve the status quo, poverty and all. [The Wall Street Journal, 11/7/13]
WSJ: Fracking "May Be The Country's Best Antipoverty Program." The Wall Street Journal spun fracking as an "antipoverty program" in two editorials dated September 6, 2013, and September 9, 2013. The Journal hyped a report from energy broker Mercator Energy that claimed fracking resulted in a "61% price decline [in natural gas that] translated into lower home-heating and electricity bills." The Journal claimed this saved "$10 billion a year" for low-income families, and reported that IHS Global Insights had estimated fracking "added the equivalent of a cool $1,200 to real household disposable income on average in 2012." The Journal proclaimed that this showed "fracking is a much more effective antipoverty program" than home-heating subsidies. [The Wall Street Journal, 9/6/13, 9/9/13]
The Journal Has Long History Of Ignoring The Dangers Of Fracking
WSJ Obscured Research Findings Linking Fracking To Water Contamination. In a June 25, 2011, editorial, The Wall Street Journal attempted to undermine the findings of a peer-reviewed study of the relationship between fracking and groundwater contamination. The research, performed by a team from Duke University, strongly suggested that fracking operations were a source of water contamination. Rather than acknowledge the study's conclusions, The Journal instead opted to obscure its findings, question its methods, and smear its authors. [Media Matters, 6/28/11]
Fracking Has Been Linked To Cancer And Other Diseases And It Threatens Low-Income Communities Already Struggling With Poor Public Health
NY Times: Low-Income Americans Are Already Predisposed To Poor Public Health. On March 31, The New York Times reported on a study from researchers at the University of Wisconsin's Population Health Institute, which found a "statistically significant" relationship between public health outcomes and economic inequality. According to the research, "people in unequal communities were more likely to die before the age of 75 than people in more equal communities." [The New York Times, 3/31/15]
WSJ: Fracking Wells Are Increasingly Concentrated In "Poor, Rural Areas" On June 4, 2014, The Wall Street Journal reported on communities attempting to block fracking from occurring near water supplies and schools since "health effects are heavily localized around the drilling site." A post-doctoral researcher from Princeton University found that "the higher the socioeconomic status of the community, the more likely the community was to prohibit fracking," which can result in fracking being concentrated in poorer areas:
Some experts warn that if cities get local control, fracking might be shifted into poor, rural areas. Matthew Barnes, who wrote his Princeton University doctoral dissertation on municipal responses to fracking in New York state, found that the higher the socioeconomic status of the community, the more likely the community was to prohibit fracking. The state has a moratorium on fracking while it awaits a study of the technique.
"The environmental and health effects are heavily localized around the drilling site, so it makes sense that we might want to put this to a vote of the communities that might be affected," said Mr. Barnes, who will join the faculty of West Virginia University this fall. [The Wall Street Journal, 6/4/14]
ThinkProgress: Scientists Find "Elevated Levels Of Cancer-Causing Chemicals" Near Fracking Sites In Texas. On June 19, ThinkProgress reported that scientists from the University of Texas found heavy metals, including arsenic, in public water supplies in areas that had seen a "fracking boom." The scientists tested samples over a three-year period and found "elevated levels of 19 different chemicals" including known carcinogens:
Researchers from the University of Texas, Arlington tested water samples from public and private wells collected over the past three years and found elevated levels of heavy metals, such as arsenic. Their findings, released Wednesday, showed elevated levels of 19 different chemicals including the so-called BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylenes) compounds.
Heavy metals are toxic when ingested, and BTEX compounds are considered carcinogenic when ingested. Exposure to BTEX compounds is also associated with effects on the respiratory and central nervous system. The study found elevated levels of toxic methanol and ethanol, as well.
The researchers were clear that they had not determined the source of the metals and chemicals. However, they noted that "many of the compounds we detected are known to be associated with [fracking] techniques," and said the data support further research on the potential of fracking contamination. [ThinkProgress, 6/19/15]
U.S. News: Poisonous Chemicals Found Near Fracking Sites In Five States. On October 30, 2014, U.S. News & World Report reported that researchers at the University of Albany found "dangerous" carcinogenic compounds near fracking sites in five states that "far exceeded recommended federal limits," and the head of the research team concluded that an "elevation in cancer is almost certain to happen":
Oil and gas wells across the country are spewing "dangerous" cancer-causing chemicals into the air, according to a new study that further corroborates reports of health problems around hydraulic fracturing sites.
"This is a significant public health risk," says Dr. David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany-State University of New York and lead author of the study, which was published Thursday in the journal Environmental Health. "Cancer has a long latency, so you're not seeing an elevation in cancer in these communities. But five, 10, 15 years from now, elevation in cancer is almost certain to happen."
Eight poisonous chemicals were found near wells and fracking sites in Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wyoming at levels that far exceeded recommended federal limits. Benzene, a carcinogen, was the most common, as was formaldehyde, which also has been linked to cancer. Hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs and can affect the brain and upper-respiratory system, also was found.
The health effects of living near a fracking site have been felt elsewhere, according to separate research. A study published last month by researchers from the University of Washington and Yale University found residents within a kilometer of a well had up to twice the number of health problems as those living at least 2 kilometers away.
"The way fracking's being done in these five states, it's not being done safely," Carpenter says. [U.S. News & World Report, 10/30/14]