In the late 1980s, George Mitchell, owner of Mitchell Energy & Development Corporation with a degree in petroleum engineering from Texas A&M, wanted a method that could find and extract formerly unseen deposits of natural gas. With a combination of horizontal drilling and something known as hydraulic fracturing, Mitchell pioneered the use of 'fracking' - a practice that pumps toxic chemicals into the Earth to simply push out the goods. Soon enough, gas companies picked up the money-making practice, spawning a new gas boom across America.
Years later, Forbes lists
his worth at $2.2 billion, making him the 206th richest man in the world.
With that being said, Mitchell was the perfect mascot to have alongside when Mayor Michael Bloomberg penned
an op-ed in the Washington Post
this past week, coming out in clear defense of the controversial energy extraction method. In it, he lists the economic justifications for the practice - how it lowers costs and leads to more jobs - and also pledges $6 million to the Environmental Defense Fund in order to establish "safe" rules for frackers.
But, in the piece, the Hozziner comes off as a representative of Big Oil more than a mayor, especially with Mitchell, whose considered the Father of Fracking, as a co-writer. And this policy transformation for the Mayor is what's most confusing about the op-ed.
Throughout his administration, Bloomberg wholeheartedly
opposed the smallest sliver of fracking near New York City's watershed in the Catskills. The reservoir supplies more than nine million people a day so using toxic chemicals nearby was ridiculous; that, to quote Bloomberg in his pro-fracking letter, is "common sense." And why did Bloomberg oppose the fracking? Simply for that reason: fracking was dangerous and not worth the trouble.
The Hozziner's opposition led to a statewide ban on the method within a small radius of the metropolis's H20 supply, if fracking is ever declared legal by Governor Cuomo. That controversial question has opened an intense policy debate - one that has consumed Albany and spurred countless protests
from environmental groups nationwide.
But the fact that Bloomberg was once against fracking is the main point here. His reasoning was based on a commission's report sanctioned by the City that tossed the economic side out and focused on the dangers to surrounding communities. So, the turnaround seen in the op-ed brings up a few questions that are still yet to be answered:
- Why did Bloomberg suddenly change his position on fracking?
- Will he still oppose fracking near our water supply?
- What exactly are "safe" rules for fracking?
- Are there any?
If those questions aren't answered, expect more protests and scrutiny from the environmental lobby - a group that Bloomberg has always been pretty cozy with.
Until then, frack on.