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Ever played “Old Maid”?

Remember that card game where each player has to pick cards from each others’ hand trying not to get stuck with the ‘Old Maid’ card?

Fracking has become a little like that, similar to a ponzi scheme or a fool’s game, where everyone is trying to sell the leases and natural gas before the bubble breaks and still turn a profit.  This economic bubble is created by too much natural gas on the market, causing a price drop and therefore the underpinnings of initial investment will come undone.  The person or company left holding the natural gas investments when this bubble breaks will be the ‘Old Maid’ (aka: lose a lot of money in the investment).

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With this ‘overabundance’ of natural gas below the surface, gas prices are dropping so quickly, some even call the fracking practice uneconomical.  According to the Philadelphia Inquirer,  “From an average of $8.85 per million British thermal units in 2008, natural-gas prices fell sharply to $4.39 in 2010, and $3.94 in 2011. In [January], prices dropped below $2.50, and they are expected to stay under $5 for another decade.”  It’s starting to seem as if the only way to turn a profit on it is by exporting it to Europe and China where gas prices are much higher.

But, exporting it leaves the “America’s Domestic Energy Source” messaging to fall flat on its face.

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To complicate the natural gas market even further, businesses like Chesapeake Energyare known for ‘flipping land’ to be fracked.  They do initial exploration, make projections and then sell the land at a higher cost. Chesapeake Energy is no newcomer to Airhugger.  We highlighted their toxic fracking fluid spill in Pennsylvania last April.  And now they’re back in the news, some even calling them the next Enron, or blaming them for creating a financial bubble worse than the housing crisis.   And, with the drop in gas prices, they’ve had to make some risky financial deals and move very quickly to sell these leases so as to not become the ‘Old Maid’.

So, not only does fracking risk our clean and healthy environment, it also puts at us great economic risk.  We’ve all heard the promise of hundreds of jobs, although the figure is highly debatedand the number may be far lower than predicted, but now it seems as if any jobs fracking creates will only last until this economic bubble breaks.  When the fracking bubble breaks, people will lose their jobs and investments.  This has the potential to add even more stress to our already strained economy.

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Now, the silver lining here is that this economic perspective shows the light at the end of the tunnel.  Once fracking becomes vastly uneconomical, there is a very strong chance we’ll see the end of the practice entirely.  But, the big question here is ‘when?’.  We’ve already heard so many concerns over contamination and environmental degradation and many are very worried about the potential health risks associated with fracking.  How many more wells will be drilled too close to homes, schools and community centers before the economics prove the practice obsolete?

On May 16, 2012, Vermont became the first state to ban hydraulic fracturing, aka. fracking.  Governor Peter Shumlin noted that this legislation may help Vermont set an example for other states.

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Any AirHugger readers out there from Vermont?  Well, now it looks like Vermont will be known for more than its delicious maple syrup and legalisation of same-sex marriage.

Before we raise our glass to our trusty, progressive ally in the NorthEast, we need to note that there is believed to be little to no natural gas or oil below the surface of the state.

Many fracking advocates are writing this off, saying no big deal.  Many are challenging Gov. Shumlin’s statements, which bring into question the safetyof the fracking process.  They say, Gov. Shumlin is setting a bad example, but whatever- Vermont’s loss.

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Sure, a fracking ban in Vermont is an easier victory for anti-fracking activists, but it is important to note that it’s still a win, a big win.  Now, there is precedent for states to ban fracking.

And, Vermont seems like the perfect place to start.

There’s little to no opposition here.  No high paid lobbyists, no false promises of more jobs and no ‘black gold’ to dig for.

BUT, what if other states with little to no natural gas or oil below the surface ban fracking as well?  With Vermont taking the lead here, the road’s already been paved for states like Oregon, Washington or even Maine and New Hampshire.  Although, a ban in states like these would not really hinder the fracking industry, it would serve to strengthen the debate over the potential safety risks of the fracking process.  Which could prompt other states, with shale reserves to pass a ban on fracking.  Imagine a fracking ban spreading throughout the entire Northeast.  What if New York and Pennsylvania passed similar legislation?  This could lead to a significant shift in fracking policies and even serve to create a groundswell of support against the questionable practice.  If the majority of States pass a fracking ban, we could easily see new federal policies and regulation enacted to protect our air, water and our health.

In signing the fracking ban, Gov. Shumlin said one of the more compelling statements I’ve heard in regards to the potential safety risks. “Human beings survived for thousands and thousands of years without oil and without natural gas,” he said. “We have never known humanity or life on this planet to survive without clean water.”

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Someone had to step up and take the lead here, and we should all applaud Gov. Shumlin.  Until fracking is regulated by our trusty Clean Air Act and Safe Drinking Water Act, there are a plethora of safety concerns associated with the practice.  So touche Vermont.  New Hampshire and Maine- it would be great if you could get on board, Vermont could probably use some help here.  And, the more and more states we get to stand in solidarity with Vermont, maybe one day we’ll see similar legislation coming out of Colorado and New Mexico.

Residents of Seward, Alaska are concerned about elevated levels of coal dust in the air surrounding their community. They’re fighting for strict regulations and state of the art controls to contain the coal dust coming off of the Seward Coal Export facility, and into their community.

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