Saturday, November 12, 2011

New York's Anti-Frackers Buy Air Time:
"I'm Worried About Jimmy's Asthma!"

It's true, both Halloween and Election Day are finally, and thankfully, over.

But, just to state the obvious here, it's already clear that the frightful campaign against upstate New York ever developing its indigenous shale gas resource is gonna keep on beating an ominous, non-stop drum — far into November, and beyond.

In fact, these guys have not yet fleshed out all the possible persuasive angles. 

With apparently no shortage of money to spend, the job of freaking out New York State's mass public has already been assigned to the same sort of Will-Smear-For-Money media specialists who make a decent seasonal living, crafting negative electoral campaign advertising.  These are the technicians who spend their days scripting slander, rehearsing voiceover sneers, and choosing between assortments of hellacious background noise. 

Did you hear this latest anti-frack ad?

Here is a link to an MP3 of a commercial which — to my knowledge — aired for the first time Nov. 8 and 9 (Election Day, and the day after Election Day) on Fred Dicker's weekday talk-radio show, "Live From the State Capital," which is broadcast on Talk 1300 AM in the Albany area. 

[Dicker himself had, a week or so previously, given an immediate review of the first installment from his new sponsor, intoning, "This commercial is a pack of lies!" — as previously covered by this blog here.]

Mostly out of a sense of quiet outrage, I have killed part of my Saturday, going to the trouble of isolating and preserving this recording — together with a transcription of the dialogue — so that others might check it all out in detail.

Here's how it goes:
Woman:  You know, this whole fracking thing is really driving me nuts.

Man:  Well, the ad on TV said we have an endless supply of energy right under our feet.

Woman:  You mean an endless supply of trouble!

Man:  What?

Woman:  Did you know when they suck the toxic fracking fluid back up to the surface, it brings up radioactive particles and bacteria that have been buried underground for millions of year?

Man:  That doesn't sound good!

Woman:  And then they want to take the fracking fluid to our water treatment plant to process it before it goes in the river.

Man:  Where our drinking water comes from!

Woman:  Exactly!

Man:  [Unaccountably speaking with sudden knowledge and resolve] They say the air quality near fracking operations is worse than Mexico City!  I'm worried about Jimmy's asthma!

Woman:  You know what really bugs me is that we don't have any say in this.  There's no local control over fracking operations.

Man:  It doesn't seem right.  But what can we do about it?

Woman:  Well, I saw this video called A Million Fracking Letters.  It's a campaign to get people to write to the governor.  He's the only person who can stop fracking from happening in New York.

Man:  [Limbaugh-esque stammer] I haven't written a letter in years!

Woman:  Well, maybe it's time!

Announcer:  If you think fracking shouldn't happen in New York, please write to Governor Cuomo today.  Your letter can make a difference.  Brought to you by A Million Fracking Letters Dot Com.
I have checked around, and I have visited the home page of the basically anonymous author, A Million Fracking Letters Dot Com, and I can tell you that there are currently no other audio or textual samples of this gem available anywhere online.  Not even linked from their Facebook pages.  It's just not there.

This fact is significant to me. 

To me, this means the money behind this ad wants to hit, to shift, and to run — without ever having to stand behind the campaign's ghastly assertions. 

The radio ad works like a mysterious vapor — it envelopes, and it drapes, and it insinuates — but nobody ever has to own up to it. 

See, now — this, I don't like.

Fact-wise, we could go at this piece in a number of possible places.  But let's start with the bacteria!  That one's definitely creative, new, and out there.

The ad makes the preposterous claim that hydraulic fracturing in order to produce natural gas from shale somehow threatens to unleash upon the modern world bacteria from millions of years ago.

On the one hand, you know, it's got that whiff of intellectual reasonableness to it — especially if your audience possesses the background theoretical knowledge that all fossil fuels trace their origins to ancient life.

But, on the other hand, it does seem a bit late to be bringing this up, don't you think? 

I mean, it seems pretty late as an objection to coal, or oil, or natural gas development — given the number of decades or centuries over which humans have been known to exploit these buried fossil carbon resources:  Outcropped coal, burned since at least the Bronze Age, 3000–2000 BC.  Natural gas, piped for domestic consumption at least since a well was dug to shale for that purpose by William Hart, 1821, Fredonia, NY.  And American oil, produced on an industrially drilled scale, at least since Colonel Drake's famous well, 1859, Titusville, PA. 

If there's been any fossilized bacteria brought back to a havoc-wreaking life, due to the age of fossil fuels, you would think it would have made the papers by now.

I don't know how your brain works, but this is how my brain works:  When I hear stuff like this, I immediately lose all confidence and all respect I might have been otherwise willing to (temporarily) lend to the source. 

In political jargon, this is called "loss of credibility."

And, without saying anything more, I hope my simple act of documenting this ad campaign causes this sponsor to suffer similar losses with you — and with any other readers who might happen to hear about this.


Anonymous said...

Andy nails it yet again. Brilliant commentary. Unfortunately, it will fall on deaf ignorant intellectually dishonest ears.

jack said...

No, Andy did not nail it again.

Andy, if you really want to know more about that ad campaign, it shouldn't be too hard to get in touch and ask for a transcript and the explanation and accountability you so crave. Simple Google search.

By the way, bacteria are in fact a big problem for drillers; that's why they use some of those really toxic chemicals. When those bacteria get into groundwater, brought back up on the drill bit when it's being retrieved through the uncased bore, once good water becomes water full of bacteria that produce hydrogen sulfide.

Andy Leahy said...

Jack, dude — the web page you pasted shows an early Million Fracking Letters ad, which I have seen, and which is also full of intentional lies.

But it doesn't change my accusations that the crafters of this campaign have deliberately flinched from telling the public who they are (and whose money they're spending), and from individually posting their most recent, most preposterous radio ads.

I challenge them to do so, because doing so should help to get them laughed out of the lecture hall.

As for your defense of the scary bacteria angle — see, this is why we as a society wisely refrain from putting inexperienced, unskilled, untrained, uneducated people in charge of running (or regulating) these kinds of complex processes.

Bacteria are an operational issue for any process involving water, warmth, and an energy source. That's true, whether we're working a hot tub, a winery, or a drill site.

But that doesn't mean these are Franken-bacteria, awoken from the Ordovician dead! This is surface life, getting into all the possible nooks and crannies. It happens. I've seen it on PBS a thousand times!

And it's not an unmanageable situation.

Mike Knapp said...


You obviously don't know Jack about gas drilling. Bacteria is an issue, but it's not from bacteria "down there" its from bacteria "up here". Bacteria can grow and clog up the fissures created by hydraulic fracturing, and impede the flow of gas. Thats why we have to disinfect it. It has NOTHING to do with bacteria coming back from depth. Would it really be asking that much from someone such as yourself to have the slightest freaking clue as to what you're talking about before making such public comments as if they were fact?

Hell_Is_Like_Newark said...

The water thousands of feet down is saltier than the Dead Sea. Its called "Dead" for a reason.. nothing lives in a high concentration of brine.