Destroying Precious Land to Drill for Gas: Sean Lennon, anti-fracking activist

In the New York Times, an eloquent op-ed by Sean Lennon that serves as a manifesto of sorts for Artists Against Fracking, an organization started with his mother, Yoko Ono. Snip:

Natural gas has been sold as clean energy. But when the gas comes from fracturing bedrock with about five million gallons of toxic water per well, the word “clean” takes on a disturbingly Orwellian tone. Don’t be fooled. Fracking for shale gas is in truth dirty energy. It inevitably leaks toxic chemicals into the air and water. Industry studies show that 5 percent of wells can leak immediately, and 60 percent over 30 years. There is no such thing as pipes and concrete that won’t eventually break down. It releases a cocktail of chemicals from a menu of more than 600 toxic substances, climate-changing methane, radium and, of course, uranium.

Video: THE SKY IS PINK by Josh Fox and the GASLAND Team.


  1. Hydrofacturing is about the stupidest thing I have ever heard of. followed closely by: ” It is the only way to collect these natural resources..”The industry is out of control, and the power of lobbying reigns supreme.  New York State will soon decide what the limits of piracy shall be on Labor Day.  I wonder if the Governor himself, will QB this banana announcement, theMachine depends on him, his political future depends on It. One mistakecould spell huge political and ecological disaster, and the Halliburton Loophole-WAS ONE BIG MISTAKE.  Sure would like to see NYS do the right thing LaborDay..
    BAN IT, entirely. -demogodz

  2. Recently I passed Sean and Yoko’s spread on the way to do some trout fishing.
     In Delaware Co. New York, anti-fracking signage displayed on lawns and elsewhere outnumbers fracking friendly signs by about 10 to 1. Awareness upstate seems pretty high. I’m grateful that Sean is helping to open eyes in NYC and  hopefully Albany, where respectively, Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Cuomo have been promoting fracking as a means of stimulating the economy and acquiring cheap energy while besmirching the practice’s detractors.

  3. Actually, I would prefer if the NY Times would publish op-eds from scientists rather than Julian Lennon. Who makes these decisions at the Times?

    As for the linked movie, it seems to mainly rely on emotions and first-person “story telling” techniques rather than science. I am very concerned about fracking, and the role of lobbyists in skewing science. But I am not sure how having musicians and filmmakers join the debate is going to help.

    1. It takes all kinds to beat back petrochemical plunder and the potential destruction of an aquifer that serves over 13,000,000 people.

    2.  Who makes these decisions at the Times?

      Presumably people who know the difference between Julian and Sean.

      Seriously though, how come this “who cares what so-and-so thinks, he’s just an entertainer” only comes up when a celebrity voices a political view? You never hear “Who cares what he thinks, he’s just a farmer” or “she’s just a factory worker.” Granted, celebrities sometimes say dumb shit, but so do farmers and factory workers. I guarantee you that any successful actor or musician is more widely-travelled and has been exposed to more ways of life and ways of organizing society than Random Guy On The Street, plus they have plenty of free time to read up on their pet causes.

      “What about scientists?” Sure, agreed, but it doesn’t have to be one or the other. I’m pretty sure the NYT regularly publishes articles and op-eds by actual scientists as well as Lennons. If Sean’s byline brings more attention to the matter then more people will read them.

  4. I don’t understand why the toxic chemicals are necessary.  Can someone explain, or maybe can someone have Maggie do a post on, how does fracking work and  why are the toxins required?  I can visualize forcing water under pressure under ground to somehow force out captured natural gas, but what’s the other stuff there for?

    1. they are not, required, Rachael. 
       They have non-toxic fracturing chemicals and methods available,,..getting the industry to be regulated and supervised to use a safer method, requires transparency. Transparency, opens up regulatory debate, perhaps profit cutting rules established.. etcEtcetc.. not gonna happen.
       The gas industry prides itself on doing whatever the hell they want. Collectively, it is a titanic, multi-national, conglomerate of near pure power.  And it relishes the fact that for a hundred years, they have constructed an addiction that is not only profitable beyond imagination, but literally hooked into nearly every single business and government, in the world.  With that much Power, and Control, you pretty much get to do what you want. To include, strong-arming government, and ignoring environmental controls.   The Halliburton Loophole paved the way, .. now heavy industry looms, a giant toxic risk, and inevitable MESS.

    2.  Rachel, I’m not sure that MB’s comments actually gave much insight into your question so I’ll have a go. The majority of ingredients – in the realm of more than 95% – in a frack job are water and sand. Shale gas is not really held in reservoirs, it’s essentially rock with extremely low porosity.

      However, given the large volumes involved in high-pressure stimulation there are also other ingredients that are notable. For the most part these chemicals are intended to fulfil a number of roles, for instance to make the water ‘slick’ along with a biocide, to stop contamination of the reservoir, and various others. For detailed information, you can check out FracFocus:

      In the UK, there’s pretty strong criticism to shale gas exploitation so Cuadrilla Resources has engaged in an aggressive media campaign to tackle it, which includes setting out what they use. The company website says its “fracking fluid … contains only a few chemicals that can also be found in common household products, highly diluted.”

      There are moves under way to make fracking more environmentally friendly, so-called “green fracks,” to the point where the fluid can be drunk:

      To my mind, much of the problem is that in the first world we want the benefits of plentiful energy without having to face up to what it means. Thus, the proliferation of wells needed to exploit shale gas – and in areas with limited history of development, such as Pennsylvania – has thrown our reliance into our faces. People, it seems, are much happier strip mining Appalachia for coal than being faced with shale gas in their proximity.

      One fact to remember: the US has led the world in reducing carbon emissions recently through its shift away from coal consumption. The single most important reason for this shift: cheap marginal gas production from shale. (On a related note, the Cornell study that young Lennon cites has been thoroughly debunked.) Of course people should feel free to reject shale gas development, whether it involves fracking or not (and it doesn’t necessarily need to), but I do sometimes feel there should be a bit more science involved in the discussion.

      Anyway, hope that helps in some way.

    3. According to the quote above, the water itself is toxic.  It probably gets even worse when they add chemicals.

  5. Over at The Oil Drum there are frequent discussions of how to frac or not to frac. And the Texan contingent says that in the Lone State, any time a fracking well is drilled, there is an inspector from the State (as in, on the state payroll, not the company payroll) observing every step the entire time. If NY wants to get at the Marcellus shale, this is how they need to do it, instead of giving industry carte blanche to do whatever the fuck they want. 

  6. Isn’t it amazing that there is no comment section for Sean Lennon’s Op-ED contribution at the New York Times ? can you IMAGINE if there was ?
    How Many People in NYC.. would like to comment on that issue- Right Now

  7. Fracking has been an issue upstate for a pretty long time, and these folks are only weighing in now that it threatens one of their many homes?   Does this bother anyone else?  It seems like the very definition of NIMBY.  A scientist _should_ be speaking, or at least a self-made celebrity if you really have to scrape around in the muck of popular culture. 

    Of all the people in the world, I’m not going to feel particular pity for a coattail-riding celebrity whose gun-toting security guards cordone off public areas and threaten people for looking ethnic – as I personally experienced with Yoko Ono.  That level of entitlement doesn’t encourage me to rise up in her defense, even if it’s helping her fight the best fight there is. 

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