Fracking in the USA Ruthless Criticism

[Translated from GegenStandpunkt 4-15]

Fracking in the USA

A study on the intimate relationship
between business and violence –
made in the USA

A big American business ...

For some years now, the world has seen the rapid rise of a new technology for extracting “unconventional” oil and gas resources in the U.S. – and with it a new word: “fracking.” [1] Although the technology has been used sporadically since shortly after the end of World War II, its use has only recently become productive in the capitalist sense, that is, profitable. This is due, first, to the considerable progress in drilling technology itself, which has made its use much cheaper; second, to the world market prices for oil and gas, which have been high for years, making even more expensive extraction techniques profitable; third, and above all, to well-funded investors who have discovered in the technical potential of fracking companies and the favorable market situation an attractive opportunity for the use of credit, for which they have recently been able to find only a few investment opportunities: With their entry, the business takes off and advances the technical ability of the frackers to take advantage of the high prices on the world market. In just a few years, the USA has become the world’s largest producer of oil and gas.

The rise of the fracking business in the US creates opportunities for enrichment not only for the drilling companies, but for a whole range of profit-seekers at home and abroad, for example in the transportation, chemical and construction industries. It helps more than a few landowners make tidy jumps in their incomes when fields, ranches and fallow land suddenly become productive quarries for fracked oil and gas, and all of this stirs things up in the country: Towns and no-man’s-lands become “boomtowns” around which drilling rigs are built and into which hard working Americans move en masse with their families. And where capital is booming, the US government provides the necessary and useful conditions for business: it issues drilling licenses and releases state lands – so far about 10% of the fracked soils – to the fracking companies. It permits the construction of pipelines and finances the construction of roads and schools, thereby creating numerous additional business and income opportunities, and finally it gradually ensures political regulation of the business. Because as the new extraction technology becomes widespread, the destructive aspects of this new line of business become known: mainly, the contamination of groundwater,[2] possibly even minor earthquakes due to the injection of wastewater into deep layers of the ground. Such effects should be limited, but in such a way that the companies affected do not have to suffer – after all, their business should not be prevented, but rather regulated, i.e. it is to become a regular, permanent pillar of the national energy supply. In the land of freedom, finding the right balance between the conflicting needs of the drilling companies for cost-effective production conditions and the interest of the rest of the economy, villages and towns in reasonably intact natural conditions, is largely left to the competition – currently fiercely raging – between lawyers from corporations, consumers, farmers, and government agencies. In any case, the breakthrough of fracking gives the involved wheeler-dealers a lot to earn, local residents a lot to fear, and the courts a lot to decide.

Even though the massive supply of fracked oil and gas is for the most part being sold on American soil, this business, precisely because of its size, is also having a significant impact on the world energy market: the price of oil there has fallen by more than half in the space of a year. On the one hand, knowledgeable observers attribute the price collapse to the fact that the global economy still does not want to get going and is even slumping in China; on the other hand, they see in it the clear signature of American frackers: Due to their productivity, the U.S. demand for foreign oil and gas - which has so far been the highest in the world - is increasingly falling. Added to this is Saudi Arabia's refusal to meet the demands of the U.S. oil industry and “stabilize” the world market price for oil by curbing its own oil production and voluntarily giving up its market share. The consequences of the ongoing low prices are being felt negatively first and foremost by those countries whose national wealth largely depends on oil sales without being the decisive sellers themselves: Nigeria, Venezuela, etc.[3] But the U.S. fracking industry is also currently suffering severe damage: the global price of oil has long since fallen below the threshold at which it is still profitable to frack – at least for a large part of producers and despite considerable progress in terms of productivity increases and cost reductions. [4] The number of active rigs has fallen dramatically in the last year, while the debt of many fracking companies has risen dramatically – this is the flip side of the productive power of finance capital that has helped this business boom so briskly and so widely. In the meantime, the number of major bankruptcies have gone through the roof; investors have kissed goodbye to business deals in the billions.

All this leads to rather conflicting assessments of the future of the fracking business. For some, it will merely bring about the overdue restructuring of the industry: larger, more powerful capitals will then emerge from the current struggle for survival of the many companies pumped up with credit. Not least through the large mergers currently taking place in the industry, these capitals are putting themselves in a position to survive the current lean period while at the same time driving forward the technical advances that will increase their productivity and thus secure their profitability. In this respect, the “paradigm shift” that the frackers have initiated with their revolutionary technology on the world energy market can no longer be reversed. For the others, fracking has now turned out to be a flash in the pan fueled by finance capitalism; the profitability of the companies is largely overestimated, as are the oil and gas reserves that are still recoverable; the “peak” has actually long since been exceeded. This has dashed the great hopes that not only the committed companies had placed in the fracking business, but also and above all America’s statesmen.

From the outset, they saw this business as more than just a lucrative private venture. No sooner did the boom get going than they discovered that it was a means of achieving much more far-reaching goals: They see global leadership in energy production, the recapture of the top position that U.S. industry has lost, and the long-awaited goal of energy independence, which at the same time is supposed to reinforce the freedom of American global power, finally within reach. It is not exactly little that comes to mind for the American state power when a new energy business takes off.

... always testifies to a great American people ...

The governing head of the country begins with a retrospective of his satisfaction with the way things are going:

“At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious.” (State of the Union Address, 2015)

He is only too familiar with doubts about the goals of the United States. However, he also knows his country and its people. For the Americans, as Obama understands them, such doubts about their potential are a single incentive to thoroughly refute them, and lo and behold: After many years of crisis, Obama can present his compatriots with their own impressive track record, to which fracking is said to have made a significant contribution:

“And it’s been your effort and resilience that has made it possible for our country to emerge stronger. We believed we could reverse the tide of outsourcing, and draw new jobs to our shores. And over the past five years, our businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs. We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet. And today, America is number one in oil and gas. … We are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years.” (State of the Union, 2015) “Now, one of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back is our commitment to American energy.... and today, America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades. One of the reasons why is natural gas.” (State of the Union, 2014)

When an American president faces certain difficulties in the economic and strategic position of his nation; when business growth on a national scale falters, i.e., a “recession” occurs; when the national energy supply requires, in all seriousness, that good American money be handed over to foreign powers whose leaders do not inherently cater to the needs of the U.S. – then the president counts on his people and their virtues. Fracking will testify to just how right he is. It’s much more than a drilling technology, more than big business, rather an American success story ready for Hollywood: It all began with a certain George Mitchell, the son of poor immigrants from Europe, who managed to get oil and gas out of the depths of the earth through ingenuity, determination and – despite numerous failures – a firm belief in the glorious potential of slanted, chemical-assisted drilling. And not just somehow, but at a profit. Notice that when American frackers do their business, they are not just entrepreneurs doing their profit-making – with plenty of credit from investors, plenty of work effort and little pay on the part of dependent employees, and some support from the state.[5] Rather, all together, each in his place and the pay that suits them, revealing a great national character: “But the good news is, if you need to get the hard or the impossible done, America and American universities are a pretty good place to start.” (Obama at Northwestern University, 2014) And conversely, nowhere is this character more evident than where it brings about a thriving capitalist business.

When a president goes before his people and addresses the state of the nation, it is certainly part of such an occasion to indulge in a bit of patriotic rhetoric. And American speechwriters are certainly among the best at articulating a certain sense of national mission. But this is not a cheerleader who wants to heat up his audience, nor just a party politician who wants to boast about the achievements of his citizens in order to make the Republican competition look old. When the head of the superpower speaks in such tones, reports on successes in the energy business and in industry and waxes lyrical about the strength of character that his people are demonstrating, he is not simply drawing up a successful business balance sheet and buttering up his people: He is announcing a program that is only worthy of a world power and a world-powerful people.

... and is a order to renew American dominance in the world

Global energy leadership

The starting point of this major program is the production of oil and gas, which is not simply one industry among others. Here, not only a hotly demanded product is produced, but the still decisive fuel of capitalism. These energy sources enter into virtually every capitalist production process, the cost of their procurement occupying a crucial item in every cost and profit calculation, thus decisively determining whether it is capitalistically worthwhile to produce. This business must run, because its product must flow - permanently, reliably, and cheaply. For an advanced capitalist state, to be a home to this industry, even more so a profitable private business, means that it has a decisive condition for the functioning of its economy, and thus its power base, in its hands. But when Obama announces that, thanks to fracking, “today, the number-one oil and gas producer in the world is no longer Russia or Saudi Arabia. It’s America.” (Obama, Northwestern University speech), he is not merely providing information about how business in the oil and gas sector is distributed among nations. The message is more principled: Economic success for the USA is measured by whether it gives it the leading position in global economic competition. Which, by the way, spells out the hard core of the greatness of the American people: their will and their ability to outperform other nations, to make them inferior.

The claim whose redemption Obama celebrates for fracking is therefore not limited to the production of fossil fuels. World leadership in gas? That’s good for the President, no doubt a decent step forward, but also no more than a transition. As great and beneficial as the fracking business may be, for Obama, safely produced natural gas is just “the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change” (State of the Union address, 2014) The same success criterion applies here as well:

“We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God.” (Obama, Second Inaugural Address, January 2013)

Certainly, there is no shortage of pathos here either. This is also quite appropriate for the claim that Obama is proclaiming. When he speaks of the development and application of renewable energies as a mission that arises from the mutual relationship of trust between Americans and their God, he makes it clear that he is not simply planning fracking as a bridge to a cleaner capitalism at home. Rather, for him, entering the "renewables" field is tantamount to aiming to dominate a global business, and that, again, is not a goal America may or may not aspire to. When it makes this claim to leadership, it is answering a divine call and merely fulfilling the role for which it was chosen. This is exactly how and exactly why America is saving the planet: It is turning these energy sources into a bombshell business in which it outshines all its competitors – after all, this call rings out loudest when other nations are already in the process of setting up and occupying a world market for such green technologies. America must face up to this challenge of global energy leadership, but not just because God wants it that way. From the perspective of the American president, a need of his hard-working Americans is at least as sacred, and that is that they work in service to the world’s dominant American businessmen:

“But I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy.  I will not walk away from workers like Bryan [a worker who was laid off from his job as a carpenter, briefly despaired about his chances in the job market at 55, but then found a new job in the energy industry]. I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here.” (State of the Union Address, 2012)

If good Americans need to make a living, they can't do it under the domination of the world market for energy. But then it is also clear that the energy sector alone is far too small for this goal.


No sooner does the fracking boom get off the ground and new opportunities to dominate the world energy market begin to emerge than Obama’s entire industrial base comes to mind:

"During the last decade, it was widely accepted that American manufacturing was in irreversible decline.." (Obama, Northwestern University speech)

So Obama's criticism of his predecessors is that for far too long, people had lost faith that Americans were capable of continuing to provide an attractive location for the great industries that once made America great. But since the inauguration of the “Yes we can!” president and the drop in energy prices triggered by fracking successes, those days are thankfully over:

“We believed we could reverse the tide of outsourcing, and draw new jobs to our shores.” (State of the Union, 2015) “And more than half of all manufacturing executives have said they are actively looking at bringing jobs back from China. To many in the middle class, the last decade was defined by outsourcing good jobs overseas. If we keep up these investments, we can define this decade by what’s known as ‘insourcing’ – with new factories now opening their doors here in America at the fastest pace in decades.” (Obama, Northwestern speech)

If American global corporations access labor in Mexico, China, etc., to make their profits, that's certainly fine; after all, that’s exactly what the U.S. state has provided for in numerous free trade agreements. But for a president who believes in the potencies of his people, it’s not enough to host companies that successfully tap into the labor of the entire outside world while asserting themselves as the world’s leading capitals. Nor is it enough to outclass the competition in the vast field of computer technology or “financial services” and the like. That would mean accepting, in an extremely un-American way, that parts of U.S. industry are no longer among the world’s leaders, i.e., accepting defeat. Especially since we are talking about industries that involve the use of Americans on a large scale; one can’t have fewer and fewer of them having the opportunity to practice and make a living from their main national characteristic in the corresponding service to American global corporations. And thanks to the contribution that fracking has made to lowering production costs in industry, there is no longer anything that needs to be put up with either. Especially in the energy-intensive manufacturing industry, this has made it more attractive for American capitalists to produce at home instead of abroad, to use American labor instead of foreign labor. So the task is to “re-industrialize” America, to restore the quintessential American trinity of business success, global leadership, and patriotic service. By using domestic resources for their business, U.S. corporations – again, presumably on God’s behalf – are bringing jobs “home” from countries where they don’t belong. Wage-earning Americans are thus being given a fresh chance to do what they need to do to get by in the land of the free and show their hardworking side. In doing so, they not only feed themselves, but also do their patriotic duty, for which they are remunerated somewhat differently than their employers, but deserve and receive just as much attention from their president as the entrepreneurs to whom they deliver their labor so reliably and cheaply.

So much for fracking as a job engine. But that’s only one side of the story. The managers of the American state power see a completely different benefit in the rise of this business and the locational advantage of a highly productive energy industry.

The strategic control of the world of states

1. Energy independence ...

Leadership in energy issues doesn’t just make America super rich, according to Obama, but freer and more independent. As a reminder:

“We are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years,” so the nation is “freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth. It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come.” (State of the Union, 2015)

With the success of the energy industry in general and fracking in particular, Obama claims to have finally discovered the cure for an unbearable pain that has plagued the nation for years: The land of the free is dependent on other countries for its energy needs. This annoyance became acute during the first “OPEC crisis” in 1973 and was most recently proclaimed a symbol of a nationwide crisis when the “Deepwater Horizon” oil rig exploded. As long as the nation remains hooked on its “oil addiction” (Bush), it will have to constantly turn to the outside world for its energy needs; as long as it does, it will not be master of its own living conditions. For Obama, the “menacing cloud of black crude” that swept the Gulf Coast embodied a scandalous outflow – of national monetary wealth, which has its home and place in the USA, to other countries: “Each day, we send nearly $1 billion of our wealth to foreign countries for their oil.” (Obama, Oval Office Address on the BP Oil Spill, 2010)

To describe this as a mixture of captivity, addiction, and waste is a strong statement. After all, this kind of dependence on the world energy market is an expression of how extensively the American state has tapped the fossil resources of the entire globe for itself. The world market for oil and gas, as it has played out to date, is testimony to how well America has succeeded in aligning the production and sale of these resources worldwide with its business needs. And it does so in three ways: first, American capitalists encounter oil states – that is, countries whose budgets are entirely determined by the function they perform for meeting that need. They are dependent on providing these delivery services to global capitalism, on opening up their resources to access and demand from foreign interests. Secondly, America has made the development and marketing of these resources in all the foreign countries where the stuff is stored into a business field in which the big American energy companies are among the dominant global players. In this respect, the U.S. has succeeded in turning a national business condition into a worldwide, extremely lucrative business field. Third, the bulk of the oil and gas business is still done in dollars – regardless of who is buying or selling oil and gas. The American oil addicts do not even need to be involved in order for this business to translate into demand for the U.S. Currency – a central contribution, and from the point of view of the American state, an even indispensable one, to its creditworthiness and thus to its economic power. In short, it is precisely through the global oil and gas market, to which the U.S. contributes its demand, its capital and its money, that the U.S. ensures the permanence, reliability, affordability, and profitability of its global access to the crucial fuel of its economy.

2. ... requires worldwide supervision, i.e. power projection

From the extremely demanding point of view of the American state, however, the recourse to these countries for its supply interests is such that it exposes its economy and thus itself to the will of foreign states. The countries for which the role of supplier has been envisaged must eventually come to terms with this role and settle down in it - which is obviously not at all the case with this state source of revenue. By using the resources of these countries, one makes oneself potentially blackmailable through their calculations - and all the more so the more successful this access is and the more it becomes a permanent part of one's own calculations. For this reason, the US has never simply relied on the effect of the economic dependencies it has created:

“Energy cuts across the entirety of U.S. foreign policy. It’s a matter of national security and global stability. It’s at the heart of the global economy.... Energy matters to America’s foreign policy … because fundamentally, energy is an issue of wealth and power.” (former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Georgetown University, 2012)

From the outset, the shaping of these countries into global energy suppliers has been the work of superior American force, and this – as Mrs. Clinton makes this much clear to her student audience – remains an ongoing program with many facets: sometimes economic and political concessions, sometimes military threats and subversion, sometimes arms supplies and permission to act as a regional power. It is self-evident to American leaders that these states have reasons to withdraw their resources from the grasp of American capitalists; that they might actually do so remains an enduring concern, but at present is more an ancillary element of the US need to control these states. In the few cases where the oil is not made available, that is in any case up to the US, which uses embargoes or wars to prevent the states in question from earning dollars by selling their oil. Far more crucial than the question as to whether these countries deal with their natural riches in a way that suits the business needs of the US is what they might do with the monetary wealth that flows to them en masse from the sale of these exquisite goods – especially from the U.S.. For America claims these countries not only for the satisfaction of its economic needs, but as integral parts of an entire world order that must proceed according to rules set and enforced by America, and which demands much more from these countries than the reliable supply of their fossil resources. If the money that America spends every day on the fuel it needs is used for purposes that do not suit America or that may be explicitly directed against it, then one is dealing with anti-American activities, i.e. with illegitimate violence – in other words: with terror.

It is true that the USA is still prepared to defend its “vital interest” in controlling all states from which it obtains this indispensable “natural wealth” and to take action against such harmful activities – sometimes by exclusion from the world (oil) market, sometimes with shock and awe. However, the head of the world power expresses his own extremely determined will to have the conduct of foreign states under control in such a way that the USA is in the stranglehold of foreign states. Obama treats the immense war effort that America is making for this, and has recently been very active in, like an unbearable shackle from which the nation must free itself. Especially since the years of the global war on terror have shown that it is one thing to fight and defeat an enemy state armed with oil money, but quite another to ensure reliable business relations, i.e., a political will that can then provide and deliver these services. This has already prompted Obama’s predecessors to criticize themselves – not for the claim to have the entire region under control, but for having made themselves vulnerable in using these countries. With their collective “oil addiction” and the money exported for it, the Americans even financed such activities to a certain extent themselves.

3. In fracking, America sees a bridge to independence from foreign states – that is, to more effective oversight of them

For Obama – and already for his predecessor Bush – this was the best reason to organize a national “energy turnaround”: an all-of-the-above strategy, which provides for the promotion of all possible domestic energy sources, especially an accelerated development of renewable energies, which are in principle infinite once the appropriate technology has been developed. And as much as the American state owes it to its citizens to make every industry of the future one in which the US leads the way and creates the corresponding enrichment opportunities and jobs at home – the strategic need called energy independence is the really crucial sting to redeeming America’s natural and God-given claim to technological leadership in renewable energies. If America decides to become more self-reliant in its energy supply by means of private business, then the world will have to adjust accordingly: The need to promote US business in green technologies includes the need to make the whole world a safe market for the technologies whose business potential the US so firmly believes in. So America – bolstered by its hopes in fracking and in the business of energy sources to which fracking is supposed to be a “bridge” – is opening yet another new chapter of American leadership: America must also heed the call for US leadership in global climate diplomacy.

Now, in view of the rapid rise of the fracking business, American politicians are announcing that the USA could achieve its goal of achieving the greatest possible energy independence in the near future, much sooner than expected and by means of, of all things, fossil resources. Do they then also see themselves freed from the tiresome necessity of constantly keeping their suppliers in check with an enormous amount of deterrent power? Will they be able to pull themselves by their own bootstraps out of the world order quagmire, at least in the Middle East?

No way – as an energy-independent world power, one is not that free:

“Even when Americans are using oil produced entirely within the United States, the price of that oil is largely determined by the global marketplace. So protecting our own energy security calls for us to make progress at home and abroad. And that requires American leadership.” (Hillary Clinton at Georgetown University, 2012)

It is one thing to secure the supply of an essential fuel, but in capitalism, as is well known, everything has a price. It is crucial when it comes to using this substance to drive a national business life that is intended to beat foreign competitors in all fields, all the more so since this business also has to satisfy a far-reaching strategic need of the state power. From the Secretary of State’s point of view, concerns about the price of oil require a display of power that extends to much more than the safe transportation of oil:

“This is a moment of profound change. Countries that once weren’t major consumers are. Countries that used to depend on others for their energy are now producers. How will this shape world events? Who will benefit, and who will not? ... The answers to these questions are being written right now, and we intend to play a major role in writing them. We have no choice. We have to be involved everywhere in the world. The future security and prosperity of our nation and the rest of the world hangs in the balance.” (Hillary Clinton at Georgetown University, 2012)

It’s a cross to bear. No sooner does one gain a bit of independence from foreign supplier countries than it becomes disturbingly evident that there are also foreign oil consumers who could cause concern with their demand. And when countries – i.e., the US – become a power that is increasingly independent of energy imports, then it must be made clear: The energy security that Mrs. Clinton is talking about, and the energy independence on which it rests, should in no way be misunderstood as a defensive program, much less a retreat. Rather, they are a forward-looking mandate for globe-spanning, unquestionable military superiority, for credible deterrence and supervision of the world of states. The declaration of responsibility for the world energy market involves much more than control over that market, however large it may be. It extends to nothing less than the prosperity of the world – to the way foreign countries reproduce themselves. It concerns the question of what materials and by means of what supply relationships their capitalism is driven, what foreign states derive their power from and to what ends they use it. So if the US is freer than anyone else to determine its future, it must determine that of the whole world: A country that claims the whole world for its “vital interests” can’t avoid taking control of the whole world as well.[6]

This superpower equation, as simple as it is extremely demanding, comes to mind not only for Mrs. Clinton, but also for all other U.S. foreign policy makers as soon as the fracking boom gets underway. Fracking is an extremely effective means of making progress abroad; it can be used to turn what Mrs. Clinton characterizes as a challenge and a constraint into a real opportunity.

“’It’s a diplomatic royal flush,’ according to David Goldwyn.” (U.S. Coordinator of the U.S. Government’s “Global Shale Gas Initiative”) “We should use our energy power to break the power of tyrants who use their energy resources to crush hopes for freedom and democracy.” (Mary Landrieu, Chair, U.S. Senate Energy Committee)

The tyrants are reliably discovered where other states with some energy power flout American directives. According to one U.S. foreign policy thought leader, there are already successes on this front:

“The ability of the United States to bring Iran to the negotiating table on the nuclear issue through oil sanctions also owed much to the general expectations that came into the world with the shale revolution. Another benefit from the shale revolution to U.S. foreign policy is the reduced ability of countries like Venezuela to buy votes in the UN and regional organizations.” (Joseph Nye)

At present, Russia in particular is being targeted by American policy makers. So this power also comes up too – and unceasingly so – when fracking is discussed. American foreign policy makers are immediately struck by the extensive supply relationships that Russia maintains with its European neighbors. Freedom-loving US statesmen see this as an intolerable dependence on the part of their European partners as well – not just potentially, but a very real strategic blackmail by Russia. But by means of American-based fracking technology and the capital power of the companies that use it, an expansion of business relations with America could bring the liberation that American politicians are sure European states desperately want. Vast amounts of shale gas are also said to lie dormant under Eastern European soil, and that would blow the minds of the heads of state there if they even imagined it:

“Imagine where you’d be today if you were able to tell Russia: Keep your gas. It would be a very different world you’d be facing today.” (Vice President Joe Biden in Ukraine, April 2014)

Yes, what a beautiful world it would be if Europe could say no to dependence on Russian gas and then say yes to dependence on American energy capitals, which would secure their freedom! The leader in the White House makes it a little clearer that this is not simply a nice fantasy that one might or might not cherish. The suggestion to be a bit more imaginative in energy matters is definitely meant sympathetically:

“The United States is blessed with some additional energy sources that have been developed, in part because of new technologies. ... I think that Europe collectively is going to need to examine, in light of what’s happened [in Ukraine], their energy policies to find are there additional ways that they can diversify and accelerate energy independence. The United States, as a source of energy, is one possibility. And we’ve been blessed by some incredible resources. But we’re also making choices and taking on some of the difficulties and challenges of energy development. And Europe’s going to have to go through some of those same conversations as well.” Obama in Brussels, March 2014)

Obama and his vice are thus inviting their European partners to take a very specific look at America’s energy resources: They should consider them as a means of liberation from an enemy of the US and access them accordingly. With this claim, wrapped up in a friendly offer, the US meets with countries that, while not friends of Russia, are also not willing to give up all other concerns in order to gain a bit of independence from this power – for example, with regard to the profitability of fracking, the associated potential destruction of their natural environment, and also relations with Russia, which are not limited to energy issues: no matter, these countries should let themselves be used to weaken an enemy of America.

Of course, this will only work if the export of American gas is released without restriction and finally gets really going.[7] The exploitation of the new energy power of the USA as a lever for ordering the world thus requires a return to the quintessence, to the basic equation of the American reason of state, also and especially in the energy sector: Whatever serves the freedom of business serves its usefulness for the global power of the American state. This is also, and precisely, what is being talked about when fracking is mentioned.[8]


Professional observers of global affairs may debate whether the fracking business actually has what it takes to reaffirm these basic equations, or whether America’s claims on its renovated oil and gas industry significantly exceed its current and future potentials. Ultimately, that’s a question of the competition America will face in filing all these claims, and this much is clear: America does not make any of the goals that it intends to use fracking for dependent on the potentials that fracking unleashes. In that respect, too, this revolutionary drilling technology is really nothing but a bridge.

[1] The word “fracking” is an abbreviation of hydraulic fracturing. “Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is a process used to extract oil and natural gas. The process to extract oil and natural gas begins with thousands of gallons of water, mixed with a slurry of chemicals, some of which are undisclosed. This liquid mixture is then forced into well casings under high pressure, and then is horizontally injected into bedrock to create cracks or fissures. The forced change in geologic structure allows gas molecules to escape, therefore allowing the natural gas to be harvested.” (Wikipedia)

[2] With this in mind, the Obama administration issued the first federal guidelines for fracking in March 2015: Companies were required to disclose the mix of chemicals they use, as well as to ensure construction of retention ponds for the contaminated water. However, as environmentalists immediately complained, the regulations only apply on federally owned land. [These rules were repealed by the Trump administration in 2017 –translator’s note]

[3] A very vivid expression of this concern is presented by market observers in the form of tables indicating how high the price of oil allegedly has to be in order for the respective state to still be able to finance its needs to some extent. This threshold is said to be $104 per barrel in Russia, $90 per barrel in Iran, and over $100 per barrel in Venezuela, for example - in other words, well above the 2015 oil price of about $45 in all cases.

[4] Fracking is now becoming “super-fracking”: Many times the fracfluids are pumped into the wells; the areas of application are also becoming ever larger and the chemicals added are constantly changing, so that the yield increases both in absolute terms and relative to the effort involved. Multiple wells in the same area mean increased technical effort, but yield many times more. More powerful machines can cope with greater demands while at the same time making the machines themselves cheaper, which are being produced in ever greater numbers and whose maintenance costs are falling at the same time. The bottom line is that, despite the drastic reduction in active rigs last year, the total production volume has remained more or less the same.

[5] “It was public research dollars, over the course of 30 years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock – reminding us that government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground.“ (State of the Union Address, 2012) Obama is reminding us of the long history of government support for the development of fracking technology: basic research and “applied research and development” for several decades in the relevant drilling technology, some “demonstration projects” in cooperation with the Department of Energy and its predecessor as far back as the 1970s, tax credits for “unconventional” gas since 1980. He does so, however, not to qualify the legend that fracking shows the greatness of American private initiative, but to invoke the benefits of government supporting this.

[6] That's not easy either, but even this politician knows what the still-acting president knows about his people – they aren’t just capable of world business, they world power too: “This will take our nation’s best minds, our most talented public servants, our most innovative entrepreneurs, and millions of dedicated citizens. But I believe that we’re up to the challenge.” (Ibid.)

[7] “Undermine Putin and strengthen the U.S. economy by leveraging our natural gas bonanza! What can the U.S. do to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian gas? We can use our own resources through the North Atlantic Security Act [a piece of legislation that would free up U.S. gas exports] to weaken Putin's regime and strengthen our allies in Ukraine and Europe. Today, the U.S. has leverage to liberate our allies from Putin’s stranglehold on the European natural gas market ... thanks to new technologies like fracking and horizontal drilling.” (John McCain, Wall Street Journal, 7/28/14)

[8] “For some time, many people in the US and abroad have bought into the myth of American decline. Increasing dependence on energy imports was often cited as evidence. The shale revolution has changed that, demonstrating the combination of entrepreneurship, property rights, and capital markets that constitute the country’s underlying strength. In that sense, the shale revolution has also enhanced American soft power.” (Joseph Nye, WSJ 6/8/2014)