Given all that, the data are on the side of fracking. But the political momentum is on the other side. It remains likely that the EPA will take its heavy hand to the industry, a development for which the enviro-Left, led by Occupy Wall Street, is positively howling, which is frustrating for environmentalists such as John Hanger. “If there’s no fracking, the unavoidable consequence would be a sharp increase in oil and coal consumption. Even if environmental and public-health issues were your only concerns — leave aside national security and the economic impacts — that fact alone should give you some pause.”
But don’t bother with evidence: The opposition to fracking isn’t at its heart environmental or economic or scientific. It’s ideological, and that ideology is nihilism. Environmentalism is a movement that began with the fire on the Cuyahoga River in 1969 and a few brief years later had mutated into the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (motto: “May we live long and die out!”), which maintains: “Phasing out the human race by voluntarily ceasing to breed will allow Earth’s biosphere to return to good health. Crowded conditions and resource shortages will improve as we become less dense.” (Good luck with that “less dense” thing, geniuses.)
Benign environmentalists are opposed to pollution, as all sensible people are; malign environmentalists are opposed to energy and most of what it enables. Their enemy isn’t drilling rigs and ethane crackers and engineers and their technological marvels: Their enemy is the kind of civilization that makes such feats and wonders possible, the fact that a smart guy with a big idea can make a hole in the ground and summon up power from the vasty deep. Their enemy is us
. We can debate best drilling practices, appropriate emissions regulation, wastewater-disposal techniques — the engineering stuff — and even hare-brained ideas like the Pickens plan.
But we can’t really debate the course of modern technological civilization with people who are opposed to modern technological civilization per se, your mostly middle-class and expensively miseducated (and forgive me for noticing but your overwhelmingly white) types afflicted with the ennui of affluence, who suddenly take a fancy to the idea that life might be lived more authentically with a bone in one’s nose and a trip to the neighborhood shaman — the shaman who might, if the spirits smile upon him, initiate you into the ancient mysteries of the burning spring.
— Kevin D. Williamson is a deputy managing editor of National Review. This article appears in the February 20, 2012, issue of National Review.