Quantcast
Energy

Aubrey McClendon's Legacy Serves as Another Warning That the Age of Oil Barons Must End

Just moments after posting a scathing comment to Facebook regarding former Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon's indictment Tuesday by the Department of Justice on conspiracy charges, I read news of his shocking death in a car accident. I didn't know McClendon personally, but he is indeed a legend in the story of the fracking boom. So much so I dedicated an entire chapter of my forthcoming book Frackopoly to him. And in the light of news of his death my scathing assessment of him may seem uncharitable to those unfamiliar with his record.

The fact is, McClendon was a contemporary oil baron who at times excelled at high stakes financial gambling. When he was on a roll making billions, it came at the expense of the planet and people—whether it was the leaseholders he allegedly conspired against, the communities that fracking harmed or the impacts on our global climate. His story, from start to finish, is a tragedy all around.

But he's just one figure in the system that has helped bring about a boom in fracking, the continued reliance on fossil fuels and a system of market-based schemes masquerading as environmental “solutions" and being pushed by vested interests. The story I tell in Frackopoly doesn't end or begin at McClendon, but he's a major piece of the contemporary story of fracking and only the latest in a long line of oil and gas industry profiteers that have existed since the heyday of John D. Rockefeller.

McClendon said in a statement Tuesday, in regard to his indictment, that he was being singled out. One thing is for sure: he was right that this type of collusion in the oil industry goes on all the time. As I wrote in my original Facebook post, the real scandal about his conspiracy charge is how much this kind of behavior is tolerated without any investigation or concern—and has been for decades. As a result of McClendon's aggressive and irresponsible business practices, he had many enemies and so I do believe that his death should be thoroughly investigated.

No matter what, it is time to take back our democracy from billionaires that control major industries like oil and gas and whose influence spreads far and wide to create policies that keep us hooked on what they're selling. That's the story in Frackopoly that I do believe I was able to tell adequately, even if McClendon's story ended abruptly after the book went to print. His legacy should serve as another warning that the age of oil barons must end and that we must take energy policy back from billionaires as if our life depended on it—because it does.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Bankruptcy Filing Shows Arch Coal Funded Climate Denial Group

Oregon Passes Historic Bill to Phase Out Coal and Double Down on Renewables

China's Coal Use and Carbon Emissions Fall as Renewables Have Record-Breaking Year

Porter Ranch 'Monster' Gas Leak Largest in U.S. History

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Rice University marine biologist Adrienne Correa takes samples at a reef in Flower Garden Banks. Jesse Cancelmo / Rice University

Hurricane Harvey Runoff Threatens Coral Reefs

Hurricane Harvey's record rains didn't just unleash a torrent of floodwaters into the Gulf of Mexico—this freshwater could be harming coral reefs which require saltwater to live, according to new research.

After Harvey dumped more than 13 trillion gallons of rain over southeast Texas, researchers detected a 10 percent drop in salinity at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, located 100 miles off the coast of Galveston, Texas.

Keep reading... Show less

Pruitt Wants to Make the EPA Less Accountable to the Public

When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) breaks the law by missing deadlines, allowing polluters to violate regulations that protect our health and environment, one way the public holds it accountable is by taking the agency to court. Scott Pruitt and his corporate polluter allies see this as a problem, so Monday, the administrator moved to curtail the agency's practice of settling lawsuits with outside groups, making it easier to skirt the law.

"Pruitt's doing nothing more than posturing about a nonexistent problem and political fiction," John Walke, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate and Clean Air program said in reaction. "His targeting of legal settlements, especially where EPA has no defense to breaking the law, will just allow violations to persist, along with harms to Americans."

Keep reading... Show less
Oil on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. Julie Dermansky

Nearly 400,000 Gallons of Oil Spews Into Gulf of Mexico, Could Be Largest Spill Since Deepwater Horizon

Last week, a pipe owned by offshore oil and gas operator LLOG Exploration Company, LLC spilled up to 393,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, reminding many observers of the Deepwater Horizon explosion seven years ago that spewed approximately 210 million gallons of crude into familiar territory.

Now, a report from Bloomberg suggests that the LLOG spill could be the largest in the U.S. since the 2010 BP blowout, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

Keep reading... Show less
Shutterstock

Big Food Is Worried About Millennials Avoiding Animal Products

By Nathan Runkle

Hundreds of leaders from fast-food chains, marketing agencies and poultry production companies recently gathered in North Carolina for the 2017 Chicken Marketing Summit to play golf and figure out how to make you eat more animals.

One session focused on marketing chicken to millennials. Richard Kottmeyer, a senior managing partner at Fork to Farm Advisory Services, explained to the crowd that millennials are "lost" and need to be "inspired and coached." His reasoning? Because there are now "58 ways to gender identify on Facebook." Also, because most millennial women take nude selfies, the chicken industry needs to be just as "naked" and transparent.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

Strange Days: Ex-Hurricane Ophelia Batters Ireland Under Orange Skies

By Dr. Jeff Masters and Bob Henson

Ex-Hurricane Ophelia hit Ireland hard with full hurricane-like fury on Monday, bringing powerful winds that caused widespread damage and power outages. At least two deaths have been reported from trees falling on cars, and The Irish Times said at least 360,000 ESB Networks customers lost power in Ireland because of the storm.

Keep reading... Show less
GMO
PBouman / Shutterstock

EPA Limits Use of Problematic Herbicide Dicamba—But Is That Enough?

By Dan Nosowitz

Dicamba has been in use as a local pesticide for decades, but it's only recently that Monsanto has taken to using it in big, new ways. The past two years have seen the rollout of dicamba-resistant seed for soybean and cotton, as well as a new way to apply it: broad spraying.

But dicamba, it turns out, has a tendency to vaporize and drift with the wind, and it if lands on a farm that hasn't planted Monsanto's dicamba-resistant seed, the pesticide will stunt and kill crops in a very distinctive way, with a telltale cupping and curling of leaves, as seen above. Drift from dicamba has affected millions of acres of crops, prompting multiple states to issue temporary bans on the pesticide. Farmers have been taking sides, either pro-dicamba or anti, and at least one farmer has been killed in a dispute over its use.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Runoff from a farm field in Iowa during a rain storm. Lynn Betts / U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Drinking Water for Millions in Rural America Contaminated With Suspected Carcinogen

Drinking water supplies for millions of Americans in farm country are contaminated with a suspected cancer-causing chemical from fertilizer, according to a new report by the Environmental Working Group.

The contaminant is nitrate, which gets into drinking water sources when chemical fertilizer or manure runs off poorly protected farm fields. Nitrate contaminates drinking water for more than 15 million people in 49 states, but the highest levels are found in small towns surrounded by row-crop agriculture. Major farm states where the most people are at risk include California, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Kansas.

Keep reading... Show less
www.youtube.com

Trump's Approval Rating on Hurricane Response Sinks 20 Points After Puerto Rico

President Trump's approval rating for overseeing the federal government's response to hurricanes fell by 20 points after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, a CNN poll conducted by SSRS revealed.

Trump's approval rating for responding to hurricanes Harvey and Irma stood at 64 percent in mid-September. Just a month later, the rating dropped to 44 percent.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

Get EcoWatch in your inbox