The Fracking industry is a massive scam, it seems.

by Gilbert Keith

I started writing this post a little while ago, but never got around to finishing it. Just recapturing my thoughts from some posting I did on Facebook a while ago.

============ just retweeted this article:

Screen Shot 2013-09-12 at 10.11.03 PM

Per the article:

IT WAS JUST a couple of years ago that fracking was booming in upstate Pennsylvania […] Janet Geiger […] could count on getting a $300 to $400 check every month from the gas giant Chesapeake Energy Corp., which was drilling under her land. But both the gas and the checks […] dwindled until finally, in March, a check never showed up. [S]he [Geiger] finally reached someone with the Oklahoma gas driller who explained “they didn’t have a buyer [for the gas] that month.” But Geiger said that she’d already seen the signs of a slowdown, that rural streets once clogged with the massive trucks of the drilling firms were mostly empty now, while new motels that had been hastily thrown up or expanded to accommodate a flood of out-of-state workers had only a couple of cars in the parking lots.

This is mighty strange. There would (or, I guess, should) be a fairly consistent trend in news reporting regarding said slowdown, if there is indeed a slowdown. I can’t seem to find anything like this.

This is what it looks like.

Blue: “fracking”
Red: “fracking pa”
Yellow: “fracking jobs pa”
Green: “fracking Pennsylvania”
Maroon: “fracking jobs”

Screen Shot 2013-09-12 at 10.03.01 PMAs you can see, fracking clearly dominates… “fracking jobs pa” was negligible compared to those other things. So let’s clear out “fracking” and see if that helps.

Note that the colors are different now.
Blue: “fracking pa”
Red: “fracking jobs pa”
Yellow: “fracking Pennsylvania”
Green: “fracking jobs”

Screen Shot 2013-09-12 at 10.07.23 PMNothing conclusive there… “fracking Pennsylvania” seems to have gone down the gutter, but “fracking pa” is still strong. “Fracking jobs” isn’t statistically different it seems.


The below was written on 10/06Anyway, since this Google ngrams things proving so inconclusive, I did some actual searching on Google news. Boy was I looking in the wrong place.

I first came across this from Bloomberg dated Aug 18, 2013:

Oil companies are hitting the brakes on a U.S. shale land grab that produced an abundance of cheap natural gas — and troubles for the industry.

The spending slowdown by international companies including BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP) and Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) comes amid a series of write-downs of oil and gas shale assets, caused by plunging prices and disappointing wells. The companies are turning instead to developing current projects, unable to justify buying more property while fields bought during the 2009-2012 flurry remain below their purchase price, according to analysts.

Which then led me to this article from the NY Times (dated 2011!)

In the e-mails, energy executives, industry lawyers, state geologists and market analysts voice skepticism about lofty forecasts and question whether companies are intentionally, and even illegally, overstating the productivity of their wells and the size of their reserves. […]

“Money is pouring in” from investors even though shale gas is “inherently unprofitable,” an analyst from PNC Wealth Management, an investment company,  wrote to a contractor in a February e-mail. “Reminds you of dot-coms.”

“The word in the world of independents is that the shale plays are just giant Ponzi schemes and the economics just do not work,” an analyst from IHS Drilling Data, an energy research company,  wrote in an e-mail on Aug. 28, 2009.

I did some more digging, and ended up stopping my reading with this description of regulatory arbitrage: (Aug 19, 2013)

manipulation of costs and other data by oil companies is keeping billions of dollars in royalties out of the hands of private and government landholders, an investigation by ProPublica has found. An analysis of lease agreements, government documents and thousands of pages of court records shows that such underpayments are widespread.


Moral of the story:

Don’t bother using search statistics, just look up the actual thing.