State Science Institute Issues Report on Rearden Metal, err, Fracking

The similarity between the the text of the recent NY report on fracking and the fictional state attack on Rearden Metal in Atlas Shrugged is just amazing.

Here is the cowardly State Science Institute report on Rearden Metal from Atlas Shrugged, where a state agency attempts to use vague concerns of unproven potential issues to ban the product for what are essentially political reasons (well-connected incumbents in the industry don't want this sort of competition).  From page 173 of the Kindle version:

[Eddie] pointed to the newspaper he had left on her desk. “They [the State Science Institute, in their report on Rearden Metal] haven’t said that Rearden Metal is bad. They haven’t said that it’s unsafe. What they’ve done is . . .” His hands spread and dropped in a gesture of futility. [Dagny] saw at a glance what they had done.

She saw the sentences: “It may be possible that after a period of heavy usage, a sudden fissure may appear, though the length of this period cannot be predicted. . . . The possibility of a molecular reaction, at present unknown, cannot be entirely discounted. . . . Although the tensile strength of the metal is obviously demonstrable, certain questions in regard to its behavior under unusual stress are not to be ruled out. . . . Although there is no evidence to support the contention that the use of the metal should be prohibited, a further study of its properties would be of value.”

“We can’t fight it. It can’t be answered,” Eddie was saying slowly. “We can’t demand a retraction. We can’t show them our tests or prove anything. They’ve said nothing. They haven’t said a thing that could be refuted and embarrass them professionally. It’s the job of a coward.

From the recent study used by the State of New York to ban fracking (a process that has been used in the oil field for 60 years or so)

Based on this review, it is apparent that the science surrounding HVHF [high volume hydraulic fracturing] activity is limited, only just beginning to emerge, and largely suggests only hypotheses about potential public health impacts that need further evaluation....

...the overall weight of the evidence from the cumulative body of information contained in this Public Health Review demonstrates that there are significant uncertainties about the kinds of adverse health outcomes that may be associated with HVHF, the likelihood of the occurrence of adverse health outcomes, and the effectiveness of some of the mitigation measures in reducing or preventing environmental impacts which could adversely affect public health. Until the science provides sufficient information to determine the level of risk to public health from HVHF to all New Yorkers and whether the risks can be adequately managed, DOH recommends that HVHF should not proceed in New York State....

The actual degree and extent of these environmental impacts, as well as the extent to which they might contribute to adverse public health impacts are largely unknown. Nevertheless, the existing studies raise substantial questions about whether the public health risks of HVHF activities are sufficiently understood so that they can be adequately managed.

Why is it the Left readily applies the (silly) precautionary principle to every new beneficial technology or business model but never applies it to sweeping authoritarian legislation (e.g. Obamacare)?


  1. Onlooker from Troy:

    Amazing, just UFB.

    And you know the answer to your question, of course. Power, not principles.

  2. ErikTheRed:

    My stance on the Precautionary Principle, which effectively states that one should minimize the probability of negative outcomes regardless of any and all cost considerations, is that people that truly believe in it should immediately kill themselves - it's the obvious and logical conclusion of this philosophy.

  3. Tony Hansen:

    ...the overall weight of the evidence from the cumulative body of information
    Is that measured in pounds or ounces?

  4. me:

    To the point. My usual problem with these types of feasibility studies is that the two ends of the political spectrum invariably interpret them with their favorite paradigm (Left - "We shouldn't do anything because the results are not certain" vs Right - "there should be no constraints and we ought to be indemnified from any negative results because the results are not certain"). IMHO, the correct course almost always should be "Given that results are not certain, let's go for a limited feasibility study in the form of a life implementation with an insurance fund to back up in case of problems".

  5. joe:

    The left is only too eager to accept hypothosis as proven facts
    1 vaccines causng autism
    2 sudden accelleration
    3 GMO food
    4 fracturing
    5 climate science hypothosis as proven fact
    6 etc

  6. LoneSnark:

    it really is rather stunning how hard it is to find adverse environmental impact from fracking. Of course, the substitute technology we will use when fracking is banned, coal, had no such difficulty.

  7. mesocyclone:

    Mine is that they should apply it to the remedies they suggest. The precautionary principle applied to the climate scare would say that cutting CO2 is guaranteed to cause a lot of people to die, so don't do it. Etc.

  8. Rocco:

    Tony Hansen: Is that measured in pounds or ounces.

    On the government side of the scale, the arguments are measured in ounces. On the other side of the scale, the arguments are measured in pounds. Higher number wins.

  9. dullgeek:

    Your final question above is my favorite part of this post. But couldn't the left say the same thing about the right - except in reverse? Would that question carry the same validity as yours?

  10. Morbius:

    That sucking sound you hear is jobs and prosperity going Pennsylvania.

  11. 11B40:


    So, as once we were told that lawyers are those skilled at getting around the law, we now have scientists skilled at getting around the science.

  12. brainpimp:

    Great post, except your position on the right is completely false. Right - "there should be no constraints and we ought to be indemnified from any negative results because the results are not certain" There is no group anywhere proposing this position.

  13. bobbymike34:

    Because problems with any government program leads to its' expansion not its' elimination. Government programs BENEFIT from being poorly designed cause, "All its needs in more money and more bureaucrats" and that answer works year after year.

  14. gastorgrab:

    "Until the science provides sufficient information to determine the level of risk to public health from....."


    The report attempts to convict an entire industry based on a lack of evidence???

    If science cant predict the future behavior of a citizen, does that mean his civil rights should be suspended until science catches up? He might rob a bank or something, right?

  15. nickshaw:

    The Precautionary Principle.
    Isn't this what the whole Gorebull warming/climate change movement is based on?
    Despite no warming in 18 plus years, contra prediction, no hurricanes in 9 years, contra prediction, fewer tornadoes, contra prediction and still lots of ice at the poles, again, contra prediction, they still cling to "could", "possibly" and "perhaps" as proof that we're all going to die.
    If you listen to anything the government says without a skeptical ear, you are a moron.

  16. nickshaw:

    You'd almost think the professions were related in some way these days.

  17. nickshaw:

    Errr...the left has a history of doing things without any idea of whether or not there may be adverse results. It is what feels good at the time and any bad outcomes can be rectified (yeah, sure) with tinkering later on.
    I can't think of anyone on the right who suggests there should be no constraints whatsoever and asks to be indemnified beforehand.
    Unless you can offer an example?

  18. poitsplace .:

    Allow me to properly translate the precautionary principle. In the absence of an appeal to authority, prove the negative.

  19. Brennan:

    Please rephrase the question posited in a way that underlines your point. Pay close attention to the use of the term "authoritarian."

  20. hutch1200:

    "Until the science provides sufficient information to determine the level of risk to public health from.....
    Unprotected ghey sexing, it shall be deemed a Felony not to wear a condom whilst engaging in this behavior". How's that?
    I believe the above statement is indeed true, since we do have the evidence. But try to get THAT law passed. No more HIV drugs for homosexuals, since their "reckless" behavior led to their condition.
    And if the gheys don't need protection, and the State is giving them that choice, I shall forego my Motorcycle helmet and participate in this high risk, tax-payer funded, game of chance. Only my safety odds are better. And if needed, I CAN & WILL donate my organs since my corpse won't be a hazardous waste site.
    Sorry if this sounds homophobic, but it was the 1st analogy that popped into my head.

  21. Brennan:

    I don't profess to speak for Coyote, but any attempt to ascribe his comments to "the right" is a non-starter. Plus, nice strawman--a strawman that statists consistently claim in defense of consistently counterproductive statist initiatives. Pimp that.

  22. Carl Fales:

    Good thing Pennsylvania and Ohio won't cut their own throats the way New York is by banning fracking. Even more amazing is that California, which is a fiscal basket case, refuses to exploit the tens of billions of dollars worth of proven oil reserves off their coast because of a minor oil spill that happened in the 1960's. That's right - almost 50 years ago. More proof that liberalism is a mental disorder.

  23. Canvasback:

    You sort of argued with yourself in your last sentence. A swing and a miss at a strawman.

  24. joe:

    Except the fracturing has been going on since the 1930's and 40's. The current method of fracturing has been going on 15-20 years. SWD has been going on since the 20's.

    That would amount to substantially more than a limited feasibility study.

    but as one left wing nut said - real world experience doesnt qualify as a peer reviewed study.

  25. chuck_in_st_paul:

    pandering to the cash contributors. The power supply industry (coal, OPEC oil, Russia, etc.) are terrified of shale gas and oil. Already my pump price of 87 octane has dropped from high $3 area down to $2.23 this morning. Wholesale prices are down from $110 to around $50. If we kept fracking and kept finding better ways to crack heavy oil, and built 100 thorium nuke generators, etc., etc. then in ten years we could tell the sand savages to go to the Devil they worship and Americans would have cheap abundant energy for a thousand years. Don't forget the Japanese research into methane calthrates, the next fuel.

  26. chuck_in_st_paul:

    and OPEC and Russia, etc.

  27. bobby_b:

    There's a formula promulgated by the CBO that holds that a divisive political issue has been "studied enough" when the combined weight of the resulting published studies, all supportive media articles, and all paper checks written from the government to its cronies outweighs the pile of absentee voter forms that we would need to use to attract as many votes as did the divisive political issue.