Twenty years ago, George Mitchell sold Wall Street the idea that firing high pressure water into the ground could extract the remaining oil.
Ten years ago, fracking began in many places across the US.
Today, fracking has left behind a devastated and poisoned landscape. And also turned out to be a money pit, not producing any of the profits promised.
Some of fracking’s biggest skeptics are on Wall Street. They argue that the industry’s financial foundation is unstable: Frackers haven’t proven that they can make money. “The industry has a very bad history of money going into it and never coming out,” says the hedge fund manager Jim Chanos, who founded one of the world’s largest short-selling hedge funds. The 60 biggest exploration and production firms are not generating enough cash from their operations to cover their operating and capital expenses. In aggregate, from mid-2012 to mid-2017, they had negative free cash flow of $9 billion per quarter.
Cold fusion was a fraud, but at least it create the environmental and economic mess that fracking has. And there’s no way to clean up either mess fracking has left behind.