*The text below offers the first few lines of an essay concerning what I am calling the “magical thinking” of mid-stream energy corporation Kinder Morgan. I argue that Richard Kinder–who I profile after the self-aggrandizing imp from the fable Rumpelstiltskin–epitomizes magical thinking insofar as he holds to the view that the massive pipeline transport and export projects KMEP has leveraged over the course of the shale gas boom will be worth the billions of dollars of investment-despite the fact that, as Deborah Rogers persuasively argues, the scale of gas in the ground (the resource) is unlikely ever to become gas in the pipeline. Kinder-Skiltskin exemplifies the mad-imp rush to do whatever it takes to get the gas into the pipelines–and at potentially enormous environmental and human expense. if we thought that fracking was our biggest nightmare, we might have thought too soon. Given everything we know about rates of leakage, the horrific record of Kinder-Stiltskin, and the fact that the boom will go bust, we cannot join too soon the rising voices of campaigns like STOP THE TENNESSEE PIPELINE!
1. The Magical Thinking of Richard Kinder-Stiltskin: Resources versus Reserves
If ever an extraction corporation epitomized the spirit of 16th century philosopher Francis Bacon, it is surely Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (KMEP).
But this isn’t merely because their record of fossil fuel transport and export rivals the company from which KMEP derives its major players—ENRON—for sheer economic ruthlessness.
It’s because—if Deborah Lawrence Rogers of the Energy Policy Forum(EnergyPolicyForum | America has come to crossroads with regard to energy) is right—Richard Kinder (CEO of Enron for over 16 years to 1996) is gambling KMEP’s assets—not to mention the environmental integrity upon which millions of human beings, nonhuman animals and wildlife depend—on what can only be called magical thinking.
Why? Because we’ve very little good reason to believe that the gas KMEP needs to get into its pipelines is going to be gas we can actually get out of the ground—even via the massive environmental destruction to which we’re already witness. Kinder, in fact, must be channeling Bacon if he thinks that his most recent pricey gambit—the Tennessee Pipeline—is going to cash out the over the long haul; indeed, only magic could make this true—or perhaps the “magic” of deception, or even better, the “magic” of creating deceptive cover while you cash out the last whiff of fossil fuel from the shale plays….
...Here’s the simple upshot: the only way to make shale gas extraction via horizontal slickwater hydraulic fracturing profitable is to swindle investors into thinking (or provide them cover so that they can pretend that that’s what they believed) that resources can be translated into reserves and/or to make this piece of magical thinking appear true by (a) structuring the enterprise for maximally efficient execution of acquisitions and expansions (MLPs), and (b) getting as much production into the pipeline and ready for export to the global markets as fast as possible before the ratio of production cost to profit margin becomes too narrow, too risky, or too transparently a shell game to continue. Making sure that laws are written, governments bought, propaganda crafted, opponents neutralized, and the harmed silenced is essential to the Fracking-Stiltskin enterprise as a whole because there is no hundred years to make good on the gambit. Maybe there’s ten years; maybe there’s only five. But in another two years, no one’s going to buy, for example, the bridge fuel metaphor because the bridge turns out to be nothing more than a Rumpelstiltskin straw stretched across the rising oceans of climate change…