The Billionaire Who Built the Dakota Access Pipeline Is 'Scared to Death' of a Fracking Ban

Illustration for article titled The Billionaire Who Built the Dakota Access Pipeline Is 'Scared to Death' of a Fracking Ban
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Folks, we’ve got a real dilemma on our hands, and that dilemma is whether or not we should ban fracking. It’s a very complex issue, you see.


Yeah, fracking is an environmental disaster, so I was pretty stoked when Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced a bill to ban it last week. But it’s come to my attention that Kelcy Warren, the multi-billionaire behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, is really afraid of a fracking ban.

“I am scared to death, I’m telling you,” he told a crowd at the Argus Americas Crude Summit. The Energy Transfer Partners CEO said eliminating fracking for oil and natural gas—sorry, freedom gas—would usher in “chaos.” Knowing his feelings about this really complicates my views! Please join me in weighing the options here.

On the one hand, fracking pollutes air and drinking water, uses up a ton of valuable resources, and increases the potential for dangerous oil spills. It can even cause earthquakes because of the high pressure used in the extraction process. So yeah, I totally get the appeal of banning it.

As soon as I think I’m all on board with banning fracking, though, I remember Kelcy! The guy seems really upset. He said talking about the Dakota Access Pipeline, is “like talking about my son” because he’s “just so proud of it.” This guy’s got serious feelings about his baby pipeline, y’all. I mean, just five years ago, the little guy wasn’t even born yet! And now he’s shipping sludgy crude oil 1,172 whole miles from North Dakota to Illinois! They grow up so fast. Are we really going to kill this man’s child?

But then I start thinking a little more about the Dakota Access Pipeline. I know it’s his son, but it’s pretty, uh, problematic. In 2016, it became a bit of a poster child for the worst parts of capitalist greed when Energy Transfer Partners ignored the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s pleas to keep the pipeline off their sacred land and out of their water—or at least perform a real environmental assessment before building the pipeline. And all those people got arrested—sometimes violently—for largely peaceful protests. Some are still facing federal charges that could land them in prison for 110 years, all for protecting water and land from the perils of a fracked oil spill! That’s a tally for the pro-fracking ban column, for sure.


But then it’s like, maybe Energy Transfer Partners already learned their lesson from all that stuff. They lost billions of dollars by not properly consulting with the indigenous communities their pipeline was routed through. Kelcy Warren is worth $4.1 billion today, but if he hadn’t had that little snafu with forgetting to ask the rightful owners of land whether or not he and his company could utterly destroy it, he could be worth even more today! Poor dude. Or, maybe not poor dude. But you know what I mean.

The whole climate crisis thing really starts to tip the scales in favor of a fracking ban, though. Sorry to be a bummer, but scientists say that the future of all life on the planet basically depends on quickly phasing out of fossil fuels, oil and natural gas included.. And not to be a further downer, but global greenhouse emissions rose last year in part due to oil and gas use. The U.S. is a big contributor, exporting an average of more than 3 million barrels of crude oil a week. So like, I don’t know, it seems kind of bad to keep extracting it and letting Kelcy’s son send it off to market. In that light, banning fracking doesn’t sound like chaos to me, it just sounds like making a good life choice.


But Kelcy seems so cool! He seems so different from other CEOs. He writes country ballads! He wears cowboy boots! And he thinks banning fracking would be hard for the energy system to handle! Surely he has humanity’s best interests at heart.

I don’t know, should we ban fracking? It’s a real toss-up. What do you think? Sound off in the comment, y’all!


Earther staff writer. Blogs about energy, animals, why we shouldn't trust the private sector to solve the climate crisis, etc. Has an essay in the 2021 book The World We Need.



I feel like this video nicely sums up where this is all headed:

I really do hate to read a book by its cover, but this appears to my eyes as a room full of Trump supporters. I know that this article doesn’t specifically mention Trump, but I think we’re all pretty clear on where the president stands on renewable energy and some of the less-conventional methods of extracting petroleum products from the earth.

I have to wonder whether folks like this have the curiosity or mental fortitude to follow the money back to the source. Very little (maybe none) of this fracking happens without the blessing of the federal government. And the end result? At best? Folks drinking bottled water until they are finally forced off of their land. At worst? Folks getting violently ill and/or dying from ingesting effluents used in fracking or released by the disturbance.