The Spectacle Blog

Unlikely Bedfellows: Slavers and Frackers

By on 4.23.14 | 1:38PM

What do slave owners and oil CEOs have in common? According to The Nation’s Chris Hayes, both everything and nothing.

In his article “The New Abolitionism," he explains that at the time of the civil war, slavery was a $10 trillion industry which wealthy southerners depended on for subsistence. Doing some interesting mathematical guess-timating which I am unqualified to question, Hayes determines that the fossil fuel industry is also worth about $10 trillion.

Coincidence? He thinks not.

In case you were flabbergasted by Hayes’s audacity comparing frackers with men who owned, abused, and exploited other human beings, rest assured: Hayes explains he knows the two are unworthy of comparison.

However, that doesn’t stop him from noting “similarity” after “similarity." He goes through the history of each, explaining the selfish greed of slaveowners and oil moguls, and how slavery was an outdated method of production, just like oil has become in the modern age:

If I’ve done my job so far, you should, right about now, be feeling despair. If, indeed, what we need to save the earth is to forcibly pry trillions of dollars of wealth out of the hands of its owners, and if the only precedent for that is the liberation of the slaves—well, then you wouldn’t be crazy if you concluded that we’re doomed, since that result was achieved only through the most brutal extended war in our nation’s history.

After these batty doomsday predictions, he argues that to stop these power-hungry anti-christs, green giants must encourage the globe to cease funding the Keystone Pipeline. In other words, Keystone should get canned because of the elusive grandeur of “climate justice” and the threat of “global cataclysm."

Who will lead the fight against this “postapocalyptic future in which we’ve already burned enough fossil fuel to warm the planet past even the most horrific projections”? The Climate Justice League, comprised of Chris Hayes, Al Gore, Bill McKibben, and, for old time's sake, Paul Ehrlich.

Hayes might think he’s a modern-day abolitionist, but has he forgotten that drilling for oil isn’t actually immoral? As Alex Epstein writes in his book Fossil Fuels Improve the Planet, a quick glance at underdeveloped countries should keep people from calling natural gas “dirty”:

Energy is what we need to build sturdy homes, to produce huge amounts of fresh food, to generate heat and air-conditioning, to irrigate deserts, to dry malaria-infested swamps, to build hospitals, to manufacture pharmaceuticals.

Comparing the Exxon Mobil CEO to some kind of evil plantation owner depriving humans of their basic rights is downright lunacy. Fossil fuels are excellent tools. Epstein writes, “If solar or wind were good alternatives, they wouldn’t need political advocates.” Likewise, if hybrid cars changed the world, more people would buy them a second time around.

If Hayes wants justice, he should stop protesting operations that would produce more jobs, lower gas prices, free our economy from dependence on our enemies, and provide millions of people with clean water, warm homes, and good health.

Then he should take a deep breath and retire the superhero cape.

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