Energy, Environment, Wayne Laugesen

Anti-fracking zealots disregard property rights

America’s new oil boom promises peace and prosperity. More energy means more jobs, higher incomes and better-funded governments. Only a breach of civil liberties – only a plan for mob rule – threatens the potential.

President Barack Obama flaunted the oil boom during his weekend address last Saturday as an example of this country’s promise under his reign.

icon_op_ed“For the first time in nearly two decades, we produce more oil here at home than we buy from the rest of the world,” Obama said Jan. 18.

Oil production has increased more than 21 percent during Obama’s presidency. Meanwhile, the amount of federal land leased for production has decreased by 17 percent – largely because of Obama’s policies.

The oil boom Obama applauds comes mostly from fracking on private land. Take private leases from the equation and we’re right back to creepy alliances and wars that come with foreign oil dependence.

We need oil independence if we are to afford pursuits of wind, solar and other sustainable energy. Energy is essential to creation of wealth, which is crucial to human life. Even the old, the ill, the unemployed and the idle-poor cannot survive without oil-intensive economic activity that funds government.

The North Dakota energy boom consists of one federal lease. Nearly all the windfall comes from production on private lands. Unemployment has remained below 4 percent for years.

If the American oil boom continues, this country will produce more oil than Saudi Arabia within the next six years.

The only threat is a growing Not-In-My-Back-Yard zeal that challenges a fundamental civil liberty.

The Constitution protects freedom so our country can innovate, produce, trade, prosper and progress. Protection of speech means a majority cannot take from an individual the right to communicate, even in ways that offend or frighten others. A majority cannot take guns from blacks, Latinos, or rednecks. Majorities cannot take basic rights from private parties without proving extraordinary cause on a case-by-case basis.

The Constitution’s protection of property rights is no less sacred than protection of religion or speech. It prevents governments and majorities from depriving individuals of private property without due process and reasonable compensation. Successful deprivation involves due process and money.

Those who want to peacefully control another’s property have the opportunity to buy it. Communities control sprawl by negotiating acquisition of private tracts and setting them aside. Those communities with the financial means can use the same maneuver to stop fracking on oil-rich properties.

But a group called Colorado Community Rights Network would prefer mob rule. The organization is busy this week organizing a petition that would ask Colorado voters to amend the Colorado Constitution in November. They hope the amendment would somehow, in conflict with federal property protections, establish opportunity for communities to ban fracking on private land by force. At least four Colorado communities have already tried, in direct defiance of the law.

Of course communities will choose to control private property if given a legal option. Collective reallocation of control benefits recipients who endure little or no personal expense. Besides, most communities would rather enjoy energy that’s produced at the burden of someone else in some distant place.

Americans have a constitutional right to make use of private property. It’s a good thing, as that civil liberty has protected new oil production this country desperately needs. Refuse to sign a petition that seeks to quash fundamental liberty at a devastating cost to progress, jobs, national sovereignty and economic welfare. Say no to mob rule.

Wayne Laugesen is editorial page editor at the Colorado Springs Gazette, where this piece first appeared.


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