Lite libertarians—who always put “progress” above private property—just love fracking, the colloquial for “hydraulic fracturing” for natural gas. The great John Stossel has extolled the merits of fracking in his columns and broadcasts. Myself, I don’t know enough about “the drilling method that uses water, sand and other additives to expand fissures in underground rocks to free oil or natural gas trapped within them.” But I do know about the natural right to private property.
A legalistic ploy like the “split estate,” whereby “the right to develop oil or gas deposits is severed from the surface”—in other words, you own only the land surface, not the minerals below the surface—amounts to a lien on private property. Unless, of course, the “split estate” arrangement is clearly specified in the property deed of sale. Namely, “A” sells the land to “B,” under the condition, specified in a contract, that “A” retains rights to what’s underground.
Currently, some fracking operations are set up on the private land of hapless owners, who either did not know that “mineral rights had been sold off long before” their acquisition of said land. Or, could “still be forced to allow gas mining [on their land], if a majority of [their] neighbors sign leases with drillers.”
“Thin libertarians” think that generally approving of all technology makes them forward-thinking and ever-so hip. However, contra the angle mined by Mr. Stossel and his philosophical kin, the central problem with fracking is that it is done, for the most, in violation of homesteader, private-property rights.
By granting permits to allow vertical penetration of someone’s land with heavy equipment, state lawmakers are screwing the landowner out of his rightfully owned land and the privacy, peace and tranquility he is entitled to on that parcel of land.
Clearly the problem with grants of mineral rights by state or federal lawmakers is that these grants of privilege by government, local or federal, violate the landowner’s natural rights of private property.
UPDATE: In answer to the Facebook thread:
* Neighborhoods could also form a neighborhood association whereby buying into the community came with either a fracking permit or a ban on the practice.
* Reminder: The post is not about “fracking,” but about property rights, the cornerstone of libertarianism—and civilization itself.