A few years ago I saw Aubrey McClendon at the Shale Gas Insight conference. He was at the top of his game at Chesapeake Energy. He even had Carl Pope at Sierra Club convinced that fracked gas was good because it was less damaging as a greenhouse gas because when you burn it, it’s got half the climate forcing potential. Little did he say that raw and leaked, it’s a climate bomb. Little did he say that his business was much the same. A raw bomb that he’d make worse.
Today, McClendon died. It looks like he killed himself by driving into a wall. He’d been driving all of us into a wall for the last decade.
That’s perhaps uncouth to say. But as a speaker for the dead and, I hope, a truth teller, I won’t rest on niceties and half truths. And for those of you who think this rude, I invite you to say so upon my death.
I’m reminded of how Aubrey McClendon smugly dismissed people worried about fracking and waved to us at the rally outside as if our concerns were crazy, that our worry for our neighbors and family were unfounded, that the impact of his company’s massive incursion into our commonwealth was somehow welcome and that we just didn’t understand, and that we should just take what was given to us.
Ultimately, that was hubris. His hubris cut him to ribbons. Like Justice Scalia, I wish his family well. But his memory lives in the in the air in the methane his company leaked, in the drained bank accounts, on the fake billboards they peddled, on the land with scarred treelines and farms, in the faces of abused people, in the bodies of maltreated children and grandparents whose noses have bled and bodies have become cancerous, in the waters of our streams, and thousands of empty promises he made. His legacy is one of overreach, greed, abuse, and damage. Perhaps his personal life is different. But his public life amounted to something awful. And somehow, he was driven to it. And legitimized. Repeatedly.
There’s a question at the end…a hard question for all of us: What kind of society makes such a person and drives them that mad?