This place should be richer than Saudi Arabia
And, failing up: losing $200 billion to become the second richest person
Some of the news from Bridgeport, Ohio
Every January they come to shit on us. Crows by the thousand. Dark and thick in the trees behind my apartment. Shitting. All the time.
Bridgeport, Ohio is a landmark for crows. It’s wired into their tiny nut brains. Eat. Sleep. Shit on Bridgeport, Ohio. Each generation passes down precise geo-coordinates to the next.
I hear them squawking outside as they take flight. One of the thousands of Halliburton semi trucks rolling through here daily stirs them from the roost. Liquid shit falls from the sky like cursed rain. It slaps on the sidewalk like dough in a skillet.
The semis are carrying brine. It’s a toxic brew left over from hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. Belmont County, Ohio sits in the heart of a twenty-two-county region responsible for 90% of gas production from the Appalachian basin. An unbelievable 32.5 billion cubic feet of gas comes out of this ground daily.
I sweep the bird shit from the sidewalk in front of my bar for the 4 PM open. Regulars file in. Some straight off of the frack pad, covered head to toe in drilling mud. One of them drinks Pepsi and sings karaoke. His clothes are clean now. Life is slower for him after a couple massive heart attacks last July.
Bill was like most dudes working in the gas industry. $12 an hour base pay. 120 hours per week. Double time and other compensation put more cash in his pocket than most like him have seen. Gas money flows like the mighty Ohio through bars, strip joints, and video poker machines. The tips at my bar ain’t bad.
There was a dull pain hanging around in Bill’s leg. It stayed long enough to warrant an off-the-rack cane from CVS until one day it required a trip to the ER. The first of seven massive heart attacks laid him down minutes after arrival. 3,000 volts straight to the heart hurt more than the heart failure itself.
He doesn’t know how many times he was defibrillated. But he remembers a few moments from the handful of times when he was technically dead. There didn’t seem to be much on the other side. I asked him if his brief peek at eternal nothingness haunted him late at night. He said it made him want to enjoy karaoke night more. I like that.
$3,500 a month is what Bill can expect from here on out. That’s the cap on Social Security Disability for his situation. No more work. Or drinks. After a few months to recover from switching between being dead and being alive, the fracking company called him up and fired him over the phone.
It’s both all about the money and not about it at all. People like Bill are deadweight on the bottom line of big oil companies. Better to throw him over the side and onto public benefits lest too many Bills start dragging down the quarterly reports. And at the same time, it would take a lot of Bills to impede the endless march of profiteering by big oil.
A thousand cubic feet of natural gas is trading at $3.32 today. The 32.5 billion cubic feet that come out of the ground daily thanks to people like Bill are worth roughly $107,900,000 (again, daily).
There is no limit to what these companies can afford. And there is no length to which they won’t go to keep every red cent they take from here. There are no unions. The government can only brag about “energy independence”. Even the Democrats, supposed defenders of the Bills in this world, cannot make enough haste to polish the knobs of gas companies.
I recounted this cocktail napkin math to my friend John Napier who summed it up pretty well. “This place should be richer than Suadi Arabia.”
A quick google will tell you that Saudi Arabia is sitting on an estimated 268 billion barrels of oil. The USGS estimates 214 trillion cubic feet of natural gas sit in the Appalachian basin. Never mind the fact that all of this shit must be left in the ground if the human race hopes to draw breath on this planet for anything more than another 100 years. People here don’t have the time or money to think much about such abstract thoughts.
They should though. The wealth of nations sit under our feet. We’re the ones digging it out of the ground.
It’s about time to wrap this story up. This is an independent newsletter that I write part-time. I don’t have an editor, so you’re subject to my writing as it falls out of my Nicolas Cage-sized head. They say you’re supposed to end your writing where it began, so here goes nothing.
Uncontrollable shitting from thousands of birds is the province of mother nature, beyond the control of man. The amount of shit we’re willing to take from big oil companies is entirely up to us.
And that’s some of the news from Bridgeport, Ohio.
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The prize for losing $200 billion dollars - being the world’s second-richest person
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On any given night in America, there are 500,000 people that are homeless. 700 people freeze to death on the street. It's more than that. It's just under-reported.
Two-thirds of the country is working full-time and living paycheck to paycheck. The median amount saved at age 65 for retirement is $87,000. You need eight times your peak salary to have a comfortable retirement. There's medical debt, credit card debt, and student loan debt.
The point is the whole country is working as hard as they can and just doesn't have enough money because a few people at the top have it all and can just lose $200 billion of it and still be the second richest person on earth.
It is ridiculous.
It's a little bit like if there were 100 people on earth with 100 houses and one guy owns all the houses and the 99 aren't allowed to go in. We don't know what kind of society we could have if that money were in our pockets, but that's the price of allowing billionaires to exist.
Comment Response: You can’t just take rich people’s money
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“You can't just take rich people's money.”
Why not? They took it from us. How else do you think somebody gets a single billion, let alone hundreds of billions? You could get paid a million dollars a day and still have to work 1,000 days at a million dollars to get just one billion. People are out here with hundreds of billions.
"Well, it's stock appreciation." That's how they got it.
Okay. How does stock appreciate? It's valuable. Where does value come from? From people doing work.
"Oh, your company's gonna make all the cars electric, gonna take us to Mars, gonna cure cancer, gonna do whatever..." Who's going to do that? Workers are going to do that. Without them doing it, your company is valueless.
The people producing the value do not get the wealth. It all goes to one guy who takes the value from everybody working for him and now has hundreds of billions of dollars.
So, take it back. Unionize their companies. Set up all possible paths of compensation to benefit workers. That's what they did to create billionaires in the first place. Just reverse it.
If that sounds crazy, it's not any crazier than what we have now, which is a single person who lost $200 billion and is still the second richest person on earth, at the same time that two-thirds of the country is living paycheck to paycheck. That's crazy.
Pick any metric. The system that we have right now is a joke and it's only working for the people who set it up to work that way.