Pipeline explosions that shut down whole towns. Floods that require evacuations of low-lying parts of long-established communities. And now some folks who are owed royalty checks say that there are drillers who take an exorbitant share of what's owed them by deducting entirely too many fees and expenses from the landowners' checks. Even ardent supporters of exploring for natural gas may rise up in protest in these ever-trying circumstances.
"This is robbery," complains
It was one thing when
To quote the economist Bernard Coase, great champion of private contracts rather than ordeals by litigation, "If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything." To many landowners, they're due 12.5 percent of whatever the natural gas fetches on the once free market, citing the drillers' own sales pitches when they were looking for property owners to sign leases. But drillers may contend the royalty payments are calculated appropriately, considering the current market price -- but minus all the after-the-fact deductions for transportation and processing.
After shaking the couch cushions to see what they might turn up, that's about the end of some businessmen's search for investment. Though once upon a time, before the boom burst, they would never have needed to resort to such measures. The money just kept rolling in, and people got used to depending on it.
The free market offers many answers but, alas, no panaceas. And those who would make it an object of worship can become as deluded as anyone else who has adopted a false god as his own. And just as adept at turning into a snake-oil salesman who believes he's discovered the secret to it all -- whether he's a money crank, a supposed scholar who believes the Earl of Oxford wrote under the name of
Just wake us when it's over because even to watch this show is painful, let alone participate in it. But duty calls, and there's no more escaping it than any other of life's obligations great, small and in-between.