Joe Nocera on the NCAA, Fracking and Wall Street

Friday, March 16, 2012

Joe Nocera, op-ed columnist for The New York Times and WNYC contributor, discusses his proposal to fix college sports. Plus, continued conversations on fracking and the culture of Wall Street. 

Comments [40]

Gary Wise from Garden City

Dear Joe,

You pump huge amounts of water laced with various selections of over 400 toxic chemicals and known cancer causing agents into shale to break it up and make it porous, under your drinking water source. Makes sense to me.
Joe, take a look at what has been going on in Wyoming and Idaho, and listen to the land owners and ranchers who have had their wells ruined and their livelihoods ruined by Fracking. Yeah, we've been doing it for a lot of years and we've ruined a lot of very good land and water sources.
Please do some honest research and realize Fracking is a horrible idea.

Mar. 16 2012 07:34 PM
LadyPolitik from Brooklyn

I'm not really sure it's such a big deal that NCAA athletes aren't paid. They're first job is school. They're called student-athletes for a reason. However, I acknowledge there are a lot of problems with how the money raised from the athletic departments is spent because it's generally not spent fairly regarding other sports (namely, women's sports!), salaries (coaches who are overpaid compared to their academic counterparts), and academics and supporting the institution itself overall.

I agree there is a lot of stupid and arbitrary power in higher education (regarding rules and regulation of student-athletes), but that's the college or university's prerogative, perhaps? I don't know, many are private institutions. That may be their right. Public institutions, on the other hand, should be held to account. That's up to the students and the communities who are affected by the universities to take on that burden, no?

On a personal note, I felt very powerless in college because if you make too much of a big stink about your higher ed institution or your department the specter of your grades going down is a real threat and consequence as a result. So, perhaps, it's time to (at least) unionize student-athletes even if they don't eventually get paid (which I think would skew the objectives of NCAA and eventually high school basketball and NBA ).

Mar. 16 2012 06:28 PM
Barbara Lifton from New York City

Mr. Nocera is helping his career by creating controversey where none exists. It is a fact that fracking, which uses destructive chemicals that inevitable end up polluting the water table, is damaging to the environment. Mr. Nocera blythly relies on almost non-existant regulation, so reveals his lack of knowledge, or in the alternative, his cynicism. Not too admirable behavior for a journalist, and a betrayal of his readership.

Mar. 16 2012 11:15 AM
Helen in Brooklyn from Brooklyn

I'm a progressive and care deeply for abortion rights but I am breaking with President Obama over his signing of the recent Defense act that allows the President to kill and imprison Americans without due process. He said he thought it unconstitutional but he signed it anyway. Without habeus corpus and absolute legal rights, eveything else I believe in can not be preserved. I am very devastated to be at odds with my 'tribe' on this and it feels politically isolating.

Mar. 16 2012 11:14 AM


I thought you needed to be able to think to get a job at the NYT's!!


Mar. 16 2012 11:02 AM
Roger Witherspoon from Cortlandt Manor

Nocera is wrong on two counts: impact and environmental considerations.
1. the oil from the Canadian fields is destined for export, not the US market. It will have no impact on the use of foreign oil-- which has been declining. His statement was similar to the false claims that increased nuclear power will reduce our dependence on foreign oil when, in fact, oil is used for transport and heat, not making electricity, and we do not have nuclear cars. One has nothing to do with the other.
2. Nocera airily dismisses the environmental impact. He would be on sounder footing if he campaigned as hard for full disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking as he does for changes in the minutiae of the NCAA. In addition, saying it can be done safely "with strong regulation" is nonsense. The regulation does not exist. The GOP platform calls for abolishing the EPA. If Nocera called for establishing a strong regulatory framework before fracking, that would make sense. But given the current state, his casual add-on rings hollow.

Mar. 16 2012 10:57 AM
Patrice from South Orange, NJ

Fracking is tied to earth quakes in Youngstown Ohio. How can that be a good idea? Contamination of drinking water--didn't he see HBO's "Gasland"? The pipeline through one of our main underground water supplies is idiocy. How quickly we forget the Gulf disaster. By the way tar sands oil is VERY HEAVY; much worse than the light crude that "could be skimmed with no environmental consequences" like the oil companies said of the Gulf oil. It sinks and has to be literally dragged off the floor of any body of water. Imagine a leak into our totally enclosed water supply. It would make the gulf cost incident look like a hick up. But we don't have to imagine---there have been oil leaks involving tar sand oil already in the Midwest. Two years later and many health issues later, it is still not clean!

Mar. 16 2012 10:52 AM

Joe, you said yourself that one of the main problems with fracking is that it is regulated by the states not the feds. This is a bigger problem than you actually think since the country as a whole seems to be against increasing the regulatory budget and staffing. You said that there were solvable problems such as how the wells are built but you neglect to address that the regulatory problems need to be solved first.Perhaps if we put all the horses before their perspective carts we can not only produce more energy, but create more jobs in government regulatory agencies and in developing new technologies for clean energy production, be better stewards of the environment, and ultimately even increase corporate profits. We need to address the whole process and learn how to make a delicious omelette from all the broken egos(not a typo but a prescription on how to get it done). Let responsible scientists guide us on the issue not CEO's and reactionary politicians and their supporters.

Mar. 16 2012 10:46 AM
mercedes from westchester

Please, Joe Nocera, go up to upstate New YOrk and talk with the farmers who have spent decades making their farms (especially organic farms) profitable. And I don't mean "profitable in the big business sense. I mean "profitable" as in "I can pay the mortgage" or "I can see a health care provider if needed" without going bankrupt. Fracking has not been held to a high enough standard. It has not and does not want to be regulated because "it is too expensive" or "we don't want to divulge our process secrets." Standards the rest of us are held to all the time. And Pennsylvania??? If the state didn't do things properly, why couldn't the company step forward with a few ethical practices? Oh my, that anyone amking a great deal of money should consider ethics!

Mar. 16 2012 10:38 AM
Judith Thomas from New Jersey

If we have to face the "reality" that fossils fuels are simply going to be needed well into the future, why turn a blind eye to the REALITY that regulation is inadequate to keep nasty stuff from happening to our aquafers?

Mar. 16 2012 10:37 AM
Michael on Long Island from Northport NY

Mr. Nocera is correct in that we have been fracking gas wells for a long time. What he failed to mention is that fracking in the marcellus shale is a much more invasive process. The drilling rigs are much bigger and they have to drill much deeper. This requires great pressure deep underground and also requires millions of gallons of fresh water for each well. He also failed to mention the huge problem of wastewater disposal which contains known carcinogens and radioactive materials.

Mar. 16 2012 10:37 AM
Ian Webster from NYC

One problem with relying on regulation to make sure fracking stays safe is: one of our two major parties is actively trying to dismantle the EPA. If Obama is not re-elected, and the GOP takes control of Congress, there will be an attack on any governmental regulation of fracking. They aren't being subtle about this, it will happen.

Mar. 16 2012 10:36 AM
Anne Hanson from Florida, NY

XL pipeline:
I have heard/read that the oil in that pipeline will be refined and then piped to China. So where is the addition to our reserves from this?

Nice to be hearing NYC from the NJ station near us in Orange County NY.

Mar. 16 2012 10:34 AM

Mr. Nocera keeps forgetting that only our refineries will get the Keystone oil. The products are set for export to China & the Far East.

Also, his fracking comments leave out the Cleveland fracking problem as well as the potable/agricultural water problem as well as the massive heavy hauling taking water & waste in & out of the wells + the inability to trace everywhere the water/chemical mix goes underground.

His lack of skepticism & real investigation on consequences is not worthy of his past work.

Mar. 16 2012 10:33 AM
Rick from Long Island

The goal of Keystone is to get the oil to the port in Texas so it can be shipped to the highest bidder. It is not friendly oil, it is oil to the highest bidder pure and simple. The new Panama canal will allow the oil to be sent even to china.

Mar. 16 2012 10:33 AM
moo from manhattan

unfortunately the fracking industry has these problems because profits always will come before everything else. it will always be a constant struggle to regulate them, with them squirming their way around regulations as quickly as they are made. eventually, disaster will happen - small disasters already have. it's inevitable. and we, who have foresight and live in reality, know it.

Mar. 16 2012 10:32 AM

I'm of two minds about college sports. On the one hand, Mr. Nocera is right in that the NCAA is a horrendous institution that extracts billions of dollars from unpaid labor. On the other hand, I agree with CL - student athletes should be students first, athletes second, but I have no idea what a solution might look like. I'm starting to think that maybe it should be removed from the school environmental entirely and made into a lower level pro league. There would be no academic problems to worry about, the players could get paid, and everything would just make more sense. That would be a great tragedy, though, for students that just want to participate in athletics but have no intention of trying to do it professionally.

Mar. 16 2012 10:31 AM
Basil from bkln

who is this guy again? a scientist? an engineer? sorry dude, you need to stick to things you know and admit what you don't know.

Mar. 16 2012 10:31 AM

"natural gas has a smaller carbon footprint than oil." wow, Joe's a real smarty. What doesn't have a smaller footprint than oil??? Talk about a low bar.

Time for Joe to move on.

Mar. 16 2012 10:31 AM
JessiLydia from way uptown

The one problem with Nocera's view is that it is focused only on profitability, short term. It completely ignores the amazingly self-destructive liability of continuing to grow our economy by expanding its dependencies on fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources.

He's totally ignoring the need to still have an economy in 100 years. His way we won't have one.

Mar. 16 2012 10:31 AM
Chris from Queens

Mr. Nocera,

You realize that much of the Canadian oil would be shipped off, right? That's why the pipe runs down to the coast. Furthermore, have you ever seen a picture of tar sands extraction? It's deplorable. It's done in native areas with poor representation and depressed economies.

Sure, we could get energy from the tar sands. People in debt could also rip the copper out of their walls.

Mar. 16 2012 10:30 AM
Mike from Manhattan

The current Keystone route takes it over the Ogallala Aquifer at a point where its water table is less than 5 feet below the surface. A few gallons of oil in the water would make the water supply for most of the upper Midwest unusable. If the company changes the route, it will not be so dangerous. It is a solvable problem, just like the solvable problems with fracking.

Mar. 16 2012 10:30 AM
Tim from NJ

Like the Wall Street firms, the energy companies are only interested in profits. Even if cracking can be done safely, the energy companies won't spend the money to do it.

Mar. 16 2012 10:29 AM
JT from LI

There's no guarantee that the oil from the Keystone pipeline will make it to the US market. The oil companies will send it to the market that gets the highest price, which is probably China and India given their growing demand.

Mar. 16 2012 10:28 AM
John A.

Human waste as fuel. We need more fuel! "Waste" more humans!

Mar. 16 2012 10:28 AM
Hal from Brooklyn

Isn't the Keystone oil destined for export from the gulf of Mexico?

Mar. 16 2012 10:27 AM
George from Brooklyn

Brian, how about taking the money OUT of the NCAA? Make the footage free, stop paying the coaches, and get rid of sports scholarships... let's take everyone back to the core values of amateur sports, which the athletes (sometimes) embody. I think we would recoup much more than $6 billion in improvements to the quality of education for all Americans. Monetized college sports make me sick - I believe even free tuition for athletes hugely distorts a university's educational mission.

Mar. 16 2012 10:26 AM

please ask Joe where this oil will go, sold to whom, and who will use it after it is refined. Will anyone in the US ever see a drop of this keystone oil????

Mar. 16 2012 10:25 AM
Barry Feiner

With respect to the NCAA, isn't the bottom line that these "college athletes" are employes and, as such, shouldn't they have the right, through a union or otherwise. to negotiate the terms of their employment? Even baseball minor leaguers have this right and are represented by a union.

Joe, Great work. Please keep it up.

Mar. 16 2012 10:23 AM
CL from NYC

Nocera's "solution" is abhorrent. My first thought was that this was his Swiftian modest proposal, but apparently he is serious. A college athlete is supposed to be a student first, and his or her "payment" is an athletic scholarship. If that athlete is to be paid a salary, then let's drop the charade and eliminate the academic requirement. Then they can function as a professional adjunct of the university.

Mar. 16 2012 10:22 AM
Charles from Teaneck

OK, I usually like what Joe Nocera has to say, but pumping chemicals into the ground for short term energy gains is irresponsible at best and dangerous at worst! Fracking is a bad idea. High cancer rates, poisoned wells, earthquakes, and destruction of natural beauty, among other things, should all be avoided.

Mar. 16 2012 10:18 AM
JT from LI

I remember a report about "optional" practices some football teams hold. They can't be mandatory because they start before the allowed dates and because they aren't mandatory the players aren't covered by insurance if they are injured. The NCAA has to be reformed to actually be about the students instead of the schools and the money.

Mar. 16 2012 10:16 AM

Melo knew he was going to be suspended. Boheim just wanted to wait until after the seeding, because if the voters knew Melo was out, Syracuse would not get a #1 seed.

You just can't pay basketball players without paying all the other athletes. Who's going to pay wrestlers and lacross players. This is such a non-starter.

If you don't go to class, it's not a bad rule to not be allowed to play. Joe, stick to wall street.

Mar. 16 2012 10:16 AM
jason from nj

ONLY gas or oil are affected by inflation??! Does your guest buy food or use electricity? Many products are made from petroleum that are used every day not just fuel.

Mar. 16 2012 10:15 AM
John in Bergen County from NW Bergen County

Hey Joe Nocera! You like Fracking? Where do you get your DRINKING WATER FROM? A very private supply?

Mar. 16 2012 10:14 AM

Gas Price = f(Supply, exports, cheap natural gas, Japan cessation of nuclear) - only so much of this will be affected by a release from the strategic reserve...Crude is $30/bbl BELOW the 2008 highs.

On sports - same comment as I had for your guest earlier this week on compensating players. The costs for moneyball sports - varies by school but football, basketball and sometimes soccer and baseball - should come out of the alumni associations. Scholarships, uniforms, coaching salaries, player annuities, etc. The general academic fund can then support other non-moneyball sports and THEN my alma mater would have the money to keep crew, tennis, swimming and diving and FENCING.
Go RU!

Mar. 16 2012 10:13 AM

Most economists would tell us that a little inflation would be a _good_ thing. Ben Bernanke has made noises about what is called "inflation targeting" — deliberate policy to heat up the economy by monetary means. Paul Krugman and others have suggested we should be aiming for an inflation rate of about 3%, perhaps even 4. It's a telling sign that we have the level of expertise and control that the Fed could indeed fine-tune things that well.

As for Government Sachs, if the economy of NYC is so dependent on Wall Street for its economic well-being, then the city has become an economic monoculture, an industry town. New York may have a resource curse. And that is far more of a problem than news of the venality and criminality of loathsome money-grubbers like Lloyd Blankfein.

Mar. 16 2012 10:13 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

NCAA = Modern day share-cropping.

Mar. 16 2012 10:12 AM

oh please, Martin, you act like people will remember the guy's NYT op ed in a month. Unfortunately, this Goldman thing will blow over before the weather warms again. And anyway, that's the beauty of capitalism, there's competition. A number of firms would love to replace Goldman at the top, and their tax money is just as good as goldman. Once again, Martin, you're soooo wrong.

Mar. 16 2012 10:11 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan


Please ask Nocera if he worries that the latest Goldman contretemps is actually bad for our city. Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute writes today:

“Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein woke to a headache yesterday. But the people who should go to bed worried tonight are New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg: Goldman’s PR crisis is New York’s fiscal crisis. The news pushed Goldman’s stock down more than 3 percent in one day. Don’t cry for Goldman and its peers, cry for New York instead.
Over the same years that Wall Street firms were tending to their “muppets,” the state and city budgets grew dangerously dependent on tax revenue from financial-industry profits. Only through tax revenues from Goldman, its competitors, and their employees has New York been able to balance its budgets. The city’s public-worker pension and health-care costs now total $15 billion annually.
If Bloomberg and Cuomo hope to balance their budgets without the type of draconian cuts that could drive New Yorkers away from the city, they’ll need Greg Smith’s clients to keep on being muppets.”

Mar. 16 2012 08:49 AM

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