Sunday, August 26, 2012

Does Frac Sand Create Socioeconomic Well-being?

by Thomas W. Pearson, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Stout

The recent boom in frac sand mining in Wisconsin has been touted as a source of economic growth, and especially job creation. Some frac sand corporations have adopted the slogan "sand = jobs," a phrase repeated by many sand mining advocates. But the role of frac sand in community economic development is much more complex. Local elected officials, policy makers, economic development planners, and citizens need to think more critically about the claim that “sand equals jobs.”

‘Job Euphoria’

In the wake of the economic recession and in a highly charged political atmosphere where the economy remains a hot button issue, “job creation” has become empty political rhetoric. Often it's nothing more than an obligatory phrase for elected officials seeking support among voters or corporations seeking the consent of economically battered communities. Who would possibly be against job creation, right?

We regularly hear people say that sand mines create dozens, hundreds, even thousands of jobs, with the assumption that any amount of jobs must be a good thing. But what does that mean? Has the euphoria of job creation become a rhetorical smokescreen that obscures other issues we should be talking about instead?