What’s Love Got to Do With It by: Anna Premoli

What’s Love Got to Do With It by: Anna PremoliWhats's Love Got to Do With It? by Anna Premoli

Kayla David is a high-flying journalist in New York City, spending all her time drinking martinis and writing about fashion trends. She is perfectly happy with her life, and she certainly has no time for falling in love.

That is, until, her boss decides to send her on a secret mission back to her hometown of Arkansas: she is tasked with exposing the truth about the fracking industry and to use her reputation as a lifestyle columnist as a disguise. She is horrified at the thought of returning to this boring country town, but up for the challenge.

Yet, she didn’t plan on having to deal with Grayson Moir, the sexy but aloof mayor of Heber Spring. As Kayla settles into life there she soon realises that it might be a bit more difficult than she thought to keep her real mission a secret. And what’s more, she finds it increasingly difficult to keep her heart under control too…

“Let’s just say that some States, like Arkansas, are embracing fracking without hesitation while in other states the authorities are doing the exact opposite: they are banning it completely.”
“Are they? Where?” I’ll admit that I’m no expert on all this fracking stuff, but if different states have adopted such radically different approaches, the journalist in me wants to know why. Luckily my curiosity didn’t completely die when I heard that I had to move to Arkansas.
“For example in Los Angeles, in some parts of New Mexico and in a lot of cities in Colorado. Local authorities are not convinced that injecting a mysterious mixture of water and chemicals into the ground is a good idea. And what’s more, the web is full of studies into the connection between the horizontal perforations, which are necessary for obtaining shale gas and oil, and earthquakes. Nobody is really talking much about all this in the US, but people are studying and debating it abroad. It’s a delicate subject: they promised us we would become energy independent, but they didn’t explain to us at what cost. One of the most immediate consequences, for example, is that a ton of aquifers across the country have been polluted.”
I look at him in disbelief. “So how come the local residents aren’t raising hell, then?”
“Easy: they get huge paydays for letting their land be used.”
Okay, I get it. The same old story. It’s amazing how some things never change.
“Ok, but if that means that they risk having an earthquake and having their water polluted…” I say. If I were in their place, it wouldn’t be easy to convince me to let them do that to my land. I mean, I don’t actually own any land, but still. My only precious possessions are my shoes. Which are quite precious; I certainly wouldn’t put them at risk for the sake of some dumb shale gas.
“The thing is that they only usually find out about these problems after the operations have been concluded. As I said, the press hasn’t spoken much about all this because in 2000, shale gas amounted to barely 2 per cent of national natural gas production in the United States. Whereas now, it constitutes over 40 per cent. The industry has been growing exponentially while the press has been too busy with more urgent matters: 9/11, al-Qaeda, Syria… you name it. Whatever the reasons for the lack of interest, though, American industries can now benefit from a substantial competitive advantage, which is that on average they pay three times less for their gas than their competitors in the rest of the world, thanks to this sudden abundance. It’s a very efficient way to have the upper hand when you’re negotiating with Arab countries, Latin American countries and even with Russia, which hasn’t exactly been friendly over the last few years… When you produce as much gas as we do, whether oil is involved in the process or not, you’re in the position of deciding its price at an international level, and that way, you can also control the exchange rates and trade balances of countries which still rely on traditional production methods.”
“Wow,” I say in astonishment while I try and process all that information.
“Always remember that wars nowadays aren’t fought by armies. Conflicts are more subtle – they’re fought through the prices of commodities, finance, exchange rate balances and so on. You can be a big country, but if the international markets want to destroy you, they will. There’s no way anyone can win against them. What matters is determining what is going to trigger it.”
“Now do you see why I stick to writing about cocktails?” I ask ironically, “I’m a very wise woman.”
“You are, and that’s the reason why I thought of you when I heard about Arkansas.”
My expression immediately becomes less cheerful. The mere word ‘Arkansas’ gives me a weird uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach… and no amount of ginger tea is going to make it go away.
“Yes, my dear Kayla. In Arkansas they are giving out permits to set up wells for the extraction of shale gas. Everybody there saw how rich the people from Fayetteville suddenly became, and now they all want a piece of the pie. The point is that the environmental problems involved are massive: desertification, destruction of landscape, methane being released into the atmosphere and, last but not least, the greenhouse effect. And on top of that, the companies who are actually managing all these operations have extremely unstable ratings. They’re in business now, but nobody knows for how long.”
“So why didn’t I know anything about all this?”
Roger smiles: “Exactly – and you’re not the only one. We all need to be informed about it. People need to know how the local authorities are managing the whole process and how they are studying the related problems. I want to know if they’re just being ignorant and uncaring or if it’s something worse: corruption.”
After hearing all this, moving to Arkansas still feels like a tragedy but I have to admit that it also sounds a little more interesting. And I’m certainly not going to tell my boss that I was actually starting to get a bit bored of having to write about cocktails all the time… I’m a well known journalist in the city, but I’ve never really written anything important. It would be pretty cool to accomplish something worthwhile at least once in my career.
“So, can we tell Arkansas that you’ll be there soon?” Roger asks me with a smile.
“I guess you can,” I reply, using words that I would have never imagined being able to say without being high on something. “Arkansas, here I come.”

 

Anna was born in Croatia but moved to Milan as a young child and has lived there since. She has worked in the Asset Management industry for JPMorgan and is now employed in Private Banking for an Italian bank, where she manages HNW positions. She started writing romantic comedies to fight financial markets stress after the Lehman crack, when she was expecting her son, now six. Writing was supposed to be only a hobby, but her husband self-published her first novel as a birthday present four years ago, and it was a great success in Italy.


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