When you hear a scientist call fracking* “complicated,” you don’t know whether to be reassured or scared out of your natural mind. Complicated is a word like “debate” which has been so successful in sowing doubt in the minds of many people, a cadre of fence sitters, about climate change. When the scientist also happens to be your beloved, respected, meditation teacher, well, the reaction is probably too complicated to be contained in a single blog post. So here’s Part I.
I was reporting that I had viewed the HBO screening of Josh Fox’s Gasland, Part II (on New Year’s Day, no less). The documentary is a sequel to Fox’s Gasland, and both have been attacked by oil and gas industry-funded operations such as Energy in Depth, which exists to defend the technology. (A favorite EID target is environmentalist, Bill McKibben.)
If you spend even a few minutes reading any of the material put out by this organization, you’ll notice some tactics. First, it will attempt to discredit critics on the basis of personal behavior, e.g. McKibben was sighted leaving a climate rally in a gas-guzzler. Second, it seeks to cast doubt about the impacts of fracking on the environment. In this case, it argued that methane (the gas that ignited from the end of a water hose in an iconic scene of the film) was naturally occurring in the water in the area, independent of fracking. (And the Earth is just going through a warming phase, independent of human contribution.)
A day after the HBO screening, The Diane Rehm Show invited Josh Fox and EID spokesperson, Steve Everley, to duke it out. As a landowner in Pennsylvania with some personal exposure to fracking, Rehm’s bias was evident. Here’s the transcript. Like Ms. Rehm, I found Gasland, Part II, convincing, especially the documentation of scientists from the academic community about the high risk of ground water contamination and gas leaks into the atmosphere. You don’t have to be an expert to figure out that with thousands miles of pipeline to maintain – not unlike our highway and bridge system — something is likely to go wrong. And then there’s that Halliburton Loophole. Why the exclusion if the chemicals used in the fracking process are really safe?
It doesn’t really matter who did a better job defending their positions (I give it to Josh Fox, by a wide margin). Hydraulic fracking currently has the support of President Obama who has hailed it as energy for 100 years. The elephant in the room question for future generations: And then what? The infrastructure already exists to exploit every shale deposit in the country and ship liquid natural gas around the world. In this race, renewable energy is a distant also ran. It’s not easy to imagine what could arrest this momentum with so much power and money (read campaign contributions) behind it. But we must try, because gasland is coming to your neighborhood.
According to a Palm Beach Post article from March 2013, fracking the Everglades is on the table. Even if you think the jury is still out on the safety of fracking, and you’re not fazed by noisy drilling rigs in your backyard, no one denies the technology requires vast amounts of water – Florida’s most precious commodity. So it behooves you to learn as much as you can about it, as I plan to do.
*BTW, Spellcheck doesn’t recognize “fracking.” Perhaps by the time I get to Part II, it will.
Some resources to start with: