Are You A Fracking Ignoramus?

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The heat is being turned up in the fight against fracking, but where is the science? It turns out that there is a lot of rhetoric and not a lot of science — yet — behind what most people are hearing about this infamous method for extracting more natural gas from the ground.

Let me make it clear: I am not an advocate of fracking. In fact I have my own reasons to oppose it. What I absolutely do advocate, however, is basing opinions on facts and not hearsay.

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Sadly, the hearsay is winning right now. Today in America most people are miserably ignorant about what fracking is, according to a recent study released by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. Of the more than 1,000 people the Yale researchers polled, “13 percent did not know how much they had heard [whatever that means]; 39 percent had heard nothing at all; 16 percent heard a little; 22 percent heard some; and 9 percent heard a lot,” according to a paper on the study published in journal Energy Policy.

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Cross section model of a fracking operation. Credit: California Dept. of Water Resources.

Translation: only about one in ten people felt they were even familiar enough with the matter to form an opinion. Yet, every week I get loads of anti-fracking emails from various political/environmental organizations. Among these emails are stories that have little or nothing to do with fracking at all. They are tales of the hazards involved in living near more traditional natural gas wells which have had “fracking” slapped into the headline just to get more clicks.

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But there is hope amid this messy information barrage. Scientists are trying to study the health effects of hydraulic fracturing and working on putting some facts on the table. There are also independent, unbiased resources already available that can make you one of the more knowledgeable 9 percent. An easy one is this video which does a nice job of defining the technique and pointing out the concerns without any angry hand waving. There is also a good, rather long Wikipedia entry that is informative.

My point is that most of us should get better informed, then do what we feel we must do. In that order.

Top Image: A natural light view of the United States taken by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite on Oct. 1, 2013, shows the burning gas flares of fracking rigs in rural North Dakota (arrow). The Telegraph pointed out the city light affect of the fracking as seen in a composite, artist-enhanced image from 2012.