Muddying the Marcellus Debate With Science

The debate over Marcellus shale fracking is about politics, not science.

Below is a gobbledygook commentary from National Science Foundation grantees posing as objective researchers attempting to inject science into the fracking debate. The only thing government grantees often seem to care about is injecting more taxpayer money into their wallets.

Moreover, fracking’s opponents are radical enviros who oppose all resource development.

Fracking can be done safely and there is no evidence to the contrary. There has been no groundwater contamination linked to fracking and the earthquake risk so far has been insignificant. Any other issues (e.g., waste ponds) are like any other mining/drilling activity and are easily managed.

The notion that we need to scratch our heads about the science is bogus.

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Objective science on gas drilling is available
by Rob Ross and Warren Allmon
January 17, 2012, Ithaca Journal

No matter what happens with the Marcellus, debates about energy will not be over. If shale gas drilling is permitted, we will have no choice but to work together — both those who have been for and those who have been against drilling — toward effective planning and regulation to produce the best possible outcome. If drilling is subject to continued moratoria, most of us will still be using fossil fuels, even as we begin to think (as some already are) about what could replace them.

What will we need to make these continuing conversations productive? First, we all should understand where our energy comes from now and how our energy system is changing. Such closer inspection usually has a way of making potential solutions less black-and-white. For example, all large-scale energy development and use — coal, oil, nuclear, wind, hydrothermal and natural gas — has environmental costs.

Second, we need accurate and up-to-date information. This can be a challenge, especially for “unconventional” energy sources such as the Marcellus, for which scientists as a group lack good understanding about some major aspects, and for which much of the existing information is in current technical literature, where conclusions may not always agree and are often inaccessible to the general reader.

With these needs in mind, the Paleontological Research Institution’s outreach on the Marcellus over the past two years has been based on two goals: to provide more in-depth, but easier-to-read, scientific information than is available elsewhere; and to use a point of view and language that do not take a position for or against drilling. All of our materials have been externally reviewed by specialists on the respective topics, regardless of their point of view for or against drilling, and we try to be especially clear about points on which competent researchers disagree and why.

We strive to build evidence-based understandings of the complex issues surrounding the Marcellus Shale. Many readers like this approach, but critics on both sides of the issue have expressed frustration that our information does not always support their particular positions. Science, though, is about trying to figure out the way the world is, and is rarely a neat and tidy process with unambiguous answers.

The discussions will continue. But they should be informed and civil, and accept that there are no perfect solutions. Progress on such a complex topic is a never-ending process.

PRI’s Marcellus materials, supported by the National Science Foundation, are available at www.museumoftheearth.org/ marcellusshale.

PRI’s Marcellus Outreach Group includes Ross and Allmon as well as Don Duggan-Haas and Kelly Cronin.

2 thoughts on “Muddying the Marcellus Debate With Science”

  1. “For example, all large-scale energy development and use — coal, oil, nuclear, wind, hydrothermal and natural gas — has environmental costs.” Funny how they left out solar …

  2. Probably, because they recognize that solar can never be anything more than a remote site power source.

    Well, I am allowed to be optimistic.

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