Advocates of the shale gas boom in the United States and the corresponding oil sands surge in Canada point to the thousands of potential jobs and benefits to national energy security possible through the abundance of natural resources.
Critics, for their part, say that conventional resources like oil and gas are relics of a bygone era, noting it’s time to embrace new, less threatening forms of energy like solar, wind and wave power. Central to either side of the debate, however, is the power of appeal. It’s not so much the information that’s integral to the conversation but the level of emotional appeal that’s driving the national debate.
In the late 1850s, incumbent Sen. Stephen Douglas squared off against Abraham Lincoln in a series of debates that drew thousands of people and journalists from across the United States. The debate format featured one candidate speaking for an hour, followed by a 90-minute rebuttal and then another 30 minute response. That’s three hours if the timing was impeccable. Most Americans today can barely sit through the State of the Union address, and Obama’s 2012 address clocked in at roughly an hour, 15 minutes. The point being that debate tolerance today has been sacrificed for the sake of speed and extremity. Few people, outside of those intimately involved in the industry, care to hear about plunger lifts, well-venting and refracture rate data from the 51-page survey of CH4 emissions tied to unconventional natural gas production produced by the American Petroleum Institute and America’s Natural Gas Alliance. More news media consumers would prefer earthquakes and groundwater contamination tied to so-called fracking or to hear about how the EPA is ruining the economy with its burdensome regulation.