Gasland Part Two – Continues to beat the real fracking story drum

Let me first say I am not an expert on fracking and I am certainly not a scientist. But, I am a truthseeker and read and watch as much credible news and science sources on this subject. I say this as Josh Fox, who produced, directed and narrated the award-winning documentary “Gasland” about the underlying story of fracking that the fossil fuel industry does not want you to know, was shouted down by one of Bill Maher’s guests on his show for not being a scientist, an attempt to discredit his extremely strong base of knowledge on the subject. Fox appeared on “Real Time with Bill Maher” on Friday as he has made a follow-up documentary called “Gasland II” which will air on HBO July 8. I have written many posts about fracking, but if interested, you can read more about “Gasland” with this link to an earlier post:

Fox began his exploration of fracking when he was solicited by a fracking company to drill beneath his land in Pennsylvania. What he found in his exploration in talking first hand with affected people who live on or near fracking sites is a very compelling argument against fracking. What he found by talking with scientists who know and measure the subject is also a very compelling argument against fracking. From what he shared about “Gasland II” it will be beating the “real fracking story drum” even more. It was quite apparent from his work, study and discussions with people who have witnessed first hand or know the subject matter and are not influenced by the fossil fuel industry, that Fox knows his subject fairly well. So, when Niall Ferguson, a Harvard history professor on Maher’s show tried to discredit him, it actually backfired on the Harvard man.

I have noted before that my father told me when people shout or name call, their argument is weaker. And, what I have observed on Maher and others’ talk shows, just because you are an expert or knowledgeable on one topic, that does not automatically make you an expert on all topics. This was not the first time on this show that Ferguson tried to shout others down and not let them talk. So, when Fox finally said you have not allowed me to say anything, Ferguson said you have had enough air time. This was not the Crimson’s finest moment. When Fox was allowed to speak, he showed a tremendous grasp of the issues and shared why we should be concerned.

Let me pause for a moment and note that I did not watch “Gasland” until January of this year. My concerns over fracking began two years ago and were raised when I heard Dr. Sandra Steingraber speak and read her two books – “Living Downstream” and “Raising Elijah.” My concerns became even greater when I read Steven Solomon’s book “Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization.” By the way, Solomon’s book is the best history and forward-looking book you will find, so maybe Professor Ferguson could give it a read. I also have read summaries of various studies by the University of Texas and several scientific and news reports. Here is what I have found, which jives with what Fox is seeing.

The risks of fracking are known and have been masked by the fracking industry for years. This is why Vice President Dick Cheney, who was President of the largest fracking company in the world, inserted language in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to exempt frackers from clean air and water acts.

Fracking causes air pollution. The fracking engineers say that at least 5% of the methane, arsenic and mercury gases escape into the atmosphere. There is no way they can harness all of these gases.

Fracking causes water pollution. The chemically toxic water they frack with finds a way into the water table. Water alway does. The chemicals are carcinogenic and cause other issues for humans and animals.

Disposing the water beneath the ground has been proven in Arkansas, Ohio, Oklahoma and in the UK to cause earthquakes. Note, the fracking doesn’t, but the disposal of water deep ground does. Fracking was shut down temporarily in the UK for this reason.

Fracking trashes the infrastructure and environment around the fracking site with road damage and environmental degradation. Fracking does create jobs, but most of them are hired guns from outside of the state. So, the frackers make money, the landowner makes money, the workers from out-of-state make money, and the state and its residents are left holding the bag on environmental and healthcare costs.

– But set all that aside. Fracking takes a huge amount of water. At 2 to 6 million gallons per frack, ten to twelve fracks per well and 1,000 or so wells in an area, that is 20 to 72 billion gallons of water. Water is one of our two dearest resources and we have water concerns already. If you think I am all wet, the frackers and farmers were fighting over water in Kansas and Oklahoma last year and are fighting, as of this writing, in California. Since they grow so much food for us, this should give you pause.

My wife laughs when I say this, but “I didn’t make this stuff up.” Yes Professor Ferguson, I am not a scientist. I am a business person who reads a lot. I am also well aware of Return on Investment (ROI). Treating the environment poorly and using up dear resources which impact people need to be factored into all ROI equations. And, I know a lot of developers as well. Not all, but a typical developer’s modus operandi is “get in, make your money, get out and leave the problems for others.” What I have found is an industry who spends a lot of money trying to misinform others on what needs to be a more open discussion about the pros and cons of fracking. And, as any history professor would know, industry data at its very best is “subjective” when the source has a vested interest in the outcome. At least that is what this non-scientist, non-historian thinks.

16 thoughts on “Gasland Part Two – Continues to beat the real fracking story drum

  1. You mention that you are not an expert on hydraulic fracturing or fracking, but the truth is very few people actually are! The root of all these problems lie in the industry measures in place that prevent full disclosure of chemicals used in the process. As a result, there is limited information available to accurately research the pollution and health impacts of fracking, allowing the industries to shirk the related responsibilities. The public must demand full disclosure from the industry before we will be able to effectively reform and regulate their practices!

  2. Thanks for the interesting article! In total agreement about full disclosure to the public. Do you have a link to the ‘Real Time with Bill Maher’ interview with Josh Fox at all? Thanks 🙂

  3. Dear oldfart: The following link is to a blog created by Dr. Lawrence Cathles III of Cornell concerning high volume hydraulic fracturing – You would do well to read the entire blog as it is totally unbiased and Dr. Cathles, unlike Drs. Howarth and Ingraffea also of Cornell, is NOT funded by anyone. Howarth and Ingraffea have been at the Park Foundation trough for some time now –

    • Frank, thanks again for the link. I have read through the summary and a couple of the more detailed reports. A couple of comments that require more investigation, which should give us pause. I would like to see more on the water usage. He notes that it is not material, yet frackers and farmers were fighting over water the past two summers in Kansas, Oklahoma and California and one Texas town noted 25% of its water supply went to nearby fracking. The other issue is on the methane venting. A Stanford scientist notes the venting is not immaterial (this isn’t just leakage, this is venting of surplus gas) and actually makes it worse than burning coal when everything is factored in. I don’t know if it tallies more than the 8% threshold, but he seems to believe it does. Ironically, in North Dakota, the land owners are suing the frackers for payment on the purposefully vented methane. The frackers contend they are not using, so they need not pay them.

      I also just completed reading a book called “The Frackers – the Outrageuous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters” by Gregory Zuckerman of the Wall Street Journal. It is a fascinating read and therein, George Mitchell, who has been described as the “father of shale fracking” validates a concern I have raised about any industrial process, whether it is fracking, offshore oil, etc. Even if deemed safe, you are only as good as your worst operator. Mitchell said “Fracking can be handled if they watch and patrol the wildcat guys. They don’t give a damn about anything; the industry has to band together to stop isolated incidents.” Zuckerman also concluded his findings as follows about the safety over fracking. “The short answer: Fracking has created less harm than the most vociferous critics claim, but more damage than the energy industry contends. And, it may be years before the full consequences of the drilling and fracking are clear.”

      Yet, let’s step away from the science and note what real people witness. One Dimock resident noted on a film I saw last night, they may say the water has always been like this, yet they were not here when I moved in six years ago. We did not have the water the problems we do now. We started noticing it about a month after the fracking started. Maybe these are some of the wildcatter issues that Mitchell mentions in the book, but to this person his water is affected. When people in the industry criticize Gasland saying it is all fluff, I actually tend to believe the guy on the ground rather than an industry who has been less than forthcoming on the risks to these folks.

      This data is very helpful, but we still need to understand the risks and Zuckerman’s last sentence in the quote above speaks volumes. I appreciate greatly your sharing this and applaud the professor for his detailed study and challenging his class. BTG

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