The letter to the editor from Jerry James (president of Artex Oil Company) in the July 26 issue of The Athens NEWS is a perfect example of how absurd arguments are used to create a controversy over issues that are otherwise clear. This strategy is now being employed by the gas and oil industry on a routine basis to promote their environmentally catastrophic process of horizontal hydro fracking.
Mr. James claims that fracking does not contaminate groundwater, that shale gas production will increase our water supply, and that it's less of a greenhouse concern than oil. He lumps solar and nuclear power together as if they were closely related technologies with similar issues.
A recent online video called "The Sky is Pink" goes into detail about how making ridiculous claims can be used effectively in PR. The general public is not well versed in scientific principles. When there are two points of view in the public dialogue, there is a controversy. As long as there is a controversy, the subject is open for discussion, even if one set of claims is in complete contradiction with scientific understanding.
Below is a correction of some distortions in the letter.
Fracking operations routinely pollute aquifers with toxins ranging from benzene, toluene and radioactive isotopes, to explosive methane gas. Although industry denies these facts, they are backed up by scientific research as well as by the experiences of people who have gotten sick and animals that have died.
Burning hydrocarbons releases water vapor and carbon dioxide. This combustion will add water to our planet's hydrologic cycle. However, when you turn on your tap and a bubbling soup of carcinogenic chemicals and methane comes spewing out, you will still feel on the short end of the stick. You will feel even more so when the industry's well-paid legal staff attempts to prove your water was always like that and the crews that now swarm your property hate you because you are an "environmentalist."
While cities and golf courses use water, the water goes back into the ecosystem. Frack water must be injected deep into the Earth where we pray that it never comes up to see the light of day again, ever!
Shale gas contributes to global warming at least as much as coal due to huge releases of methane during production. Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Solar photovoltaic systems do not use water to operate. The manufacturing of modules does use considerable amounts of water; however, once the PV module is made, the water returns to the water cycle. A solar module will produce power for 40 years or more.
Much of the gas produced by fracking is being marketed overseas. The gas is being produced for profit, not patriotic reasons. Communist China is an important market for fracked gas.
The oil and gas industry is spending many tens of millions of dollars to convince the public that fracking is safe and to suppress information about hazards. The staggering profit that the industry reaps by exploiting this resource makes this spin campaign a very profitable investment. The verifiable truth of the matter is that wherever fracking operations are implemented, people scream bloody murder, whether or not they were initially in favor of the exploitation.
If rich spoils couldn't be taken by the oil and gas industry by plundering our communities, we wouldn't even be having this discussion. For an objective view of what is really happening, please go online and watch The Sky is Pink.
Drake Chamberlin is a geology graduate of Miami University of Oxford, Ohio, and spent four years working in the oilfields of Alaska and California. As a resident of Athens County, he says he has become increasingly concerned about the possibility of horizontal hydrofracking coming to this area. Hyperlinks can be viewed in the online version of this letter.