It is safe to assume that you’ve heard something about the controversy surrounding fracking. The topic has been everywhere, and it isn’t going to go away anytime soon.
The ongoing shale revolution relies in large part on hydraulic fracturing (or ‘fracking’), which involves high-pressure injections of chemical- and sand-infused water into shale reserves to release oil and gas. Critics claim that fracking is guilty of everything from seismic disturbances to possible drinking water reservoir contamination. Champions of fracking counter that such claims are unsubstantiated and overblown. All in all, it is a heated debate.
But now the Associated Press has learned that many scientists and researchers are critical of the claims and vocabulary used by opponents of fracking.
Claims about fracking inducing a rise in breast cancer rates are simply untrue, AP reports. And radiation monitoring stations haven’t been able to support frequent claims that fracking increases chances of drinking water contamination by natural radioactivity in drilling waste.
In northern Texas, home to the Barnett Shale, the case is particularly interesting.
Drilling began at the Barnett Shale around a decade ago. Fracking critics have consistently claimed that they have noted a rise in breast cancer rates within the precise zone of drilling, while the rest of the state has remained within normal limits.
However, numerous researchers, including the research foundation Susan G. Komen for the Cure, have stated that such claims are false—no spike has been detected.
Another claim—that the water released by fracking has radioactivity that could contaminate drinking water reservoirs—is similarly suspect. The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority undertook a study of water issues within shale operations areas and reported no noteworthy problems or concerns, the AP reports.
Finally, fracking critics claim that fracking contributes to worsening air pollution, and these claims have been particularly acute regarding the Marcellus Shale operations in Pittsburgh.
However, reports from the U.S. Energy Information Administration indicate that several industrial factories have since switched away from coal in favor of natural gas, thereby actually reducing pollution, says the AP.
All things considered, the current debate is highly weighted by emotional or psychological responses on both sides, and more data is required before either side can reasonably approach the issue.
The scientific method is, of necessity, time-consuming. As a result, it looks like we’ll need to await further data before either side is proven correct.