In this case, we're talking about hydraulic fracturing, a process where pressure is built up in the hole that we've drilled to the point where the surrounding rock formation starts to crack. The point being that then, gas and liquids can flow to the hole better, and you get increased yields.
So, that's fine. And tree-hugging, gaia-wounding protests aside, there have been (very specific) uses of fracturing that have passed the EPA.
Enter this little controversy, thanks to Grist and ProPublica.
I'm less concerned about the issue at hand - as horrible as it perhaps is, it's short-term. What's a little more concerning is the industry's reaction.
So here's the question: have the issues of climate change and sustainability hardened the coal, oil, and gas industries to the point of never admitting wrong?
I mean, what's the logical response to an investigation of a technique that might have as many as 1,000 cases of contamination? You stop doing it until you can find out if it's harming anyone. If it is, you either modify the method or stop doing it. Period.
But that's not what we're seeing.
When asked about the record of Chesapeake Energy, the nation’s largest independent gas producer, Mike John, a vice president of government relations for Chesapeake, told the committee that “I would emphasize that in my experience we have not seen any problems with hydraulic fracturing in my career.” John did not mention the recent Louisiana case in which 16 cattle died after allegedly drinking spilled fracturing fluids at a Chesapeake well site – a case that is still under investigation.
Let's be clear: I don't know anything about the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, but clearly there's concern from people who do. There are investigations (on multiple stages of the process) and allegations, and that should maybe give you some pause, as a company.
...Or, you know, as an elected official.
“I am proud that I am supported by the oil and gas industry because they employ a lot of people in my state and I am going to stick up for them,” said Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK). “I am sick and tired of a lot of folks in my own caucus coming after the largest employer in my state.”
Again, I don't know whether fracturing is a dangerous thing. But here's the kicker - neither does anyone else. And that should give a United States Representative pause.
I'm not saying that the oil/gas/coal/whatever business is an evil supercorporation with shady government ties. I don't want to say that our elected officials are obsessed with the seasonal buzzword "jobs". I don't want to get into a trading-out-green-jobs thing.
I just want someone to make a realistic decision. Forget the baggage. If information comes to light that one of your industrial practices might be a health risk, then you put a hold on it until you can investigate it.
But, hey, those liberals are babbling about climate change again. We've gotta stand by our guns, am I right?