Clarifications offered following the Groveland fracking meeting
By Jordan Kleiman | Special to the County News
I want to thank the Livingston County News for devoting significant space in its pages to the Groveland “fracking” forum (see Mark Gillespie, “Groveland Hears Both Sides of the Fracking Debate”).
As any one who has followed the debate over shale gas development knows, the controversy raises complex issues. Both sides have weighed in with detailed technological, scientific, and economic arguments. All of this poses daunting challenges to journalists trying to cover the story. As a speaker in the forum, I would therefore like to make a few corrections and comments to help clarify the views I expressed in my presentation.
To begin with, the article states: “Kleiman says natural gas will be very quickly supplanted by sustainable sources such as wind, water and solar power by as early as 2030.”
Not exactly. What I said was that the gas industry repeatedly claims that renewables are incapable of fulfilling our energy needs. This claim, I argued, has been challenged by a number of prominent scientists and engineers with expertise in energy issues.
I cited in particular an influential peer-reviewed study by Stanford University engineer Mark Z. Jacobson and University of California-Davis scientist Mark A. Delucchi, which convincingly demonstrates that “…100 percent of the world’s energy…could be supplied by wind, water and solar resources, by as early as 2030.”
My point was simply that, contrary to gas industry propaganda, there are no insurmountable technological or scientific impediments to a truly sustainable energy system.
Consequently, we shouldn’t sink massive resources—investment capital, research and development, etc.—into building a natural gas infrastructure in the mistaken belief that shale gas is a necessary “bridge” to more sustainable energy future. Such an investment, I argued, would divert increasingly scarce social resources from what really needs to be done.
The article quotes me as saying “the natural gas is everywhere, so it is in your interest to drill everywhere.”
Actually, I said it is in the gas industry’s interest to do so, not in “your” interest. The article also states that I listed road-spreading of toxic “produced water” as one of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s allowable methods of waste disposal.
I actually said that the DEC is currently taking this under consideration, though I would add here that Pennsylvania fracking wastewater is currently being spread on New York State roads in some places.
It is also worth pointing out a few shortcomings in the way Lenape Resources President John Holko’s claims were reported. As the article correctly notes, Holko claims that the chemicals used in shale gas development are “food grade chemicals.” Yet, as I noted in my presentation, many of the chemicals used in the process are carcinogens, neurotoxins, and/or endocrine disruptors. Reporters need to do their due diligence on such industry claims rather than simply reporting them back verbatim.
One might ask, for example, what exactly is a “food grade” carcinogen? The article also quotes Holko as saying that fracking fluid “in the right quantity provides no damage to the environment.” What is the “right quantity” of an endocrine disruptor when, as I noted during the Q&A, toxicologists have shown that such chemicals are harmful in doses measured in parts-per-trillion?
Due diligence must also be done on statistical claims made by both sides. The figures Mr. Holko cites on job creation in Pennsylvania—figures that are reproduced without further comment in the article—come from a study produced by the Manhattan Institute, a right-wing think tank heavily funded by the gas and oil industries. This is not a peer-reviewed study, so it should it should not be treated as such in the press.
Mr. Holko deserves some of the blame for this, as he cited the study without mentioning what the Manhattan Institute actually is. But journalists need to be on guard for this sort of thing as well.
Jordan Kleiman is an associate professor of history at SUNY Geneseo and member of the Rush Citizens Concerned About Hydrofracking.