This is a guest post by Jamie L. Vernon, Ph.D., an HIV research scientist and aspiring policy wonk, who recently moved to D.C. to get a taste of the action
In light of the recent publication in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on the impact of fracking (hydraulic fracturing method of extracting subterranean natural gas), I thought I would examine how the Natural Gas Industry has been dealing with the growing controversy over this process. The PNAS paper entitled Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing details the environmental damages incurred due to the application of this method in northeastern Pennsylvania and upstate New York. It seems to be the smoking gun many have been awaiting on this issue, particularly those who are working to pass the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act. This is a controversy worth following. Similar to my previous post on the “deathers” (a burgeoning denialist movement), it seems this may be the next anti-science movement.
Given the established protocol for driving a wedge between the public and the scientific community as observed in the evolution and climate debates, I had an idea of what to expect from the industry lobbyists and public relations officers. After all, it seems that there is only one anti-science playbook.
Here are some of the tactics I expected to find:
1) Deny the charges (Fracking is not dangerous or a threat to the environment, your family or the community-at-large).
2) Attack the messenger (Environmentalists are not like you and don’t represent your values).
3) Create doubt about the science (The research is insufficient to claim that the practice is unsafe or bad for the environment).
4) Provide “scientific” evidence that represents your side, despite the fact that it oversimplifies the science or is completely false. Cite ambiguous scientific sources that were very likely funded by the industry (Scientists have confirmed that natural gas is not a contaminate in drinking water. Instead, it’s methane, but we’re not drilling for methane, so it’s not our concern).
5) Make measured statements designed to garner support and appeal to a specific value system (Natural gas is actually “better” for the environment than other energy sources and above all it’s good for the economy).
6) Make an appeal for trust (We must be fair and responsible here).
I didn’t have to dig very far before I discovered a video produced by America’s Natural Gas Alliance to rebut the “Gasland” documentary. The video met most of my expectations.
View the video and let’s discuss: