Fracking myths attacked PDF Print E-mail
Written by HAROLD BROWN Sentinel City Editor   
Friday, 25 October 2013 11:12
In five years the process of hydraulic-fracturing has become a polarizing topic around the world, a man involved in its development said Thursday night at Bowling Green State University.
Dr. Terry Engelder, a professor of geosciences at Pennsylvania State University, said he has spoken to nearly 350 groups around the world, trying to help people understand the process and also point out myths spread by the Internet, social media and celebrities. He recently completed a series of 10 talks in Europe.
Engelder spoke as part of the 35th Mayfield Lecture Series, which honors the first geology faculty member at BGSU.
"Anyone who speaks in favor of fracking must be paid by the industry. I have been told that many times," Engelder said. He heard essentially that from two people Thursday night during a question and answer session at the end of the lecture. The audience members said they didn't believe some of the data Engelder used because it was sourced from a study they said was financed by the Koch brothers who are billionaire industrialists heavily involved in the oil industry and conservative political causes.
A member of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Engelder said he has also been told that the AAPG "manipulates science."
At each lecture he circulates a large notebook, asking attendees to write their name, the school they are attending or attended and the town where they are living. Engelder said he has 46 such notebooks with more than 26,000 names. He said several people have used the notebook to write their thoughts on fracking and/or disapproval of his lecture.
In late 2007 when Engelder called Pennsylvania officials who oversee natural resources to inform them about the hydraulic fracturing process that was about to be used in the state. The response he received was "is this real? We're not ready for this." Engelder said he now thinks that state's regulations "are pretty darn good."
He acknowledged that mistakes were made early on. "Things that now look obvious, in hindsight. Regulations have been developed with experience. But regulations do not correct problems overnight." As a comparison Engelder cited measures such as better roads, safety standards, seatbelts and airbags that have significantly reduced highway fatalities.
Engelder said that fracking has become a "Not in My Backyard" issue.  "We all want to keep our lights on, but if that is the case, we have to find a solution," he said. He added the United States needs an energy policy, something it has never been able to find a way to get done.
Among the myths:
• Exxon's 1998 statement denying climate change. Engelder said PSU faculty 10-15 years earlier were presenting evidence that climate change was being caused by "mankind's burning of fossil fuels."
• The public understands fracking. Engelder cited an article by National Public Radio science correspondent Christopher Joyce exposing at "inadvertent and purposeful disinformation" about fracking.
• Everything on the Internet and social media about fracking is the truth. Engelder said he talked to a person in Romania on his trip who was convinced that all Americans are sick because of fracking.
• Fracking kills. Engelder said celebrities like Yoko Ono and movie stars have set themselves up as experts. "Fame does not give anyone the right to spread disinformation," he said.
• Pennsylvania groundwater is as pure as rainwater. Engelder offered analytic data of 1,800 water wells in Pennsylvania that show 20 percent of wells exceed EPA standards for iron content and one-half of the wells exceed total coliform contamination that have the potential to make people sick. Pennsylvania has no state regulations for water wells. He showed a slide of the contents of a box of Wheaties and a list of the chemicals found in the drinking water study, indicating the food product is fortified with many of the chemicals found in well water.

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