One day after the Department of Energy released a nuanced report that was both critical and laudatory of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as a means to develop previously unreachable deposits of natural gas, I was reminded of a recent episode of WBUR radio's On Point that focused on fracking. Fracking, the much-publicized oil and gas development technique has both made available tremendous quantities of previously unreachable natural gas and created a political firestorm replete with astroturfing industry groups, hyperbolic liberals, corporate cleanwashing, an "inflammatory" documentary, and a new protest tune by 92-year-old folk hero Pete Seeger.
The episode featured guests Abraham Lustgarten of ProPublica, reporter Daniel Robison of WNED, and Dr. Rob Jackson, professor of environmental sciences at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.
If there was one takeaway from the discussion it was that fracking could be done more safely and responsibly and that if industry shared best practices and operated in a more open and transparent fashion, they might face less public backlash.
But as long as individual companies and industry groups continue to hide behind the shroud of competition and proprietary secrecy, especially with respect to the chemical make-up of the fracking fluids used to produce the hydrocarbons locked away in shale formations, the contentious debate will continue to flourish.