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What Does the Data Say?

Intrigued to see this article from George Mason professor Jon Entine about the reporting on “fracking”, the process that is in vogue for harvesting the vast natural gas reserves in shale buried deep under large areas of Pennsylvania and other states. The accusations are basically that the media would rather publish non-peer reviewed work against the drilling, rather than the larger, peer-review studies, mostly funded by earth-friendly organizations, that largely show fracking to be safe, and much less troublesome environmentally than coal, a historic competitor in the electricity/heating market. Here is a taste:

What happens when the media becomes vested in a certain perspective in an issue? Over the last few years, just as natural gas became plentiful because of massive discoveries of shale gas, the narrative from some of the most radical environmentalists, and journalists who echo the hard-left line, has shifted from “natural gas is a great bridge to alternative energy sources” to “natural gas is dirtier than coal.”

So earlier this year when researchers Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea at Cornell University released a letter based on their unpublished research—not peer reviewed—suggesting that shale gas might be worse for global warming than coal, it was hyped by the New York Times and widely picked up. Many analysts, from experts from energy firms and even unlikely places such as the Council on Foreign Relations and the Natural Resources Defense Council poked holes in the study, but their comments got little play.

This deafening silence was repeated again earlier this month when scientists at Carnegie Mellon University, in a study partly funded by the Sierra Club, concluded just the opposite, in concert with the mainstream scientific view: shale gas, in this case derived from the huge Marcellus Formation which lies under New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, has significantly less impact on global warming than coal.

“Marcellus shale gas emits 50 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than any US coal-fired plant,” said study co-author Chris Hendrickson. John Hanger, the former head of Pennsylvania’s environmental agency during the prior Democratic administration, wrote on his blog that the study “debunks and decimates professor Howarth’s hit piece …

Read the rest here, complete with links to his sources. I know that this post will be unpopular with some (including some friends I know here at Messiah College who are staunchly opposed to fracking), but if natural gas is better for the environment than coal, and has been shown not to be a risk to groundwater, why are environmentalists picketing and protesting loudly about this? I would think this would be something left and right could agree on, since it is good for the environment and decreases dependence on foreign oil. Or do we really just prefer to argue at this point, rather than do what is best for everyone? Wait, don’t answer that … (unless you really need to, feel free to use the comment section below to point out what I’m missing)

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