Who to believe indeed

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In a recent article in the Halifax Chronicle Herald, Joan Baxter correctly identifies that industry has a bias.  Not exactly investigative journalism since our bias is transparent for all to see. She goes on to conclude industry is thus by definition not very believable.

It reminds me of the saying ‘just because I am paranoid doesn’t mean you aren’t out to get me’.  Just because we are biased doesn’t mean we aren’t telling the truth.  Just because someone works at a University and gets research grants doesn’t mean they or their funding sources aren’t biased.

Ms. Baxter points out some examples of industry stretching facts. I have seen examples of where industry stretches the facts.  I have seen more examples where opponents diverge completely from the facts.

It’s true for example that industry likes to say we have been fraccing for sixty years – and we have.  It’s also true that technology has improved.  Saying today’s fracs are the same as sixty years ago is like saying a Blackberry is the same as a pager.  I don’t think it would be good for the environment to go back to the way we used to do fraccing anymore than email would improve if Blackberry went back to pagers.

It’s also true industry often repeats that hydraulic fracturing has never contaminated ground water.  With caveats I have made this statement too.  It is a true statement when refuting ridiculous claims by opponents that fracture systems will grow on their own from depth to contaminate water directly via the fracture network.  However, if we forget to mention safe depths or that there are examples of water contamination from mistakes in conventional drilling practices, well construction and surface handling, we don’t tell the whole truth.

We thus open the door for theories why industry can’t be trusted in spite of having the most experience and the most knowledge.  Not to mention we are subject to sanctions from regulatory bodies if we are materially misleading; something opponents don’t have to worry about.

What is true is that approximately 30% of North America’s natural gas produced today used modern hydraulic fracturing technology.  This technology at safe depths is, in my biased opinion, safer than the conventional fraccing we did over the past sixty years.  Which, given the small number of possible incidents in over 1 million wells fracced to date, was pretty safe.

By anyone’s measure, the technology is well established and tested in tens of thousands of wells.  Maybe our sixty years of experience has something to do with that.

Ms. Baxter’s mistake is she doesn’t see that to be human is to have bias.  There may even be a little human bias in her article.