I shocked some people last summer with one of my blogs. I said people who believed hydraulic fracturing itself contaminated groundwater were like the people who believe the moon landings were staged, Elvis is alive or Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.
The temperature for me was rising after that. Thankfully within weeks of my blog, no less than the Pembina Institute and the Suzuki Foundation issued their report. Their report busted some of the worst myths about modern natural gas development. Like me they said, “The most significant risk of contamination of fresh water by natural gas production appears to result from spills or inadequate disposal of “produced water.”” Unlike me they didn’t mention Elvis.
Since then, Obama, born in the U.S. or not, also endorsed that modern natural gas development can and will be done safely.
I welcomed the Pembina/Suzuki report as a place for industry and real environmentalists to start talking about the real issues. Issues like water handling regulations and casing and cementing procedures. I also naively welcomed it as the end of serious people talking about how hydraulic fracturing technology somehow wasn’t ready even though it likely supplies over half of Quebec’s natural gas today.
It turned out I was premature. Closely held beliefs like the ‘earth is flat’ take time to die. Some apparently continued to believe it even after Christopher Columbus’s voyages.
My father always told me that saying ‘I told you so’ is cold comfort. Those who said hydraulic fracturing contaminates water won the public debate and so have their defacto moratorium in Quebec. Being able to say I told you so at this stage is, like my father suggested, quite cold comfort.
Nonetheless, the independent scientific study by the University of Texas, funded 100% with University money, allows me to do just that. It turns out, as many have been saying (I was just the only one saying it in French) – it isn’t the deep hydraulic fracturing that contaminates ground water. The study confirms it is the conventional drilling practices and surface handling procedures that can affect ground water when they are not done properly.
Even better the study also did a review of media reporting on the subject. They found that while media was overwhelmingly negative, less than twenty percent of reports referred to the actual science. As scientists in the field of energy, they believed this made it harder for the public to separate fact from fiction. Mr. Cliche seems to have noticed something similar in Quebec without having to do a study.
I am not holding my breath that this new study marks the end of the hydraulic fracturing myth. I suspect the radical greens in particular will hold on strongly to their winning message.
While it may not be much comfort, I am saying ‘I told you so’ anyway. Radical opponents will have to comfort themselves with their defacto moratorium. Our invitation to discuss the real risks and issues with environmentalists who wish to make evidence based decisions remains warmly open.