False Choices Abound In Fracking Debate
The New School's Tishman Auditorium was nearly filled to capacity yesterday afternoon for Water Fight! Fracking, Food, Art & Economy. Lots of great info on the building fight against fracking in the Marcellus Shale--which spans several states in the northeast US, though the focus has largely been in opposing fracking in Pennsylvania, New York, and the Delaware River Basin.
What stood out for me at Water Fight! though were some interwoven themes that apply equally to fracking as to many other current environmental issues. One of them is making sure that we're asking the right questions about and making sure we're not discussing false choices. I wrote a bit about this on Earth Day: How language you use or don't use has very important implications for both thought and action on a given environmental issue.With fracking this manifests in a number of ways:
If we don't tap into domestic shale gas reserves we will continue to be dependent on foreign sources of energy, often supplied by nations whose interests aren't in line with ours. Or, if we don't expand shale gas extraction, we're just going to have to expand our consumption of coal. Or, without leasing land to fracking companies, farmers will be unable to keep their farms financially viable.
The fact of the matter is that no amount of fracking is going to make the US any more energy independent, at least not to any significant degree, and at least not without massive infrastructural changes. Not to mention that recent analysis by the Post Carbon Institute cast serious doubts on the ability of natural gas to ever fully replace oil as a transportation fuel. If we are willing to make massive infrastructure changes to enable radical increases in natural gas usage, why not make those investments in renewable energy instead?
The same answer really applies to the if not more natural gas then more coal argument.
As for agriculture, in fact as more and more becomes known about the potential risk of water and soil contamination when fracking goes wrong, as well as the impact of fracking on property values, the future of viable agriculture in the Marcellus Shale region is more threatened by expanded natural gas drilling itself than anything else.