Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: xeni@boingboing.net.

28 Responses to “Gimme Some Truth: short doc on fracking, with Artists Against Fracking, and Yoko Ono”

  1. bkad says:

    Thanks for a post on fracking. It’s largely a rural issue so it doesn’t always get much attention.

  2. Riff Conner says:

    I initially parsed that as Artists Against (Fracking and Yoko Ono) and thought it sounded like an odd combination of things for a single organization to be protesting.

  3. Joe Gilbert says:

    What does it say about me that when I first read the sign I saw it as a Battlestar reference? Fracking media….

  4. DJBudSonic says:

    I support their attempts to limit or stop hydraulic fracturing in gas and oil wells, simply because the chemicals being injected into the ground will at some point make their way into the water table.  The risks of permanent damage to the earths fresh water supply outweighs the benefits of extending well life and production.  Read some industry publications about the geology and the process of hydraulic fracturing and see if it sounds safe.  Because oil and gas extraction is a lucrative and highly competitive industry the formulas for the fracturing lubricants and abrasives are constantly changing and considered trade secrets. Who knows what is being injected into the rock layers at high pressure?   The Marcellus Shale is enormous, they will go after every last bit of it.  There are great economic pressures in favor of this.  80 trillion cubic feet?  For sale to the highest bidder, foreign or domestic, believe it. But the bottom line is, do you trust Halliburton and the rest to keep our water clean?

  5. yoshua says:

    The legitimate, documented problems with drinking water supplies have been a result of faulty well casings near the surface, not some issue with the fracking itself. Activists just like to group it all under the label of “fracking” because it sounds sinister. You can run into the exact same problems with conventional wells.

    The problem isn’t fracking specifically. It is drilling for hydrocarbons in general.

  6. Jardine says:

    I’ve just thought of something that would be nice to have in threads like this. A counter controlled by the moderators with the number of astroturfers posting comments.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      You’re just scared because you don’t understand it. I’m not mad at you, just disappointed. Let me link to an expert article on ICHC to explain how your children will freeze to death if you don’t set that straw man on fire.

  7. Brett Coulthard says:

    The Nature of Things will be airing a doc on fracking tonight:  http://www.cbc.ca/natureofthings/episode/shattered-ground.html

  8. class_enemy says:

    I simply wouldn’t dream of making up my mind about a particular scientific controversy without first checking to see what side Yoko Ono is lined up on.

  9. class_enemy says:

    I have a gas well on my property, about 800 feet from my house, drilled three years ago using fracking.  My drinking water, and that of my neighbors, has been tested and is just fine.

    But the problem is that since the drop in natural gas prices, I have seen my monthly royalty check drop from almost $2000 to about a third of that.

    So my wife has suggested that we become environmental activists, opposing not only fracking but demanding the closing of coal mines and coal fired power plants.  I’m considering this.  We sure don’t want to see a continued gas glut!

  10. empirechick says:

    For the 25 families in my little town whose wells went bad ALL AT ONCE when fracking began, I assure you this IS a real issue.

  11. CliffordS says:

    Can you be more specific please about what you mean by real issues?  

  12. wysinwyg says:

    Well you’re currently presented with the opportunity to focus on those issues by mentioning them in your comment but you apparently decided not to do that.  You also decided to poo poo the idea that fracking affects the quality of aquifers without bothering to provide an argument.

    Yes, we can focus on the real issues.  Why can’t you?

  13. Scare campaign, huh?  As long as the water that comes out of YOUR faucets doesn’t burn I guess everything is just OK, right?  To hell with people who have no power to control what other people are doing to the water THOSE dumbass bumpkins have to drink. Bet you’re thinking ‘thank god I’m not one of them’.  Sure. Enjoy your life. 

  14. Isaac Rinke says:

    The real issue seems to be that the a number of wells are contracted out to poorly managed companies or drilled by speculators who often botch the job. Hydraulic fracturing has been in use since the 1960′s, but we are hearing more about it due to an increase in drilling as a result of the recent boom. While almost all wells are contracted anymore, this little speech from There Will Be Blood does a good job of giving insight into the matter.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ho8OObimdtw

  15. wysinwyg says:

    Is there another alternative – and is that alternative feasible politically and economically?

    Continuing to live the lifestyles we take for granted in the “first world” isn’t actually feasible economically in the first place.  Since that’s the only reason we “need” energy I simply reject the premises of your argument.

    We are going to need energy, is it better to have this kind of development in our communities – where we can watch it – or far out in the wilderness where there are no watchful eyes?

    What an incredibly disingenuous question.  “Watchful eyes” are only useful to the extent that their observations are believed and acted upon.  And yet you make this argument in the context of denying the truth of first-hand observations of the communities in question.  Your reason for joining this argument is to try to get people to shut their “watchful eyes” or at least to try to discredit any observation they make that’s inconvenient for your pre-existing biases. If you really believed this “watchful eyes” nonsense you’d be taking the accounts of affected communities more seriously rather than dismissing them out of hand.

    Incidentally, pseudonymous accounts by partisans on Reddit does not count as “information about fracking.”  It’s a lot more likely to be “propaganda about fracking”.  Yes, both sides of the issue can issue propaganda.  Fancy that.

  16. chenille says:

    We are going to need energy…

    This is at once something that’s true and a huge warning, because you only hear it when people want to ignore environmental or human rights abuses. Solar and wind advocates never say it. People who trully believe in nuclear rarely say it, they’d rather try to persuade us how much safer new plants are.

    But every time somebody rips up a national park or poisons a coastline, suddenly their apologists need to remind us that “we’re going to need energy”. Look, we all know that, ok? We just don’t believe it should be a catch-all excuse, the way it always seems to be employed.

    That site might be informed, but it’s wholly unreasonable. The author discusses whether methane coming out of a tap is biogenic or thermogenic, but ignores the question of why it started coming out. They only compare the best case of fracking as cleanly and safely as possible against using coal and nukes with no such efforts – but of course, the only reason there would be such a case is because people are worried about it.

    And finally, “America is one of the most progressive nations on safety and environmental standards” has nothing to do with whether our safety and environment are being covered, and depends on who you compare them to. Again, we all know China and Arabia are worse, ok? It’s not the point.

    If you actually wanted a reasonable discussion, this is nothing like the place to start.

  17. wysinwyg says:

    That’s a really, really stupid argument.  “If you’re against animal cruelty that’s fine.  Just eat vegan and don’t wear any clothes at all since it’s certain that animals were harmed at some point in their manufacture.”  “If you’re against war that’s fine.  Just don’t live in any country whose borders were decided by warfare at some past date.”  “If you’re against rape that’s fine but since you probably have an ancestor who is the product of rape somewhere in your lineage as a matter of probability that would make you an uninformed hypocrite.”

  18. wysinwyg says:

    But what is your evidence that the gas in that water is caused by fracking?

    The timing seems awfully suspicious, don’t you think?  Given the possibility of serious harm I would think it would make sense to put some of the burden of evidence on the pro-fracking side to adduce evidence that it’s really as safe as astroturfers advocates such as yourself insist.

  19. cegev says:

    I think what Kristopher is suggesting here is not that what’s going on has nothing to do with fracking, but that it instead might be a more general issue with the work going on around the fracking. That even if fracking itself were more restricted or banned entirely, the processes it is used to enhance would still cause major environmental impact. By focusing on fracking, environmentalists are therefore not really striking at the base issues, and instead going after something far less important. In that case, the timing is simply that fracking is allowing such work in new areas.

    And to some extent, I have to agree. Regardless of whether fracking causes environmental damage, large-scale petroleum and natural gas extraction causes significant environmental damage. The burning of those fuels causes significant environmental damage as well: greenhouse-gas induced climate change has a far, far larger potential to cause mass environmental damage than any claimed damage that fracking might cause. 

    In essence, one could argue that when people are focusing efforts against fracking, it is akin to someone in the 70s focusing efforts against some process used in CFC production. It might be bad, but the processes around it are bad too, and the end results are the biggest environmental problem.

  20. wysinwyg says:

    I disagree with your reading of Kristopher.

    The burning of those fuels causes significant environmental damage as well: greenhouse-gas induced climate change has a far, far larger potential to cause mass environmental damage than any claimed damage that fracking might cause.

    Umm, the purpose of fracking is to produce fuels whose burning generates greenhouse gases.  It absolutely makes sense to take all that environmental damage into account when discussing fracking — both the damage due to extraction and the damage due to burning what was extracted.

    Edit: @Heather Cristofaro:

    Yes, I realize natural gas produces fewer emissions per calorie of energy than coal or oil. On the other hand, I think the danger and possibility of unintended consequences involved in fracturing bedrock and pumping the cracks full of toxic chemicals should be somehow addressed before we all get natural gas wells in our backyards. Incidentally, we are not “a world transitioning.” We are a world engaged in the same self-destructive patterns of behavior that we have been for the last century or so. Fracking is about keeping the party going, not about “transitioning” to a new low-energy way of life.

  21.  An emission-free energy source is always ideal, but for a world transitioning this should be noted before comparing natural gas to petroleum and coal (wikipedia for a simple quick reference):

    “For an equivalent amount of heat, burning natural gas produces about 30 per cent less carbon dioxide than burning petroleum and about 45 per cent less than burning coal.[33][34] Coal-fired electric power generation emits around 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide for every megawatt hour generated, which is almost double the carbon dioxide released by a natural gas-fired electric plant per megawatt hour generated. Because of this higher carbon efficiency of natural gas generation, as the fuel mix in the United States has changed to reduce coal and increase natural gas generation, carbon dioxide emissions have unexpectedly fallen. Those measured in the first quarter of 2012 were the lowest of any recorded for the first quarter of any year since 1992.”

  22. chenille says:

    I’m not going to engage with you in any substantial way because I have better ways to spend my time…

    I expected you didn’t really mean the “I’d love to have a conversation with you”, given the dismissive framing, but thank you for clarifying.

  23. wysinwyg says:

    Serious question, do you believe in other conspiracies? Fake space landing? 9/11 truther? Vaccines cause autism?

    Fake moon landing is less likely than a real moon landing so no.  (A space landing would seem to be an oxymoron.)  I don’t believe vaccines cause autism because there’s no evidence for and there is evidence against.

    9/11 was a conspiracy whether you believe the US government’s account or not — a conspiracy of Islamist extremists to draw the US into an endless war during which civil liberties would be undermined, our military would be exhausted, and our government would become weighed down by debt to the point of default.  If the government’s account is correct, then this is a conspiracy that would seem to have been successfully carried out.  (I don’t think the government’s official story is entirely true but I think the bulk of truther claims are bullshit.)

    There are plenty of other historical examples of conspiracies.  There was a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler.  There was a conspiracy by wealthy North American colonists to rebel against British rule.  There was a conspiracy to blow up Parliament. 

    There is a very obvious and well-documented conspiracy by fossil-fuel companies to cast doubt on scientific climate research and downplay the dangers of petroleum extraction, refinement, and use.  That one’s pretty relevant here.  Are you trying to tell me the petroleum industry has no incentive to downplay or hide health and environmental problems that may be caused by their activities?  That’s not even Dunning-Kruger.  That’s straight-up cognitive dissonance.

    Incidentally, if you reread my comments you’ll notice I didn’t mention the film once.  Because I did not even watch it.  So no, I’m not equating those two things.  I’m pointing out that people who work in or who have worked in the fossil fuel industry may not be entirely honest or informed themselves.  Which is simply obvious if you’re not an ideologue.

    I suspect you’re “not going to engage” because I pointed out your “watchful eyes” comment was pure Cato Institute PR bullshit. Sorry, man, you can’t shill and expect not to be called on it.

  24. Thank you for posting against tons of NIMBY propaganda. My father works in alternative energy (wind, solar, cogeneration and microturbines), and he spent a weekend while we were camping explaining the fracking technology, the actual dangers and why it’s so much better than offshore drilling and importing. He’s been an environmental advocate all his life and the way the technology itself and not the business of drilling has been demonized really takes the focus off the issue.

  25. wysinwyg says:

    I’m talking about the here and now, where people want iphones, computer and air conditioning.

    But we don’t need any of those things while we do need arable soil, potable water, and breathable air.  This is the fundamental problem with your argument.  It is entirely premised on the idea that we need to use all the energy we use now.  It’s simply not true.

    No one should be ripping up parks or poisoning coastlines. That’s not a matter of contention, by anyone.

    Except your buddies in the energy industry for whom you are doing so much footwork in this thread.

    If you have a feasable plan to get everyone off oil and gas, right now, I’m all ears. But until then, we need to live in this world.

    If you’ve got a feasible plan to get people off food, air, and water I’m all ears. But until then we need to live in this world.

  26. chenille says:

    No one should be ripping up parks or poisoning coastlines. That’s not a matter of contention, by anyone.

    Actually, it is, because people do defend the practices that cause them every time they happen. And they use exactly the same language you’re using. We need the energy and now, other solutions are hard and this is so close because it’s what we’ve been investing in, the problems aren’t really that bad so you shouldn’t pay attention to them.

    All these are empty arguments you see for any questionable development. I want something that actually addresses particulars, without the pablum that applies just as well to any energy source we happen to have on hand.

    You want a feasible plan? All right, here’s one option – we start fracking. We start it on a small scale, and watch it carefully so we can accurately assess the real benefits and damages, the same as other potential energy technologies. And should those damages show up, we take them seriously and try to address them.

    Then we might be able to make a real case why this is a good way forward. I’d listen to that. Trying to bury potential problems under the standard old dismissals of nimbys and hippies, on the other hand, only insults us both.

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