Article in The Local Rag uses half-truths, lies and plain stupidity to promote oil drilling

The Local Rag, a free monthly publication distributed in south central Carbon County, recently published a rather curious pro and con on fracking. It’s worth mentioning because it highlights the tricks that pro-drilling advocates use everywhere to advance their cause.

The article is split into three parts:

  • The Science and History of Fracking, by long-time Red Lodge resident and certified petroleum geologist Al Bloomer. Mr. Bloomer is a respected local voice. While I would quibble with points that he made and the conclusion, it is a reasonably balanced piece that is worth reading.
  • The Argument Against, by Carbon County Resource Council Chair Deb Muth. Ms. Muth is a long-time local activist who does her usual credible job of making a number of fact-based points, many of which have been discussed over the last several months on this blog. It is also worth reading.
  • The Argument in Favor, which is uncredited, and for a very good reason.– it is full of half-truths, outright lies and stupidity that are straight out of the oil and gas industry playbook.

Read all three, but I’m going to focus on the last section of the article here because it provides so many examples of the depths to which pro-drillers will stoop to make their arguments.

The basic premise of the pro-fracking piece is that “(o)pponents of fracking use a time-tested strategy for spreading propaganda; it’s called FUD, and it stands for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. They realize that most Montanans have no idea what fracking actually is, so they have orchestrated a campaign of misinformation.”

After insulting the intelligence of most Montanans, the author, whoever he or she is, then proceeds to try to debunk this alleged FUD without offering a single fact to do so.

Here are some examples of the lies, half-truths and outright stupidity in the article:

  • “Fracking has been around since the 1940s, and has been used in millions of wells around the world.” True enough, but the technology that has revolutionized the industry and created the current oil and gas boom is horizontal drilling, which is much newer and has brought a number of risks that have been chronicled on this blog. The industry loves to trot out the time-tested technology argument in defense of fracking, but it leaves out the important fact that it is the recent innovation of horizontal drilling that has transformed the industry.
  • The anonymous author then trots out the tried and true quote from Lisa Jackson, former administrator of the EPA, who said, in testimony before Congress,

 “I am not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself (bold added) has affected water, although there are investigations ongoing.”

Carol French displays her contaminated drinking water.

Carol French displays her contaminated drinking water. Click to get a better view of how discolored it is

We dealt with this one yesterday, but it’s worth touching on it again. It is very difficult to prove that the fracking process itself causes contamination, as explained here. But there are many, many documented cases of water contamination for fracked wells. You can find a list of 243 of them in Pennsylvania here.

If you’re really interested in reading scientific, peer-reviewed studies that document water contamination due to fracking, you can read 59 of them here (For those of you keeping score, note that scientific and peer-reviewed specifically means Not FUD.) Or, better yet, ask John Fenton. Or Carol French. Or Deb Thomas. Or Steve and Jacki Schilke. Or Terry and Teresa Jackson. Or Marilyn Hunt. Or Christine Pepper. Or Linda Monson. Or Diana Daunheimer. Or Laura Amos. Or the late Terry Greenwood.

  • Mr. or Ms. Anonymous then moves along to what he calls “uncertainty,” describing how fracking fluid is over 99% water, and less than 1% chemicals. “Think about this,” says the unnamed author. “The entire reason those rocks are being fracked is that they’re IMPERMEABLE! Water and chemicals can’t seep through them! The actual fractures are typically 100-200 feet long, so they don’t go anywhere near the aquifers.” I’m reluctant to use this word when describing the writings of others, because I’m sure it applies to mine from time to time, but this is just a stupid misunderstanding of the drilling process. The chemicals don’t just stay in the fractures. While most of the toxic fluid remains underground, a significant portion, the “flowback,” returns to the surface, where it is typically stored in open pits or tanks at the well site and must be disposed of. The chemicals used in fracking fluid have names like lead, mercury, uranium, mercury, ethylene glycol, radium, hydrochloric acid and formaldehyde.
  • Then he moves on to doubt, explaining that fracking opponents are just scaring people with claims about manmade earthquakes related to fracking. “There have been a couple of cases of tiny earthquakes attributed to fracking. Yes, I said “a couple.” As in two, the Author Without a Name claims. Well, I won’t say this is stupid. It’s just a lie. The people of Oklahoma are very clear about that.

There’s plenty of blame to go around on this. Expanded oil drilling along the Beartooth Front is an important issue that deserves to be debated in a public forum. We should all appreciate that The Local Rag took responsibility for doing this. But shame on them for failing to find a credible fracking proponent to advance that argument (or maybe there isn’t one). Shame on the author for not having the guts to sign his or her name to the article. And shame on the oil and gas industry for constantly accusing their opponents of putting forward FUD when they’re the ones who consistently lie and twist the facts.

Part of the purpose of this blog is to make arguments based on facts, which I try to link to. You can disagree with the conclusions I make, but, as the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own set of facts.”

How water contamination can occur. Click to enlarge. Source: The Checks and Balances Project

How water contamination can occur. Click to enlarge. Source: The Checks and Balances Project

About davidjkatz

The Moses family has lived on the Stillwater River since 1974, when George and Lucile Moses retired and moved to the Beehive from the Twin Cities. They’re gone now, but their four daughters (pictured at left, on the Beehive) and their families continue to spend time there, and have grown to love the area. This blog started as an email chain to keep the family informed about the threat of increased fracking activity in the area, but the desire to inform and get involved led to the creation of this blog.
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