No Fracking Way: The Natural Gas Boom Is Doing More Harm Than Good

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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Natural gas, touted for its environmental, economic, and national security benefits, is often thought of as the fuel that will “bridge” our transition from oil and coal to renewables. The ability to extract natural gas from shale formations through a method called hydraulic fracturing has unleashed vast, untapped sources—by some estimates, the U.S. now sits on a 100-year supply. But contamination from toxic chemicals used in the fracking process has been the source of increasing health and environmental concerns. Can natural gas be part of a clean energy solution, or is it a dangerous roadblock to a fossil-free future?

  • For The Motion

    For

    Deborah Goldberg

    Managing Attorney at Earthjustice

  • For The Motion

    For

    Katherine Hudson

    Watershed Program Director at Riverkeeper

  • Against The Motion

    Against

    Joe Nocera

    Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times

  • Against The Motion

    Against

    Sue Tierney

    Managing Principal at Analysis Group


    • Moderator Image

      MODERATOR

      John Donvan

      Author & Correspondent for ABC News

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For The Motion

For The Motion

Deborah Goldberg

Managing Attorney at Earthjustice

Deborah Goldberg is a Managing Attorney at Earthjustice, the world’s first and largest nonprofit environmental law firm, where she focuses on legal advocacy and litigation related to global warming and environmental health. Originally established as the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, Earthjustice provides legal representation—at no cost—to more than 1,000 clients, ranging from large national groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Audubon Society, to smaller community coalitions, such as Friends of the Everglades. Before joining Earthjustice, Goldberg was the Democracy Program Director of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

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For The Motion

For The Motion

Katherine Hudson

Watershed Program Director at Riverkeeper

Katherine Hudson is the Watershed Program Director at Riverkeeper, a member-supported watchdog organization dedicated to defending the Hudson River and protecting the drinking water supply of nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents. It is led by President Paul Gallay and its Chief Prosecuting Attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Hudson joined Riverkeeper after nearly 25 years spent in government protecting the environment of New York State. Hudson has been Assistant Attorney General in the office’s Environmental Protection Bureau, and has served in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, working in all program areas, including air quality, water quality, solid and hazardous waste and mining.

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Against The Motion

Against The Motion

Joe Nocera

Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times

Joe Nocera is an op-ed columnist. Before joining The Opinion Pages, he wrote the Talking Business column for The New York Times and was a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine. He also serves as a regular business commentator for NPR's Weekend Edition with Scott Simon. Before joining The Times, Nocera spent 10 years at Fortune Magazine, where he held a variety of positions, including contributing writer, editor-at-large, executive editor and editorial director. His most recent book, co-written with Bethany McLean, is All The Devils: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis, their bestselling account of the financial crisis.

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Against The Motion

Against The Motion

Sue Tierney

Managing Principal at Analysis Group; Former Assistant Secretary for Policy at U.S. Dept. of Energy

Susan Tierney is a Managing Principal at Analysis Group, where she specializes in the electric and gas industries. She has consulted to companies, governments, non-profits, and other organizations on energy markets, economic and environmental regulation and strategy, and energy facility projects. A former Assistant Secretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Energy and state public utility commissioner, she is a member of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s energy project and the Secretary of Energy's Advisory Board. She was appointed to the National Petroleum Council and serves as an ambassador for the U.S. Clean Energy Education & Empowerment program, an initiative of the Department of Energy and MIT.

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Declared Winner: For The Motion

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    48 comments

    • Comment Link Rationalist Thursday, 09 August 2012 18:09 posted by Rationalist

      It seems there is a great fear of chemicals among those posting on this subject. I wonder how many of those same people have the same fear of what is in their laundry room (acids, bases, surfactants) or in their cars (glycols, carcinigens in rubber and lubricants) since it is mostly the same stuff as is used in fracking. And what starts in your laundry room eventually ends up in the drain, and what's in a car accident ends up in a storm sewer. To be consistent, shouldn't we outlaw washing and driving?

    • Comment Link kevin Monday, 30 July 2012 15:22 posted by kevin

      drill baby drill

    • Comment Link Richard Blackmore Monday, 30 July 2012 03:51 posted by Richard Blackmore

      One thing which really irritates me in a debate is the false argument of straw manning. Taking an opponents position, exagerating it, and then arguing against the exageration rather than the actual position. Mr. Tierney did this very quickly, right after she essentially argued that slowing down the boom can't be done anyway ( a clearly false argument). To me her argument failed miserably.

    • Comment Link Andrew Friday, 27 July 2012 18:40 posted by Andrew

      I don't understand why so many are confused with the voting. ok, so maybe the website designer screwed up on rendering the images, but if you actually bothered to *watch* the debate, the moderator explained very clearly how it works. If you are against fracking, you vote for the motion. If you are for fracking, you vote against the motion. Why is that so hard to understand?

    • Comment Link Nathan Sobo Monday, 16 July 2012 21:50 posted by Nathan Sobo

      Higher energy prices don't seem like the end of the world to me. That price signal will incentivize increased efficiency, which ultimately means greater productivity. Our industries are ultimately going to need to compete on a world stage. Bathing them in cheap energy is a guarantee that they'll be less efficient than foreign competition, which is risky.

    • Comment Link Mathew Hudson Monday, 09 July 2012 14:32 posted by Mathew Hudson

      I support closer regulation of the fracking process, and the materials used. Natural gas is an plentiful resource, but clean water the most precious.

    • Comment Link Kris Sunday, 01 July 2012 23:44 posted by Kris

      I am not sure why the For and Against are switched on this page. All I know is I am AGAINST FRACKING.

      The environmental issues that come with fracking are enormous and heavily outweigh the pros of fracking. The unsafe disposal of waste water and the carcinogenic chemicals being released into our natural systems will be detrimental to the health of our environment and the well being of human and animal life. If you would not allow your children to drink water found alongside the fracking process that I urge you to vote AGAINST FRACKING.

      Many people have voted incorrectly on this page. I'd like to see a true comparison where it is clear which issue is which.

    • Comment Link Ben Wold Sunday, 01 July 2012 23:41 posted by Ben Wold

      I watched the debate and in the beginning i supported the motion. At the end of the debate i supported the motion even stronger. Its too bad the economy is in the state it is and doesn't allow for slower, more thought out planning on this issue. One thing that had bothered me was i believe in the opening remarks for the "For" side, they stated that some of the chemicals used had no data to suggest how they will react to the environment over time. That concerned me. haven't we learned about environmental issues and industry ie: clear cut logging, over fishing for instance. Penicillin comes to mind as well. Governments must take the initiative and ensure proper testing and guidelines are in effect before any proposed action such as fracking take place.
      Just My Thoughts
      Ben

    • Comment Link John Campbell Sunday, 01 July 2012 22:47 posted by John Campbell

      We need to continue the development and control the risks.

    • Comment Link Carol Crumlish Sunday, 01 July 2012 22:41 posted by Carol Crumlish

      I support the motion.

    • Comment Link Anders Nelson Sunday, 01 July 2012 22:30 posted by Anders Nelson

      The briefings under "for" and "against" on this page are reversed with respect to the other descriptions on the website. This is confusing, and I'm sure some people voted incorrectly. You should disregard any votes made on this page.

    • Comment Link Tomek Falkowski Sunday, 01 July 2012 22:27 posted by Tomek Falkowski

      Don't we also have huge supplies of renewable wind, ready now, with less risk, ie North Dakota: the Saudia Arabia of Wind. Wouldn't that reduce our dependence on foreign energy interests?

    • Comment Link Tomek Falkowski Sunday, 01 July 2012 22:20 posted by Tomek Falkowski

      Interesting, Ms. Tierney's green fracking fluid doesn't disclose its ingredients...

    • Comment Link Tomek Falkowski Sunday, 01 July 2012 22:11 posted by Tomek Falkowski

      Ms. Tierney wants us to think that there are governmental regulations in place to help support the development of renewables, but does she believe that the fact that current government subsidies favor nonrenewables will change with the further development of natural gas?

    • Comment Link John Campbell Sunday, 01 July 2012 22:05 posted by John Campbell

      We need to continue the development and control the risks.

    • Comment Link Tomek Falkowski Sunday, 01 July 2012 21:57 posted by Tomek Falkowski

      There are a couple of points I want to make:

      The issue at hand is whether the natural gas boom IS doing more harm than good; not that it will do more good if more regulations are put into place.

      Climate change is happening. Even with using natural gas, climate change will continue unabated. As the anti-fracking panel pointed out methane leakage negates the potential decrease in greenhouse gas emissions relative to coal. And, with the potential increased drilling for natural gas, investment in truly renewable energy sources, which would actually curtail greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, will decrease dramatically. How would we prevent that?

      If this is a boom economy, how do communities who allow fracking deal with the regularly observed economic bust cycle?

      As to the efficiency of natural gas: Jevons paradox dictates that increased efficiency tends to result in increased consumption of that resource. With this in mind, will it last 100 years? Won't that result in more, short term methane leakage and greenhouse gas emissions augment global climate change?

    • Comment Link Russ Cembrinski Sunday, 01 July 2012 21:57 posted by Russ Cembrinski

      Questions for the panel against the motion:

      Would you be willing to serve yourself and your family, at every dinner henceforth, a nice tall glass of the solution introduced into the wells and used to effect the nat-gas yield? If not, why not?

      There is a "haz-matt-like" business booming around the handling of the solutions being introduced and extracted from the "fracking" wells. With all that we know and don't know about contamination of the aquifer, how do can you scientifically ensure this process will be completely safe?

      Rhetorcially - Are we knowingly laying the ground work for the sequel to Erin Brockovich vs. Pacific Gas & Electric Company?

      I look forward to listening to the debate.

      Best,

      Russ C

    • Comment Link Tomek Falkowski Sunday, 01 July 2012 21:56 posted by Tomek Falkowski

      There are a couple of points I want to make:

      The issue at hand is whether the natural gas boom IS doing more harm than good; not that it will do more good if more regulations are put into place.

      Climate change is happening. Even with using natural gas, climate change will continue unabated. As the anti-fracking panel pointed out methane leakage negates the potential decrease in greenhouse gas emissions relative to coal. And, with the potential increased drilling for natural gas, investment in truly renewable energy sources, which would actually curtail greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, will decrease dramatically. How would we prevent that?

      If this is a boom economy, how do communities who allow fracking deal with the regularly observed economic bust cycle?

      As to the efficiency of natural gas: Jevons paradox dictates that increased efficiency tends to result in increased consumption of that resource. With this in mind, will it last 100 years? Won't that result in more, short term methane leakage and greenhouse gas emissions augment global climate change?

    • Comment Link Rick Maltese Sunday, 01 July 2012 21:56 posted by Rick Maltese

      The cast your vote page have the wrong paragraphs
      The paragraph under the blue is for fracking
      The paragraph under the red is against fracking
      but commentator says if you are for the motion you are against fracking

    • Comment Link Rick Maltese Sunday, 01 July 2012 21:44 posted by Rick Maltese

      You actually don't state the motion to make it clear what "for" or a "against" is responding to so that the voting is useless because half the people won't understand.

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