Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Scientists group offers guides to fracking debate

Posted By on Tue, Oct 8, 2013 at 9:51 AM

The Union of Concerned Scientists recently released a couple of publications that should be of interest to anyone with questions about the ongoing fracking debate.

The organization hasn't taken a position on fracking, though drilling companies would probably say that the UCS is against it. Instead, it's focused on helping the public ask critical and relevant questions on the technique. And as an organization, UCS is very concerned about climate change, so it tends to frame oil and gas drilling in that context.

One of the publications is a report aimed at helping the public find reliable and useful sources of information about fracking. "Toward an Evidence-Based Fracking Debate" points out that companies haven't exactly been open with technical information about how fracking affects the environment. The companies won't publicly disclose what's in drilling fluids and they are often selective with the information they'll give academic researchers.
The report also cautions the public about media reports on fracking, urging people to "look for stories that neither stoke nor dismiss concerns," and articles that explain scientific work accurately, including the relationship between uncertainty and risk. A summary of the report also offers this caution:

"Citizens must carefully navigate through messages from fracking stakeholders. Misinformation rarely takes the form of outright falsehoods; instead it may appear as half-truths, exaggerations, omissions, and misrepresentations. Stakeholders on both sides may skip over nuances, uncertainties, limitations, and caveats in scientific studies in their eagerness to use the research as evidence supporting their views."

The other publication is an informational toolkit meant to help residents of communities that may be considering fracking. The UCS takes some of the information that's swirling around about fracking and suggests ways for residents to raise those issues with policy-makers. But the toolkit may also be useful for fracktivists, who may discover issues and topics that they haven't yet explored or raised.

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