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Friday, June 29, 2012

Josh Fox and New York Times Writer Butt Heads Over Fracking

From the New York Times:
Josh Fox, the filmmaker whose “Gasland” documentary powerfully influenced debates about gas extraction from shale deposits, has started a conversation with me related to his new short video, “The Sky is Pink,” and my post supporting New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s signaled plans for the state’s gas resource. 
Here’s Fox’s video, which centers on Cuomo and on documents that Fox asserts open a new front in the fracking wars — pointing to established problems with long-term well integrity due to failures in the steel or cement used to line and seal the vertical well shaft:

 Here’s our exchange so far, which has played out in the comment string on my post on Cuomo’s choices:
Josh Fox, commenting on my reaction to a Jeff Goodell piece on the video in Rolling Stone:
I find it curious that you would choose to play into the “he said, she said” media debate by posting a comment addressing Jeff Goodell’s comments on my film, but not on the film itself. Why not investigate or opine on the troubling science featured in the film that the gas industry itself conducted, which points to huge and unpreventable rates of well leakage? Why not cite some of the actual investigative reporting on which my film is based, which, incidentally, came from The New York Times “Drilling Down” series by Ian Urbina? 
The industry documents that show that they know all about their contamination problems are here awaiting your commentary: [documents] 
To be clear: you are advocating drilling wells in massive numbers in New York which the industry itself admits will leak into groundwater aquifers. Is a few years of polluting fossil fuel based energy worth contaminating groundwater for centuries? Please respond to that. 
And if the New York Department of Environmental Conservation is so confident that the process protects the environment, why not put the first 100 wells in the New York City watershed? Or truck the first 1,000 truckloads of “treated” waste to the reservoir in Central Park? Or perhaps put the first gas refinery and compressor station in Scarsdale or Westchester? Why put it out in an economically depressed area with very little political clout?
Revkin:
I haven’t responded on the film yet because I’m doing precisely what you suggest — examining and reporting out the new assertions. That takes time. Glad to have the link to sources. Kind of hard grabbing the fast-flashed document names by pausing the video. 
One odd point for starters. You cast the Southwestern Energy animation of well casing problems as some kind of “gotcha” when they’ve been showing it on the Web for quite a long while (including at Pace University in a discussion recently). It’s creditable, to me, for a company to be pointing out bad practices even as it pursues better ones. You?
The exchange continues for a while (read the rest by clicking here), with Fox continuing to petulantly accuse Revkin of one-sided reporting (which makes a lot of sense, because obviously Fox is so fair and balanced in his viewpoints on natural gas drilling).  I found it amusing, although it's still a little frightening that someone who is so fanatical, extremist, and unreasonable is being relied on by so many as the beacon of truth on an issue with such far-reaching impacts.  Studies are being done, and who knows, fracking could be hazardous.  But to think that Josh Fox and his propaganda should be unconditionally trusted - as many fracktivists do - is every bit as unreasonable as believing everything the industry itself says about the effects of fracking.

Wouldn't it be interesting if the activists and the industry came together and both put up equal funding for a truly impartial study of the impacts of fracking - all impacts, including economic and environmental?  Every study seems to be funded by one side or the other, backed by a party with a stake in the results, and thus very fairly open to questions about how much the report was biased by the organization providing funding.

Of course, I don't see that happening, because the only way for each side to assure that they stay in business is to control the information themselves.  Activist organizations need the fear created by studies that say fracking is dangerous.  The drillers need the studies that say it's perfectly safe.  Neither side needs the truth, which undoubtedly lies somewhere between the two vastly differing stories being presented.


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