To make intelligent decisions about the future of energy, we need to think big-picture—to look carefully at the benefits and costs to human life of every course of action. Unfortunately, in today’s energy debate we are taught, with politically incorrect forms of energy such as fossil fuels, to only look at the negative picture—often highly exaggerated or taken out of context.
There are at least four common fallacies used to discourage big-picture thinking and breed opposition to fossil fuels. These are things to be on the lookout for when you follow the cultural debate; they are everywhere, and all four are used to attack what might be the most important technology of our generation: shale energy aka “fracking.”
1. The Abuse-Use Fallacy
The largest fossil fuel controversy today, besides the broader climate change issue, is fracking—shorthand for hydraulic fracturing—one of several key technologies for getting oil and gas out of dense shale rock, resources that exist in enormous quantities but had previously been inaccessible at low cost.
Fracking has gotten attention, not primarily because of the productivity revolution it has created, but because of concerns about groundwater contamination. The leading source of this view is celebrity filmmaker Josh Fox’s Gasland (so-called) documentaries on HBO. Looking at how these movies have affected public opinion is an instructive exercise. Both Gasland movies follow a similar three-part formula. First, Fox tells a sad story about a family undergoing a problem, usually with their drinking water. “When we turn on the tap, the water reeks of hydrocarbons and chemicals,” says John Fenton of Pavillion, Wyoming. Then Fox blames it on the oil and gas industry’s use of fracking—without exploring any alternative explanations, such as the fact that methane and other substances often naturally seep into groundwater. This is the false-attribution fallacy, which I’ll discuss in a minute.Epstein goes on to consider The False-Attribution Fallacy, The No-Threshold Fallacy, and The "Artificial" Fallacy. Read the rest of the article by clicking here.
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