Hydraulic Fracturing Halftruths
The latest issue of National Review includes a semi-serious, semi-humorous, essay that discusses the differences between various levels of not telling the truth – with liars holding the top honors. The essay refers to a 1986 essay (later book) out of Princeton that discusses what makes one particular form of not telling the truth different from terms like “balderdash,” “claptrap,” “hokum,” “drivel” and “quackery.” We are reminded of all these terms when we try to analyze what the anti-natural gas activists are up to when we listen to most of their statements.
Dale Carnegie reminded us we have to acknowledge they are generally sincere – they generally believe what they are saying. It just becomes a colossal challenge to believe they are being totally honest with us. They are “environmentalists.” For some, this becomes virtually a religion. “Thou shall not harm Mother Earth.” We, however, are conservationists. We are concerned about protecting our environment, while also maintaining “progress.”
We seem to live in a country where we objectively know our air and water are steadily getting cleaner, but, yet, some choose to believe they’re getting dirtier. When the anti-natural gas folks (“antis”) make statements along this line that are not entirely true, we hesitate, in the name of civility, to call them liars or … something worse even though we might be thinking it.
When Josh Fox was confronted about all the material in “Gasland” that was, shall we say, “untrue,” he responded by saying the truth was somehow “irrelevant.” It seems more and more to be the case – “the truth” has become irrelevant to so many of the antis. The antis often use what we can, with tongue in cheek, perhaps describe as the bikini presentation. (This analogy may have been used by this writer before, but it’s just too good to let it go.) That is to say – revealing points of interest, but concealing all the vitals.
There are scores of examples of this, but let’s look at just a few.
“There’s radiation in the Marcellus Shale” – certainly a point of interest. The concentrations are totally insignificant – certainly a vital point.
“Hydraulic fracturing could pollute a water source” – point of interest. It’s just that after about 1.5 million uses in general and about 50,000 high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing operations, it never has – another vital point!
A good many commentators on the anti side of the debate often employs these halftruths. There were comments about Wheeler board members, here in Steuben County, who voted, entirely legally, and entirely consistent with the views and interests of the majority of their residents to endorse natural gas development. Certainly, there are far, far, more members in the landowners coalition than the 30 “residents” who signed a letter of opposition. Another guest column in the local paper cited one Amish man as if he represented all Amish farmers. There were dozens of Amish at coalition meetings over the last four years (vital point)! You have to wonder why the writer of that column ignored the Fremont town meeting – where an overwhelming majority of town residents, in a show of hands, said they would sue if the town passed a moratorium.
So, those of us who have been fighting the antis, and all their hydraulic fracturing halftruths, for four years, continue to search for a term to describe our friends in the anti-movement. We should probably, in the name of civility, not use any of the terms cited in the lead paragraph – and yet some of them are soooo tempting. Certainly “bikini-ists” doesn’t do it. Maybe, in a show of respect to the Plains Indians, “buffalo chipsters” might do. But , even that probably isn’t just right. We’ll have to just keep looking for that “perfect” descriptive word. Maybe we can get beyond the negative “anti.” After all, “anti” just reveals a point of interest.
Note: An earlier version of this post appeared as a guest column in the Corning Leader.