When it Comes to the News, Where’s the Media?

Last week the United States Geological Survey (USGS) released a study that reiterates the conclusions of an already overwhelming list of peer-reviewed papers and studies that found hydraulic fracturing is not a major threat to our nation’s drinking supplies.

So why did the media at-large ignore this peer-reviewed study from a credible institution that puts to rest false claims that fracking does not systematically threaten our livelihood? Because fear sells and alarmism over substance drives click through rates and ad buys. It’s why the media chooses to write about reports that are not peer-reviewed and instead perpetuate fear over facts.

Let’s look at the facts: After randomly sampling 116 water wells across the Eagle Ford, Fayetteville and Haynesville shale plays — and using chemical, isotopic, gas and groundwater-age tracers to thoroughly evaluate those samples — USGS researchers concluded that low concentrations of methane and benzene detected were likely naturally occurring and not attributable to shale development. From the study:

“Methane isotopes and hydrocarbon gas compositions indicate most of the methane in the wells was biogenic and produced by the CO2 reduction pathway, not from thermogenic shale gas.

“UOG [unconventional oil and gas] operations did not contribute substantial amounts of methane or benzene to the sample drinking-water wells.”

Now that is something to write home about. This comes on the heels of the U.S. EPA’s landmark study that found no evidence of widespread water contamination from fracking. Unfortunately, science-based facts such as these aren’t as headline grabbing as a statement grounded in probability. This from a report released last fall by D.C.-based Earthworks on energy development in West Texas:

“These risks are not quantifiable but the probability that contamination will occur is significant.”

Any study or report that begins with a statement about how purported findings are not quantifiable is clearly not grounded in science or worth the paper it’s printed on. However, some thought it worthy enough to call it news.

When someone has questions about whether or not their water is safe to drink or their swimming pool is safe to swim in, he or she deserves to have them answered with easy access to science-based information that is not mired in fear or emotion.

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