The Politics (and Economics) of Fear

“It’s bad, it’s really bad. We’ve always had gas drilling, but people don’t realize this is really different and really dangerous. Houses are exploding, and people can’t drink their water. We have to educate people and get them to take action.”

Sound familiar? This is the type of propaganda proponents of responsible energy development are forced to fight each and every day. It’s a baseless claim, not support by fact or science – yet it doesn’t stop activists from sending out fundraising solicitations in an effort to raise money off fear. What’s new about this email isn’t the message – it’s the group that sent it. This particular outfit calls itself “Food and Water Watch,” and while we’ve not had any dealings with them to date, have seen them at no hearings or forums, are aware of no research or analysis they’ve done, they seem to have no compunction whatsoever in calling for a nationwide ban on hydraulic fracturing.

Boasting a staff of more than 60 and an annual budget of $8.2 million, Food and Water Watch is now using the politics of fear to raise funds in an effort to shut down onshore oil and natural gas producers in America. This is just the latest group to buy a ticket to the freak show, and while the assertions are nothing new to us here at EID, we figured it was best to draw the line in the sand and set the record straight, again, when it comes to a record of safety and performance to which hydraulic fracturing rightfully lays claim.

By calling for a national ban on hydraulic fracturing, what this group is actually advocating for is the elimination of low-cost, high-content energy in America. With nearly 90 percent of the oil and natural gas wells in the United States requiring the well-stimulation technique known as hydraulic fracturing to remain and become viable, these folks appear to be more interested in axing good-paying American jobs while jacking up our reliance on foreign sources of energy than engaging in an “adult conversation” about how and from where Americans will produce and consume energy in the future.

As the good neighbors that we are, we thought we’d take a look at the most egregious claims laid out in their most recent piece of propaganda and set the record straight.

First, there has never been a house that “exploded” as a result of hydraulic fracturing or shale gas development. Never. Interested in learning what really happened in Bainbridge, Ohio? Take a look here.

Second: the flaming faucet, which is prominently displayed in this group’s fundraising solicitation, comes courtesy of our friend Josh Fox and his anti-energy polemic known as GasLand. Here’s what the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission had to say about that:

“Despite the assertions in the movie Gasland, the COGCC has investigated hundreds of cases and to date has found no water well contamination attributable to hydraulic fracturing. And these include the flaming faucets and the bubbling surface water in West Creek Divide wetland, both of which were determined to be naturally occurring methane or gas unrelated to drilling.”

Again, nothing at all to do with hydraulic fracturing or shale gas exploration – why let facts get in the way of a good fundraising appeal, ey?

Lastly, is their assertion that “a fracking well near her community exploded, spewing thousands of gallons of contaminated water onto nearby farms and into waterways.” While we’re not sure what a “fracking well” is, it’s safe to assume that they’re referring to a recent well control incident in Bradford County, Pa. Here’s the facts:

“A Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection spokesperson told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the agency was testing water in Towanda Creek the day after the spill and had not seen signs of an aquatic life kill.” (State Journal, 5/4/11)

“Pennsylvania authorities say the environmental impact appears to have been minor.” (Wall Street Journal, 4/28/11)

You know what they say about facts? Never let them get in the way of telling a good, albeit, false and misleading story. Speaking of: Remember that quote up top we led this post off with? The Food and Water Watch folks attribute it to none other than Stephanie Hallowich, an anti-shale activist who’s found a way to convince everyone from National Geographic to Armen Keteyian of CBS News that Marcellus development is to blame for her bad water.

One organization she didn’t convince? The PA DEP – click here for the letter they sent her after conducting a thorough investigation of her claims. Funny. That letter wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the Food and Water Watch solicitation.

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