TED Conversations

Ernesto Villasenor

Social Justice Fellow, LA County Education Foundation (LACEF)

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Are the short-term gains of hydrofracking worth the short & long term burdens of environmental/social injustice, as stated by the industry?

The reason why I pose this question is because, as a social science researcher/student within the STS field, such technology has posed questions with regards to risk assessment and how the industry perceives the disparities created by unconventional gas extraction. In addition to this, I've personally traveled and have done extensive research with respect to unconventional gas extraction in the Tri-State region (West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania), where the environmental and public health burdens are abundant to say the least. Issues of public health, environmental degradation, disenfranchisement of rural communities- all come with an economic cost, both in the short-run and long-run. Although there are no industry-neutral publications and/or research conducted in this field (there is little research available that has been conducted without favoring the industry), it has been an issue in the US and elsewhere in the world where energy independence dominates the conversation with regards to the environment and public health.

What are your thoughts on hydraulic fracturing?

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    Apr 14 2013: Where is the proof of the dangers?
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      Apr 14 2013: I'd like for you to view this video that my Professors and an Emmy award-winning producer Branda Miller have developed:

      http://frackingourfuture.org/

      I went out there to the affected areas myself about a weekend ago, and just the exposure that I received within three days have left me with problems breathing. And I'd like to add that I grew up in an area where unconventional gas extraction is not even occurring, and this was only for three days. I can produce studies, articles, and reports if you'd like.
    • Apr 15 2013: Pat, do you believe fracking is worth it?
      With every well drilled- and 32,000 wells per year are planned- a couple million gallons of freshwater are transformed into toxic fracking fluid. Some of that fluid will remain underground. Some will come flying back out of the hole, bringing with it other monsters: benzene, brine, radioactivity, and heavy metals that, for the past 400 millions years, had been safely locked up a mile below us, estranged from the surface world of living creatures. No one knows what to do with this lethal flowback- a million or more gallons of it for every wellhead. Too caustic for reuse as is, it sloshes around in open pits and sometimes is hauled away in fleets of trucks to be forced under pressure down a disposal well. Snd it is sometimes clandestinely dumped.

      By 2012, 100 billion gallons per year of freshwater will be turned into toxic fracking fluid. The technology to transform it back to drinkable water does not exist.
    • Apr 15 2013: Pat where is the proof of its safety?
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        Apr 15 2013: Nope nor anything else.

        The alternative is to do without oil.

        Do you realize how much oil contributes to the economy by it's labor savings?
        • Apr 15 2013: Oil is like 100 energy slaves per capita.
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        Apr 15 2013: and the ramifications of that?
        • Apr 16 2013: Ramifications are many positives and many negatives. Certainly our economy depends on it. I am guessing that is the holy grail in your mind?
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        Apr 15 2013: Thanks for those facts on fracking, Brian.

        One of the things and conversations that I am trying to bring up is that we need more than the scientific method when exploring for unconventional energy supplies, fracking being one of them. To what extend do we have to sacrifice other things just to quench our energy thirst? Is the short-term gain of energy supplies worth the long-term issues in health, the environment?
        • Apr 15 2013: no they're not, and we learned that a long time ago. still it doesn't stop a bunch of people declaring that fracking is great even though it is currently creating more problems than it is solving. history is a great teacher unless you willfully ignore it, and people do that either because they honestly don't understand, or are deliberately dishonest because they have a stake in the profits.
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        Apr 15 2013: Am I that obvious? Oh good then I have achieved my goal.

        No doubt some people will suffer as with any new technology. But if it does more good than harm it is worth it. The alternative is to languish, but not everyone gets that.
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          Apr 15 2013: Pat, world-renowned engineers, environmentalists, scientists, sociologists, and the average citizen knows that unconventional gas extraction does more harm than it does good. As I've said before in a summit: it doesn't take rocket science to figure it out. Let's say it generates x amount of capital in terms of energy, but at the same time it creates a+b+c+d+e+f+g...n of health care costs, environmental clean-up, and the whole nine yards. Will it then be worth it?

          Such good example would be the Keystone XL Oil Pipeline. Look at what happened in Arkansas not so long ago. Are we going to wait until everyone gets messed up until elected leaders and the industry say, "merde, it wasn't a good idea afterall" ?
        • Apr 16 2013: no, the alternative is to find a better way.
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        Apr 15 2013: Your right it does not take rocket science, but it does take science, which is my objection to your conjecture.
        • Apr 16 2013: Where is the science you stand behind? Any cost benefit analysis?
        • Apr 16 2013: you've used that word conjecture again, but you don't seem to understand what it means. conjecture is what you're doing, making a baseless claim. a well-substantiated point is the opposite of conjecture.
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        Apr 15 2013: Is that a threat?

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