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 16 2013: Where I live in Schoharie County we are on the chopping block for fracking; local communties have outlawed it but some homeowners and the gas industry have gone to court to overturn the local laws. The implications for the oil and gas industry are huge.

    We have widespread karst topography, and, if any fracking fluid gets into the ground water, it could contaminate hundreds of wells, not just one well.

    Fracking wells are industrial sites; when they are finished, the end product has a small foorprint.

    Why does no one point out that burning a century's worth of natural gas is the same as burning 50 years worth of coal? Is that really an improvement?
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      Apr 16 2013: Thank you for your input and feedback, Richard. One of the things that communities in NY State and elsewhere in the country are doing is developing penal codes that would ban fracking in their municipalities, as I've seen in numerous cases throughout the state (I'm a student at RPI in Troy). The moratorium that is in place can only withstand so much with the amount of power the industry has at every level of the government, but I do hope that the communities that will be most affected here in the state are prepared for it (even though the moratorium does not allow for fracking to occur, the state is still accepting the waste from the Tri-State region, where it is most active).

      You bring up an excellent point with the last two questions you mentioned. Is it really worth it? If anything, going to unconventional extraction methods for energy have posed more harm than good for what, only a few years' worth of energy supply? Nonetheless, even if we are extracting natural gas and all out here in the area, we still have to account for the harm done in the area with respect to mining, which is something the fracking industry is not taking into account for. It really is a complete mess to say the least.

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