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 17 2013: Ernesto: you come out of the paddock as a social scientist with problems with fracking. I was taken aback.
    Seriously, I lived on top of the Pennsylvania dome where the first oil production came to be and now I live in Texas on the eagle ford dome.

    So, fracking can provide an economical source of badly needed energy and don't tell me about algae, or corn or wind or or or as sources of electrical power. Gas also has the ability to be transformed into a transportation fuel faster then about anything else...

    Now, the fracking industry does say that there are safety issues that they do address and the motivation for them is notable, because wasted gas into the earth crust is gas not sold. There are issues with the proprietary recipes used to hold the broken rock open to allow gas to escape. They have to report the materials to the Federal Government, but not the recipes which seem to cause great consternation.

    For those who are "not happy" about fracking, the dangers are earth shattering, global ending events that will have us all choking on burning water laced with strange chemicals and/or being buried alive under massive earthquakes.

    I got to believe the truth is somewhere in between. According to the talk by Mr. Pickens, the country needs more and more low cost energy to sustain our economy. Several lawsuits against fracking in Pennsylvania were dismissed due to the lack of evidence. Even the state environmental offices could not substantiate claims made by "fracking injured" parties.

    I believe that, we should keep an eye on fracking operations and benefit from the abundance of natural gas that we have available.
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      Apr 22 2013: Mike, even if we keep an eye on fracking operations and jot down the issues, disasters, and accidents that are occurring with fracking (or unconventional gas extraction, whatever it may be), the exemptions that the industry is saved from being brought to justice would not help us bring about the right regulation for the technology itself.

      In this case, as in much of the unconventional gas extraction that is occurring elsewhere, we cannot wait for the technology to better itself. We cannot wait to provide solutions to the issue: in fact, we need to implement regulations that would prevent from issues to occur in the first place.
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        Apr 23 2013: OK, but, what you are saying is not quite accurate. BP is on tap for tens of billions. There have be individuals in the past that have been jailed for screwing up the environment. One can say we can do more.
        On the other hand, what regulations can you pass for future actions. Can you write a reg to cover everything?

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