Author defends “fracking”

by Daniel Smith ’13, Contributing Writer

Drilling for oil has been a source of controversy in the United States for decades.

From environmentalists who lament the degradation of undeveloped land to economists who see the innumerable benefits of drilling for oil in an energy-insecure nation driven by the production and consumption of fossil fuels, issues abound in determining whether or not drilling is the right decision in a given area.

It is the middleground of this debate, however, that has become increasingly controversial in recent years.

Ann McElhinney, director of “FrackNation” and investigative journalist, knows better than most that fracking is quickly asserting itself as a mainstay in environmental and political discourse.

Her recent documentary stands to challenge environmental viewpoints, such as that of Josh Fox, director of the Academy Award nominated “Gasland,” which suggest that fracking has the potential to contaminate ground water sources and affect air quality.

The process itself, which involves creating fractures in rock layers to extract petroleum and natural gas, has yet to yield concrete evidence of environmental harm.

During her spirited discussion on this subject on Tuesday night in the Hartness Pavilion, McElhinney was quick to point to this lack of proof in her attempts to destabilize claims of environmental harm directly attributed to fracking.

“You know, the environmentalists think we’re all going to die. But the fact is, huge amounts of oil and gas seep up from the ground regardless of fracking or drilling.”

McElhinney believes that if potential harm to the environment or local citizens were to really come from fracking, then it would also arise from the natural seeping of gas that occurs on a daily basis.

McElhinney also challenged the notion that an excessive amount of carcinogens was released into the air as a result of fracking. “There are carcinogens in everything.” Renowned scientist Bruce Ames, a professor at U-Cal Berkeley who is featured in “FrackNation,” defended McElhinney’s views. “If people say fracking is causing cancer then they don’t know what they’re talking about.”

While McElhinney believes that fracking is a safe and vital part of our energy resources, she was quick to dispel any notion that these practices should lead to energy independence for the United States.

“I don’t think you ever want to be energy independent. I think you want to be energy secure,” she said.