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Scientists try to drill through rhetoric in 'fracking' debate

Posted August 9, 2012

— The legislative debate this year over natural gas drilling in North Carolina was often long on rhetoric but short on hard data, as both advocates and opponents claimed science was on their side.

Speaking at the Shale Gas Conference in Raleigh on Thursday, environmental geologist Rick Kolb said the truth is somewhere in the middle.

"Science has been politicized, which is sad, but it has happened," Kolb said. "Our goal was just to have a conference where we just talk about the issues and not say, 'We're for it. We're against it' (and) just say, 'Here are the issues to face.'"

Lawmakers passed legislation over Gov. Beverly Perdue's veto that would allow a controversial method of drilling known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," as soon as late 2014.

Conference speakers cast doubts on claims from both sides of the fracking debate.

For example, opponents often say it consumes millions of gallons of groundwater per well.

Andrew Stone, director of the nonprofit American Ground Water Trust, said he's more concerned about how the water is disposed of than where it originates.

"The numbers sound big," Stone said, "but in comparison with all the other uses – watering golf courses and all the other reasons we need water – it's really a very tiny amount."

Advocates contend that fracking will bring an economic boom to North Carolina, but Kolb said that won't happen anytime soon. Gas deposits in North Carolina are much smaller than in other states, and they might not even be explored right away because the price of natural gas is so low.

Creedmoor passes fracking ban, Cary could follow 'Fracking' supporters, opponents skew science

"Three years ago, it was $10 for 1,000 cubic feet," he said. "Now, it's below $2, so you know, below $2, nothing's economic."

Legislative leaders were invited to the conference to speak and learn from the experts, but none accepted the invitation, Stone said.

He said it's inevitable for the nation to explore its shale gas resources, and it needs to be done properly.

"If we're going to do it, if North Carolina's going to do it, let's do it in a way that maximizes the energy benefit to the economy and minimizes, if not totally gets rid of, the risk to the environment," he said.

The conference, which continues Friday at the Doubletree by Hilton Brownstone Hotel on Hillsborough Street, is sponsored by the Carolinas Section of the Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists and the American Ground Water Trust.


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  • SpaceRokr Aug 15, 2012

    We're a Capitalistic Society, so deal with this Capitalistically. Place a Tariff on the products of these wells that will buy out anyone whose land is affected, as long as drilling is active. If you have fears about future problems, you then have the option presently to bail out. If you'd rather have rent and sit tight, so be it. Call it Voluntary Condemnation. Set the value based on Tax Value, with Revaluation available for the life of the wells on the property. The Property Owner then gets a Lump Sum, plus a potential Income Stream based on the Commerical Viability of the property's resources. The Property Owner can sell to whomever they wish. If a group is passionate about preserving the property, let them buy it. The Environmental Perception has been that it's the Small Guy v Big Industry, but it's really the end consumer v whomever is in opposition.

  • geosol Aug 10, 2012

    Cutting through all of the rhetoric about fracking, it is apparent that we will be relying on this technique to meet our country's energy needs for many years to come. But the industry and right wing politicians have not done themselves any favors by the way they've handled the debate. When the REPUBLICANS rushed this through the legislature and then appointed people on the oil and gas board that have OBVIOUS conflicts, all it does is increase the distrust from people who just want THE TRUTH.

  • Luvthesky Aug 10, 2012

    Luvie?? Wow, I didn't expect that from you Drescher. Doesn't match the tone that you have been using in your comments. Then again...there is always a reason that people take personal stabs at other people and avoid debating the real issue at hand. They either know nothing of what they are attempting to debate or they have an anger problem.

  • michaeldemeglio Aug 10, 2012

    Does it bother anyone that our elected officials were invited to attend but declined? Seems like a golden opportunity to hear the facts and make informed decisions on the myriad of issues around fracking. Pity they missed it.

  • That Explains It Aug 10, 2012

    Luvie, poor dear. It's only fair if you are pushing your agenda, right?

    You are a tax paying citizen? Wow! I guess that does make you special. AND you love the sky. Everyone needs to stop what they are doing and start listening to you.

    By the way, whatever happened to CoExist? Guess you'll have to take that bumper sticker off your CAR that runs on gasoline.

  • Luvthesky Aug 10, 2012

    What did Lee County do to me? Well, for starters they want to frack around my neighborhood and I am not very fond of that idea. The very few people that stand to profit from this little scheme think that they are doing all the rest of us a favor by pushing their agenda. As a tax paying citizen - I should be able to vote on this. Dresher - This is not the time to be pushing your condescending remarks to the very people that risk being negatively affected by this type of drilling process. Also,my CAR runs on gasoline. I probably won't be able to afford the nice little Natural Gas running cars after they are pushed onto the market by yet another greedy corporation, so perhaps I will need a moped.

  • That Explains It Aug 10, 2012

    Wow! What did Lee County ever do to you? Try filling up your moped with sunshine the next time you venture out of the zoo in Carrboro and see how far that gets you.

  • That Explains It Aug 10, 2012

    Really? I thought that last one was quite good. Accurate, articulate and spot on. What possible basis could censorship be based upon?

  • Luvthesky Aug 10, 2012

    Mr. Drescher...which oil company do you work for?? Better yet, are you from Lee County? Propoganda is a nice word for what has been thrown at the public. A "simple truth" from oil companies and other "conservationists" - not hardly! The source of the dollars funding these nice little political campaigns are also funding many scientific studies on hydro-fracking. What do you bet there is oil on that money?? And I like your button - it looks nice beside your name.

  • That Explains It Aug 10, 2012


    "The price of natural gas has dropped so low, that it is not worth the risk,..." So, you're saying if the price of natural gas goes up to a sufficiently high level, that it would be worth the risk? Just asking.

    "... it is not worth the risk, no matter how remote or small the risk is." So even if the risk were, say ... Zero, it still wouldn't be worth it to you. Don't let logic impede your sense of environmental religiosity.

    "I rather like the pristine condition that my land and water is currently in, and I am not willing to destroy it for anyone." Wow!!! A rather bold statement. Clearly you are someone who cares. Thus, you must be right.

    ""As I stated in an email to Rep. Jamie Boles, of Moore County, "since you are so willing to sell out your constituents, I hope they drill the first well in your back yard."" I suspect you and Rep. Boles are on the same page on this one. After the first well comes in, he can hire you to cut his grass.