Fracking Lies Fractivists Tell
Alex Epstein , CONTRIBUTOR
As originally published by Forbes
To make intelligent decisions about the future of energy, we need to think big-picture—to look carefully at the benefits and costs to human life of every course of action. Unfortunately, in today’s energy debate we are taught, with politically incorrect forms of energy such as fossil fuels, to only look at the negative picture—often highly exaggerated or taken out of context.
There are at least four common fallacies used to discourage big-picture thinking and breed opposition to fossil fuels. These are things to be on the lookout for when you follow the cultural debate; they are everywhere, and all four are used to attack what might be the most important technology of our generation: shale energy aka “fracking.”
1. The Abuse-Use Fallacy
The largest fossil fuel controversy today, besides the broader climate change issue, is fracking—shorthand for hydraulic fracturing—one of several key technologies for getting oil and gas out of dense shale rock, resources that exist in enormous quantities but had previously been inaccessible at low cost.
Fracking has gotten attention, not primarily because of the productivity revolution it has created, but because of concerns about groundwater contamination. The leading source of this view is celebrity filmmaker Josh Fox’s Gasland (so-called) documentaries on HBO. Looking at how these movies have affected public opinion is an instructive exercise. Both Gasland movies follow a similar three-part formula. First, Fox tells a sad story about a family undergoing a problem, usually with their drinking water. “When we turn on the tap, the water reeks of hydrocarbons and chemicals,” says John Fenton of Pavillion, Wyoming. Then Fox blames it on the oil and gas industry’s use of fracking—without exploring any alternative explanations, such as the fact that methane and other substances often naturally seep into groundwater. This is the false-attribution fallacy, which I’ll discuss in a minute.
Even if Fox’s examples were true, it would be illegitimate of him to conclude what he concludes today and what “fracktivists” demand—that fracking, and really all oil and gas drilling, should be illegal, as if any technology that can be misused should be outlawed.
Any technology can be abused. As we have seen, people are dying right now because of bad practices in the wind turbine production chain. It is irrational to say that because a technology or practice can be abused, it ought not be used.
I call this the abuse-use fallacy. It is a blueprint for opposing any technology. For example, Fox could make Carland, which could show car crashes and then blame all of them on “Big Auto.” Then he could argue that because car crashes are possible, we don’t need cars. In fact, Fox could make a far more alarming movie than Gasland based on supposedly risk-free solar and wind technology. Imagine a scene at a rare-earth mine in a movie called Wasteland.
Defenders of fracking often point out that the “abusers” Fox cites are false attributions—the next fallacy we’ll discuss. But the pattern of argument would be wrong even if Fox wasn’t fabricating particular abuses; individual abuses do not prove that an entire technology should not be used—they prove it should not be abused.
The abuse-use fallacy is deadly because it can be used to attack anything a group opposes. As citizens, we hate to see even one coal mine accident, one spill of hazardous liquids, or one example of industry corruption, but we must use that feeling to advocate for proper laws and best practices, not to drive us to outlaw crucial technologies.
Read the full Alex Epstein article HERE!
reposted by Reagangirl.com 11/12/15