I suppose the Associated Press deserves some credit for what appears to be a grudging acknowledgment that opponents of the oil and gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, aka “fracking,” “sometimes mislead the public.” Also, Kevin Begos’s story does a good job of letting Josh Fox, producer of the fundamentally dishonest documentary “Gasland,” hang himself with his own dodgy, reality-denying words.
But the credit pretty much ends there. Begos’s report is a largely a study in false equivalence (y’know, everybody exaggerates — except, Kevin, opponents do so serially while proponents do so rarely) and psychobabble (y’know, everyone uses “facts” they like and ignores the one that don’t — except, Kevin, for the inconvenient reality that opponents’ “facts” are largely falsehoods). The problem is best exemplified in the final excerpted paragraph which follows the jump (bolds are mine):
Experts: Some fracking critics use bad science
In the debate over natural gas drilling, the companies are often the ones accused of twisting the facts. But scientists say opponents sometimes mislead the public, too.
Critics of fracking often raise alarms about groundwater pollution, air pollution, and cancer risks, and there are still many uncertainties. But some of the claims have little – or nothing- to back them.
For example, reports that breast cancer rates rose in a region with heavy gas drilling are false, researchers told The Associated Press.
Fears that natural radioactivity in drilling waste could contaminate drinking water aren’t being confirmed by monitoring, either.
And concerns about air pollution from the industry often don’t acknowledge that natural gas is a far cleaner burning fuel than coal.
“The debate is becoming very emotional. And basically not using science” on either side, said Avner Vengosh, a Duke University professor studying groundwater contamination who has been praised and criticized by both sides.
What rubbish. Begos failed to cite a single instance in his report of a claim by fracking opponents which is actually true, yet lets them off the hook by saying that only “sometimes mislead the public.”
The quoted Vengosh appears to be a legitimate expert, but the quote itself has the distinct aroma of being a harried response to a leading question. It would be nice to know how Vengosh believes proponents are “not using science.” Is it to lie about safety (possible, but I would suggest very rare) or to overstate the resource potential (more likely, and as a result of enthusiasm), or something else? Meanwhile, opponents serially abuse the science, as Begos outlined in his first five paragraphs but then attempted to minimize.
Meanwhile, the worst thing Begos could assert about fracking’s supporters is from all appearances a straw-man argument: “For example, industry supporters have claimed that drilling never pollutes water wells, when state regulators have confirmed cases where it has.” Begos didn’t quote anyone who has recently said this, and I doubt there is anyone in the industry who has recently said this.
Here’s the AP reporter’s psychobabble excerpt:
One expert said there’s an actual psychological process at work that sometimes blinds people to science, on the fracking debate and many others.
“You can literally put facts in front of people, and they will just ignore them,” said Mark Lubell, the director of the Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior at the University of California, Davis.
Lubell said the situation, which happens on both sides of a debate, is called “motivated reasoning.”
Again, there’s no discussion of which side is engaging in more “motivated reasoning” than the other.
Speaking of motivations, Mark Lubell and his Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior have swallowed “global warming” and “climate change” hook, line, and sinker. Just one example: Lubell’s reaction to the Colorado wildfires in late June was: “This is climate change.” (Since his post was in reaction to fires near his parents’ home in Colorado Springs, I certainly hope that everyone is okay.)
At the end of his post, Lubell asks: “So what can we learn about climate change from a disaster like this?” Well, Mark, since you haven’t updated your post, we’ve learned that lazy eco-advocates like you are among those who, when confronted with facts, as you said, “just ignore them.”
Finally, Begos’s report, based on its time stamp, conveniently appeared on a Sunday when few were paying attention. It also only briefly appeared on the front page of the Business section at the AP’s national site. It’s almost as if the wire service was embarrassed by the perceived need to file a report about environmentalist mendacity, but still wanted to be able to say, “See, we didn’t ignore it.”
Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.