Inoculating Against Shale Energy Ignorance

An interesting connection was made this week by Forbes contributor Bill Tucker in his article "Its Not The Fracking Making Trouble in Texas". Tucker zeroes in on the anti-vaccination movement and explains that there are common threads among this and other anti-science movements that have taken root in communities across the United States.

According to Tucker, the "anti-vaxxer crowd has on its side nothing except bad science and a lot of emotion…What does that debate have to do with energy? Bad science just keeps appearing everywhere propelled by powerful emotions."

Anti-vaccination adherents, who have been roundly criticized by doctors, public health experts and commentators left, right and center, base their arguments on dubious sources. Foremost among these sources is a 1998 British medical journal article linking vaccines and autism that has been beaten to a pulp by medical experts since its release. According to Public Radio International, the editor of "the medical journal where Wakefield’s research was originally published," and subsequently retracted, called his work "the most appalling catalog and litany of some of the most terrible behavior in any research." Other medical experts have called the research and "elaborate fraud." Despite these denunciations, the ideas of the paper live on and are shared via the internet.

Anti-shale energy zealots have derived their talking points from similarly dubious sources. Tucker points out the example of a report written by former EPA Region 6 Director Al Armendariz that "claims fracking has produced greater smog-producing emissions than motor vehicles" in North Texas. (You may remember that the tenure of Armendariz was brief as he "was forced to resign because of a leaked video of him talking about his strategy to use his EPA authority to go after the oil and gas industry. ‘Crucify’ was the word he infamously used.")

The "Armendariz’s report" subsequently "became the basis for talking points for those opposed to fracking" and is still cited today by activists. Unfortunately, the contradictory data on this issue has been "ignored" and disregarded by activists looking to score points in their idealogical campaign against fossil fuels.

While they involve very different issues, both the anti-vaccination and anti-shale energy movements use pseudoscience, discredited research, and scare tactics to promote their agendas. The impact of anti-shale hysteria is not as noticeable as a measles outbreak at Disneyland, but it has economic costs on Texas and the United States. We as North Texans need to vaccinate ourselves against these bogus and ideologically motivated claims by becoming educated on the facts about shale energy.

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