War on Science?

Columnist Margaret Wente of The Globe and Mail authored a great opinion piece this week that compares ongoing efforts to obstruct shale energy production with other trendy causes that have emerged in North America and Europe based on dubious pseudoscience.

Wente notes that "the war on fracking is also entirely ideological" and compares it to the resistance to vaccinations and modern agricultural techniques, such as genetically modified foods. She acknowledges that shale energy, like "any new technology will have challenges", but she notes that "the National Academy of Sciences, MIT, and other bodies with no axes to grind say that fracking is safe. Environmentalists should love it, because natural gas emits far less carbon than oil. Instead, they want to ban it."

She points out that the basis of this opposition is an ignorance of both the scientific process that is "ironically…cloaked in education, wealth and privilege." She explains that "hardly anybody knows basic science and technology these days. Few of us are going to wade through the National Academy of Sciences report. We depend on intermediaries to tell us what to think, and a lot of them are also scientifically illiterate." This is unfortunately exacerbated by many in the news media as "most journalists are generally more interested in controversy than in evidence."

Furthermore, "environmental activists are in the business of opposing, and have no interest in solving real-world problems like providing heat and light at a reasonable cost. The people who actually know how things work – engineers and technology types – tend to be uninterested in politics and are poor communicators. Meantime, some of the most deeply anti-science activists (like the artfully named Union of Concerned Scientists) are quoted as if they were neutral actors for the public interest."

While Wente is a Canadian commentator, her remarks are very relevant for the United States and North Texas. Supporters of clean and responsible American shale energy have the facts on our side, and we must make sure that our opinions are not crowded out by anti-science zealots who are willing to cast progress aside in support of their half-baked ideological crusades.

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