In the energy sector, there are few topics that generate more debate today than the relative merits/demerits of fracking. To see just how strongly-held yet evenly-divided opinion is, check out this online debate moderated by The Economist and sponsored by Statoil (NYSE: STO).
The question is framed simply: “Do the benefits derived from shale gas outweigh the drawbacks of fracking?” Writing in defense of the “pro” position was Amy Myers Jaffe, the Executive Director for Energy and Sustainability at the Graduate School of Management at the University of California Davis. Writing in opposition was Michael Brune, the Executive Director of the Sierra Club.
The final tally of the debate: 51% voted “No”, while 49% voted “Yes”.
Honestly, I lean more towards the “Yes” side of the ledger. While fracking raises significant concerns, I believe that they can be managed — though it’s up to us as engaged citizens to ensure that the powers-that-be fully hold accountable those who participate in fracking activities to the highest standards.
My hunch is that the beliefs and the numbers of the “No” side have been strongly influenced by films such as “Gasland” and the more-recent “Promised Land”. I confess that I haven’t seen either of them, and while I suspect that they have oversimplified complex issues and stretched the facts/truth to fit a convenient dramatic storyline (as so many movies do), it really is unfair for me to criticize them. Even so, it’s clear that — other than the ever-dependable defender of all-things fossil fuels, Fox News — there are few “pro”-fracking vehicles in mass-culture appealing to the middle-ground to provide a counterbalancing force from the seemingly-dominant message that fracking is dangerous and bad.
As a friend of mine likes to say about thorny political dilemmas: “I have friends on both sides of this issue, and on this issue, I’m with my friends.” With respect to fracking, this applies.