Policy: Environment & Energy

The 9 most absurd things Big Green activists claim fracking causes

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Beltway Confidential,Ashe Schow,Energy and Environment,Fracking

As more and more Democrats come around to the benefits of hydraulic fracturing -- fracking -- Big Green environmental activists have tried to pin a whole host of nasty-sounding side effects on the practice.

Here are the nine most absurd:

1. 'Man camps'


Man camps, which are referenced in Food and Water Watch’s case study of Pennsylvania fracking, are bad, apparently. What they are, exactly, is anyone’s guess. But they seem to be places where lots of men live, possibly under one roof, possibly doing manly things like working or playing jai alai.

The problem with an influx of men into an area is that the male-to-female ratio gets skewed. Pennsylvania has the nation's third-highest ratio, FWW said. That ranking seems debatable, as Bloomberg listed Montana as the state with the third-highest ratio and said Pennsylvania had the thirty-sixth highest.

2. Traffic accidents


An increase in traffic accidents could be the result of more traffic in the area due to - gasp - economic development sparked by fracking, the Center for Environmental Health said in its fracking report.

3. Social disruption


New people moving into an area is apparently another awful thing, according to CEH.

“Hydraulic fracturing can change the social fabric of a community. Community members have reported changes in social norms and behaviors and a perceived loss of social cohesion where ongoing natural gas development has taken place,” CEH said.

Isn’t that one of the most despised anti-immigration arguments?

4. Sexually transmitted diseases


FWW said STD cases increased in certain Pennsylvania counties where fracking is occurring. Who knew fracking causes STDs? The study doesn’t appear to take into account population increases in those counties or explain that a 62-percent increase in STDs in a small, rural town might mean as few as five new cases were diagnosed.

Also, the incidence of STDs might be increasing at a lower rate than the increase in the population of young people. The authors of the study are intentionally vague on that issue, as Matthew Rousu, an associate professor of economics at Susquehanna University, points out.

5. Disorderly conduct


Wherever there's an increase in the population of young men in an area where alcohol is available, you’re bound to get more fights. But wanting a ban on fracking because it brings young men to new communities is ridiculous. Might as well ban all economic growth if one fears the social fabric of any place will be changed.

6. Abuse of women


Yet another reason to block fracking is that, again, more young men in an area could mean more violence against women. Maybe.

The FWW study again blames the "man camps" for creating “an unsafe atmosphere for women.” The study points to a New York Times article in which women in a North Dakota oil boom town said they “felt unsafe” with the influx of young men in the area.

7. Bowel disease and gas


Not just natural gas … but … natural gas, is being blamed on fracking. Of course, there are only a few studies making this connection -- bolstered by anecdotal evidence, of course -- but hey, probably best to stop fracking just in case, right?

8. Drug and alcohol abuse


CEH also claims that fracking leads to drug and alcohol abuse, because, hey, why not? The CEH report includes the claim as a throwaway line, saying, “residents reported an increase in sexually transmitted diseases, drug and alcohol abuse and violent crime.”

The report links to a study by the Colorado School of Public Health, which admits that data for substance abuse was unavailable from two sources, so CSPH surveyed people instead.

Also, the CSPH admits that those surveyed “did not represent a statistically chosen sample of Garfield County [Colo.],” but said that authors of the survey assured the school that the responses were probably the “most valid information available on residents’ health and quality-of-life experiences.”

The CSPH study doesn’t blame fracking for the drug and alcohol abuse.

Note: It’s also clear from the CSPH study that anti-fracking activists cherry-picked statistics to make fracking seem worse. While the CSPH study shows higher-than-expected death rates from lung cancer and suicide, anti-fracking activists ignore the fact Garfield County has lower-than-expected rates of death from leukemia and chronic lower-respiratory diseases. Inconvenient facts, apparently.

9. Bee deaths


The same person who blames fracking for flatulence also wants to blame it for bee deaths. She links to a study from the BBC that claims diesel exhaust confuses bees and makes it difficult for them to find flowers. Note that the BBC report on the study doesn't mention fracking at all -- the connection was made by someone opposed to fracking.

Also, the BBC report doesn't link to the study itself, and it appears no other report on the study links to it, either. Without seeing the study, such basic questions such as sample size are unknown. For all we know, the study was conducted on 14 bees and couldn't possibly be recreated. If so, it wouldn't be the first time a limited study was used to destroy an industry.

Final thoughts: Anti-fracking activists would do better sticking to linking fracking to pollution and all the health problems that come from pollution. Trying to blame a whole host of other problems on the economic growth encouraged by fracking makes the activists look like they’re against progress, or Luddites, or something.

h/t Katie Brown of Energy in Depth

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