Survey: Jury Still Out On Fracking

While the topic of fracking elicits strong opinions, a recent survey shows that many Americans know relatively little about fracking and do not have an opinion one way or the other.

In a survey including more than 1,000 people, conducted by Oregon State University (OSU), George Mason University and Yale University for the journal Energy Policy, results showed that about half of the people surveyed knew little or nothing about fracking. The other half was about evenly divided on whether they supported it or not.

An OSU public policy expert, Hilary Boudet, was not surprised at the findings, and said the lack of an opinion by many of the people surveyed suggested that “there may be an opportunity to educate the American citizenry in a non-partisan way about this important issue.

“It isn’t really unusual for lay audiences to be uninformed about specific technical issues such as fracking,” Boudet said. “The question is who will lead the discussion?”

One finding of the researchers was the growing concern among scientists that fracking technology could allow methane to leak into the atmosphere.

“If the argument is that we need natural gas to mitigate our dependency on other fossil fuels and to lower greenhouse gas emissions, it doesn’t make much sense to use a technology that could, in fact, increase methane emissions,” Boudet said, adding that methane is a significantly more potent greenhouse than carbon dioxide.

On the other hand, the researchers noted that according to some studies, the United States could become one of the largest oil producers in the world, as well as a net exporter of natural gas, because of fracking.

Fracking, an “unconventional” method, is become more conventional all the time, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration says that by the year 2035, shale gas will account for about half – 49 percent – of natural gas production. That is more than double the current figure of 23 percent.

The debate over fracking is just beginning, Boudet said.


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