Big developing story 

 Claims that a controversial method of extracting natural gas contaminates water supplies are not backed by scientific evidence, experts have concluded.

The technique, known as hydraulic fracturing or "fracking", involves shattering shale rock with high-pressure injections of water and chemicals deep underground.

Test drilling for shale gas in Lancashire is already believed to have triggered minor earthquakes.

However the biggest complaint about fracking, voiced by critics in the US where it is already extensively used, is that it pollutes groundwater with toxic chemicals. A team of Texas scientists has now reviewed the evidence and concluded that fracking cannot be linked directly to reports of groundwater contamination.

The scientists found that many problems attributed to hydraulic fracturing are common to all oil and gas drilling systems. Many reports of contamination could be traced to above-ground spills or mishandling of wastewater rather than the fracking technique itself, they said.

Lead scientist Dr Charles "Chip" Groat, from the University of Texas Energy Institute, said: "Our goal was to provide policymakers a foundation for developing sensible regulations that ensure responsible shale gas development. What we've tried to do is separate fact from fiction."

The Texas team presented its findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Vancouver, Canada. It showed that gas found in water wells within some shale drilling areas could be traced to natural sources, and was probably present before fracking operations began.

Quite apart from how something not backed by scientific evidence can properly be called 'controversial' for any longer is beyond me,  but as this from the UofT site shows, the entire story of shale has been to hell with facts, just tell me how you feel.  The UT report on fracking contamination is too big to be ignored.  But what will certainly be ignored is this section on public perception. When it comes to poisoning the wells in the shale debate, the media have been far more lethal than any chemicals.

 Public Perception of Shale Gas Development

Energy Institute researchers analyzed print, broadcast and online news media coverage of shale gas development in the Marcellus, Haynesville, and Barnett shale areas. They found that the tone of media coverage has been overwhelmingly negative in all forms of media. Roughly two-thirds of the articles and stories examined were deemed negative, a finding that was consistent nationally and at local levels.

Researchers also found that less than 20% of newspaper articles on hydraulic fracturing mention scientific research related to the issue. Similarly, only 25% of broadcast news stories examined made reference to scientific studies, and about 33% of online news coverage mentioned scientific research on the issue.

Those figures sound good compared to Europe.The story is100% negative in the Guardian and Independent and a mere 99% in France.

im chart

And online news in Europe? I make No Hot  Air 1% positive.

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  • With regard to local news, the Nat Gas site you mention recently picked up an article which is quite encouraging. It is from the Blackpool Gazette about Cuadrilla's nearby operations (www.blackpoolgazette.co.uk/news/business/uncovering_riches_under_the_ground_1_4246437) . Not only is it quite objective and balanced but the comments include a number of supporters who are clearly well-informed.<br />However the media's overall slant is, as you say, negative and alarmist.

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  • The Blackpool Gazette seems to be finally getting the message that if shale gas is good for Lancashire, it's good for their readers which is good for them. Took them long enough!

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  • What do you think about the item saying Poland's shale reserves are several times overstated?

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  • I either missed that one, or it's so old I forgot about it. Can you expand on that?

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  • Stan Scobie

    I have a few observations;<br /><br />1. In the first 55 pages there is not one formal reference, despite a lot of factual and conceptual assertions. The reader is told that the details will be found further on - with no useful guidance as to just where.<br /><br />2. The 414 pg copy I downloaded yesterday from the U.T. site is a draft, yet the general media buzz and the presentation on the U.T. website is that it is a "report" implying carefully honed and finished and complete.<br /><br />3. The detailed section that I read very carefully, "Section 4 Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Development" is labeled clearly "draft."<br /><br />In a part I was particularly interested in about substance migration related to drilling and fracking, only two of the seven references I marked for follow up were listed in the reference section.<br /><br />In an interesting instance the Boyer et al (2011) study of substance migration, published in Center for Rural Pennsylvania and subsequently withdrawn by the authors for further review, is cited without qualification as a fully fledged piece of science.<br /><br />There are very many other errors, citations incompletely described, obsolete and/or incomplete sets or related and appropriate references, etc.<br /><br />Overall, I was extremely disappointed in the quality of the work as a useful piece of "science" despite the tantalizng title: "Fact-Based Regulation for Environmental Protection...." It is just not ready for prime time.<br /><br />Stanley R Scobie, Ph.D., Binghamton, NY

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  • Sorry that bit about Poland's gas reserves being overstated came from "Natural gas for Europe" which was mentioned in the article.

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  • Even a mere 1 TCM of gas would be a game changer for Poland. I would just say that it's early days in Poland and we simply don't know today and won't know for at least another two years what the full potential is. San Leon Energy has had two encouraging bits of news in the past week, and I think the most recent about an entirely new shale gas play in SW Poland could be very, very significant.

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