Category Archives: Environmental journalism

Soft soap and fracking

Things can go pretty far off track when science meets the press, and when we hear or read shallow generalizations based on studies inaccurately interpreted, we wonder how it could have happened.

Case in point:  Some day soon, an oil & gas industry representative will probably tell a journalist, or a politician, or a concerned parent: “Fracking water is as safe as dish soap. Check out the 2014 University of Colorado study.”

And of course that will be horribly wrong.  At best, people will chalk the difference up to the old adage:  For every PhD, there is an equal and opposite PhD.  More likely, they will just take the spin on the study at face value.

But the 2014 Colorado fracking story is an example of one of many chains of errors in the science reporting system.
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Oil ‘scarcity’: We should have known better


World oil reserve comparison USGS vs US DOE proven reserves.

By Bill Kovarik

One of the more painful lessons of recent  history involves the way money and  politics can slant  scientific information.

Take the curiously sudden abundance of fossil fuels.  Not long ago we had looming shortages, certain oil scarcity, and the supposed need to go to war to protect the lifeblood of the world’s economy.

But now, seemingly out of the blue, we have an abundance of natural gas from fracking, heavy oil from Venezuela and unconventional oil from Canada’s tar sands. And much more conventional to come from the Dakotas, the Arctic, Latin America and the coasts of Africa.

How do we explain the “sudden” abundance of fossil fuels?

  • “We were wrong on peak oil,” said  George Monbiot of the Guardian in July, 2012.  “There’s enough to fry us all.”   Environmental strategies must change now because “the facts have changed,” he said.
  • The Washington Post reported that the “center of gravity” for  world oil resources has shifted to the Americas. It’s  “quickly changing the dynamics of energy geopolitics in a way that had been unforeseen just a few years ago.”
  • USA Today noted that Venezuela had become No. 1 in the world for proven oil reserves.  “Exploration of Venezuela’s 21,000-square-mile Orinoco belt shows that its oil deposits exceed the proven reserves of even Saudi Arabia.”
  • Foreign Policy published an analysis about the “new” petroleum abundance and impacts on climate change. The new golden age may indeed shake up the currently rich and powerful and create new regional forces, Steve Levine said.

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Earth Hour and Earth Day

Earth Hour pauses at the US borderThe Daily Climate, March 30, 2012 — Consider an hour without power, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, local time. Organizers say as many as 1.8 billion will join in the symbolic environmental event worldwide. But if you live in the US, your neighbors may think you just blew a fuse.