Friday, May 4, 2012

Modeling study questions fracking and groundwater

There is a new study, discussed here in Common Dreams (also run in Propublica) and a good piece in Businessweek, that questions the long-held industry assumption that frack fluids pose no threat to groundwater.

This is important for calling our attention to the fact that it has been assumptions all along, about the geology involved, that have justified the pumping of millions of gallons of chemicals underground. We have been told that the rock is too impermeable for those chemicals to migrate upward into groundwater aquifers. This study helps us to question that as an assumption rather than as the "settled science" Energy InDepth claims it to be or as simply "expertise," or a view from nowhere mirror of reality.

But, note, the study uses only models and not actual observations. Thus, as one scientist points out in the Common Dreams piece, it is only going to be as good as its own assumptions that are built into it. Models famously follow the law: garbage in, garbage out. So, we must not let our critical thinking stop and accept this study as somehow the "expertise" view from nowhere Truth about Reality. Just becuase some study concludes with a message we want to hear, we must not accept it solely on that basis. That is confirmation bias, dogma, ideology, and laziness. It leads to the condition where we argue our politics and values through competing scientific studies and pretend that all along the other side must be a bunch of corrupt liars - can't they see the plain facts!!??

Also, note this study was funded by two organizations that oppose fracking. That is fine - but it should make us even more skeptical in questioning its assumptions and conclusions. Don't let some scientific study be your excuse to stop thinking!

I am going to look into it more and see what I make of it...

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