MONEY MATTERS • Column
By TOM MORGAN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
Who you gonna believe?
When people argue over contentious issues today they often follow a predictable pattern. He cites a scientific study that says blah blah about climate change. She cites a scientific study that claims the opposite.
Oh yeah? He says her study was published in a junk journal. Oh yeah? She lists the scientist’s credentials. And claims his scientist has the wrong degrees.
Oh yeah? He says her scientist is sponsored by oil companies. Oh yeah? She says his scientist is paid by government grants that pretty much require compliance.
They Google in their sleep to bolster their arguments. They greet their partners good-mornings with snarls. “By god I’m right. Her so-called scientific expert worked at a Mobil gas station in high school.”
All of this opens a can of worms. The chief worm is the question: Can you believe what you read or see or hear on a contentious issue?
Here is an example of what I mean.
Governor Cuomo banned fracking in this state. After six years, his environmental department backed him up with several reasons.
Fracking could and did pollute. With particulate matter. And with methane and organic chemicals.
Fracking could and did contaminate drinking water. With methane and fracking fluids. Because of improper wells.
Fracking contaminated soils and water by way of surface spills. It also caused earthquakes.
A fancy institute weighed in by pooh-poohing the so-called economic boom fracking brings. The promised jobs don’t come in the number that frackers promise. Studies that describe the boom are flawed.
Meanwhile….comes another study published in a big science journal. Its results are the opposite of what New York’s environmental officials declared.
The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and U.S. Geological Survey. Researchers from Penn State studied 21,000 water samples from areas near gas and oil wells in their state.
They found virtually zero methane contamination of the water. (Methane occurs naturally in lots of the state’s groundwater.)
The same researchers earlier studied 11,000 samples of water. From near 1400 gas wells in just one county. They found no problems. Actually, they found the opposite. There were trends of improving water quality in the county. Despite all the fracking.
“Since 2010 two dozen independent studies have not found any systemic impact caused by the 110,000 oil and natural gas wells in the U.S.” This from the Heartland Institute.
Our EPA spent $29 million and 6 years to find fracking has little or no effect on groundwater.
How about the boom that wasn’t? One consumer group estimates the lower gas prices saved Pennsylvania folks and businesses $31 billion over ten years.
Economists from three big universities say the average household in Pennsylvania gets up to $1900 per year in benefits from fracking. They cite healthy rises in average income and wages. They credit fracking with a 10 percent increase in jobs in the state.
A big Chamber of Commerce study estimates fracking added $13 billion to the state’s GDP. And $7 billion in new wages.
Heartland cites other studies that debunk the “myths” that fracking pollutes water or air. It assures us that major fracking states of Pennsylvania and Texas have lower rates of asthma, birth defects and cancer than many states that have no fracking.
And the institute cites studies that claim earthquakes in fracking areas are of little significance.
I imagine some readers are Googling away already. They want to prove or disprove one side of this issue or the other.
It is a pity that it is impossible to find the truth in this and other vital matters. After all, a lot of up-staters would love to see an economic boom. Even if it was half what Pennsylvania’s is. The only booms upstate has experienced lately come during hunting season.
My grandfather reckoned the truth was usually half-way between the opposing arguments. Maybe that is where it is.
In the future maybe we will use artificial intelligence computers to resolve such issues. One side will input its data. The computer will spit it back as bull-tweedy. It will proclaim the other side’s argument worthy of five stars.
Yeah, but you can’t trust that robot. It was made by XYZ Company. Its pension fund owns energy stocks!
From Tom…as in Morgan.
Tom Morgan, retired Oneonta investment counselor and nationally syndicated writer of this column, lives in Franklin.