I’m sorry, Joe, but your business roots are showing. Your background of course allows you to have opinions, but evaluating hydraulic fracturing, as you’ve done from your pulpit at the NYTimes, is a step into a world of multidisciplinary science and engineering that requires a certain amount of humility (which I’m sure you do have heaps of) and a certain number of caveats which are absent from your opinion pieces (here and here) on the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act (aka Boone Pickens bill).
Now, journalism is an honorable profession, sure enough. But we don’t go to reporters when we need a physician (except incidentally, perhaps, when we are seeking information on a particular disease or treatment). We want the best trained physicians we can find, and, likewise, we want the best trained scientists and engineers to weigh in on hydraulic fracturing (as EPA currently is doing to a limited extent, inasmuch as they are confined to only looking at drinking water effects) and accompanying issues.
Many of your claims don’t hold water. One is that that regulatory oversight can be sufficient under present circumstances (i.e., it is now confined to local, state authorities). The history of regulation is that local oversight is subject to influences of many insidious forms. By defining hydraulic fracturing out of federal/EPA regulation, the oil and gas lobby has basically eliminated any chances of proper oversight (and they know it… why else would Cheney’s kin have seen to it?).
I’ll save discussion of other matters for later posts, but it’s important to understand that the basic premise of the Pickens Bill is not correct: going to natural gas is not the best route to fossil fuel independence for the US. Proper transportation efforts (including major changes in public transportation), which must be tied to appropriate land-use planning, can do the trick, virtually eliminating needs for foreign oil. Why risk learning that hydraulic fracturing by a bunch of cowboys just is not a safe, inexpensive way to go, before we’ve done all that we can to conserve?