The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 9, 2012

Plenty is known about the hydraulic fracturing process, but there are many questions

Enid News and Eagle

— Hydraulic fracturing, commonly called “fracking,” conjures up all sorts of images in people’s minds, and not all of them are good.

Fracking is a controversial process employed by oil and natural gas companies that uses water, sand and other additives to free natural gas underground. Critics worry about contamination of underground water supplies and earthquakes they say are caused by the process.

A lot is known about the process, but a lot also remains unknown. That’s why there is such controversy.

Earlier this week in Tulsa, two geoscientists sat down for a moderated discussion about fracking. David Hughes is president of Global Sustainability Research and has studied energy resources for nearly 40 years. Terry Engelder is a professor of geosciences at Penn State University and has served on the staffs of the U.S. Geological Survey, Texaco and Columbia University.

They agreed on a lot of the points, specifically that more industry oversight is needed, companies need to engage in an honest dialogue with the public about fracking and need to explain how natural gas is extracted from deep underground.

Both Hughes and Engelder were pleased to see energy companies have started to address the issue, even using the word “risk” in referring to drilling.

Hughes also said there is no question about the risk to the environment but fracking makes economic sense and is “the right thing to do.”

We agree with much of what the two men said. Companies need to be more open to the public. But, we’re not going to put the onus solely on energy companies.

Good, honest, unbiased science needs to be applied to the process. We don’t know everything there is to know now, so we need continued research.

What we don’t need is for the talk and research about fracking to turn political. If that happens, all reasonable discussion will end.