Last night CBS News show 60 Minutes ran a piece on shale gas development (video link, text link). The consensus among folks who have been following the issue is that while the story didn’t break new ground, it presumably raised the profile of the issue a bit.
The Times-Leader (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania) story presents a good overview of what the 60 Minutes piece did well and what they may have missed. Here is just part of the newspaper report:
Chris Tucker, of EnergyInDepth.org, an organization that promotes the benefits of natural gas drilling, said the segment was “fairly balanced,” although the show didn’t get everything right.
“I think they did a great job of telling the story of real people, everyday people, all across the country whose lives have changed for the better thanks to the development of this clean, American resource,” Tucker said.
“They didn’t quite get it right when they attempted to venture into the regulatory history of hydraulic fracturing. The reality is that fracturing technology is among the most thoroughly regulated procedures that takes place at the wellsite, which is a big reason why it’s been able to compile such a solid record of safety and performance over the past 60 years of commercial use.”
Travis Windle, representing the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said “having ‘60 Minutes’ underscore the enormously positive benefits of this revolution … speaks to how transformational this development is for our nation.”
It’s also important for viewers to understand, Windle said, that Pennsylvania has a long and well-documented history of naturally occurring methane entering private water wells.
“It will take private water well standards and fact-based reporting on pre-existing methane in water wells from shallow sources of contamination to demonstrate how safe shale gas development is,” he said.
Tom Jiunta, founder and president of the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition, provided a viewpoint from the opposite end of the spectrum.
While [Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey] McClendon noted that natural gas is a clean burning fuel, scientists, Jiunta said, have estimated that the diesel fumes from the thousands of trucks that transport the water and machinery, the diesel engines from the compressor stations used to pump the gas through the pipelines and the engines used for drilling and hydraulic fracturing, along with the natural leakage involved in methane escaping from the pipelines make the process one of the dirtiest.
- From Tiny Green Bubbles.
- From BlueDaze.
- From Dallas Drilling.
- From HummingbirdMinds.
- From Gas Drilling Awareness for Courtland County.
- From Flower Mound Citizens Against Urban Drilling.
- From Bob McCarthy Writes.
Most of the reactions are opposed to fracking and would have stressed the hazards more than 60 Minutes did, the exception in this list is Bob McCarthy Writes.
I found the program fairly balanced, too. Sort of like the documentary Haynesville, except shifting the emphasis from the landowners to the talking heads, and with Leslie Stahl and a bit of Gasland theater edited in.