, Yale University, New Haven, CT
People are catching on to the debate over fracking in New York State. They are catching on so much so that over 200 of them were crammed into Burke Auditorium in Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies; in Connecticut, a state significantly removed from projected drilling and wastewater disposal sites. People crowded the aisles, sat on windowsills, and leaned against walls. A live stream was made available for hundreds of others, and is still available online.
The debate was broadly titled “Hydraulic Fracturing: Bridge to a Clean Energy Future?”, but upstate New York was clearly the main region of discussion. On one side was Bill McKibben of 350.org, who pushed the environment/climate argument against fracking, while recognizing that other arguments abound. His opponent, former Shell Energy president John Hofmeister, conceded that fracking is dirty but necessary and the highly complex practice (which he compared to heart surgery) is being improved continually. In the middle of the spectrum were Sheila Olmstead, a fellow at Resources for the Future, and James Saiers, a professor of hydrology and chemical engineering at the Yale Engineering School. Their arguments at times leaned towards McKibben’s, by acknowledging the health and social impacts of fracking, but never far enough to admit that fracking is inherently unsafe and therefore unviable. Saiers predicted that the moratorium will be lifted in New York and fracking will hit the state.
A couple lively exchanges of rhetoric between McKibben and Hofmeister roused the audience. In response to the title question, the former Shell exec said that hydrofracking is not a bridge, but “a highway to the future”. McKibben eloquently capitalized on that statement retorting: “hydrofracking is a rickety pier out into the lake of hydrocarbons”.
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