Some thoughts on fracking on Earth Day

As part of my job as an air-pollution meteorologist, I was recently on-site at Marcellus shale gas wells in various stages of development and operation in southwestern Pennsylvania. The state-of-the-science technology and professionalism of the managers and operators were truly impressive.

While scoping out actual gas drilling in progress, it struck me why so many environmental activists are against such extraction activity.

First, activists apparently have no appreciation for, and little understanding of, the cutting-edge engineering involved with fracking--the technique employed to extract natural gas from areas roughly a mile below the surface.  I and other environmental professionals with me were thrilled by what we observed of the drilling.  Our backgrounds in science and technology, along with our many years of work in the real-world, provided us with a unique perspective, much like what someone trained in the arts might experience at a rousing musical.  (The analogy might appear to be a bit of a stretch, but I for one would rather watch a well-drilling operation than sit through a well-performed opera.)

Second, many are frightened by the unfamiliar--especially the unfamiliar that is also complex.  It's been said, "Familiarity lessens fear."  But, rather than become familiar with a modern, essential energy practice, many environmentalists would prefer to use their ignorant fear as motivation for their own actions and to enlist others to join their ill-informed timidity.

Third, after decades working closely with both energy professionals and environmental activists, I have observed that for the most part the former conduct themselves like anchored adults, while the latter act like jilted juveniles.  From my personal observations, Marcellus well developers and operators are serious about running a safe, profitable business with as little disruption to property owners and the environment as possible, while their progressivist opposition will do whatever it takes to disrupt progress.

Regardless of anthems or antics, my job is to help quantify emissions and protect air quality from new Marcellus well activity.  I can do both with a solid knowledge and appreciation of sophisticated technological operations such as fracking, and a reasonable concern for appropriate, careful use of the nation's ample supply of natural resources.

Anthony J. Sadar, a Certified Consulting Meteorologist, is author of In Global Warming We Trust: A Heretic's Guide to Climate Science (Telescope Books, 2012) (


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