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Friday, August 2, 2013

UCS fracking forum video now available

Last week, I participated in the Union of Concerned Scientists’ forum on Science, Democracy, and Community Decisions on Fracking in Los Angeles. The full webcast of the event is available on-line: Part 1 and Part 2. The videos are worth watching.


I was a participant in the Regulatory/Policy working group.  We had a rich, day-and-a-half-long discussion of the complicated issues that surround fracking, yet – and I’m sure this is true of the other working groups – were only able to scratch the surface in the time available.

The dizzying array of issues and recommendations from the working groups will be more fully discussed in the forthcoming summit findings.  I've been asked by UCS to serve as a reviewer of that and other forum documents.

I want to highlight a talk by one forum speaker.  Jose Bravo, Executive Director of the Just Transition Alliance, spoke simply and movingly on environmental justice - on the impacts of industrial activity on vulnerable people, communities, and the planet; and of the responsibility that scientists, companies, policymakers, regulators, and citizens share to protect them.  His talk begins about the 1:31:00 mark of Part 1.

Mr. Bravo’s central message on unconventional oil and gas developoment (and I think it's fair to say on other methods of resource extraction, energy production, manufacturing, and waste disposal as well) was this:

“If it harms our health or if it harms our environment, it is not sustainable.”

No form of energy production is without consequences.  Can the harms of unconventional oil and gas exploration be avoided, minimized, and mitigated?  Can natural gas serve as a truly effective tool to combat climate disruption?  Can it provide a net improvement in, and not compromise, public health?  In seeking more rational, definitive, science-based answers to these and other questions - and the means to put those answers into practice - Mr. Bravo’s admonition should guide us all.

The UCS event lent an important voice to what urgently needs to be a robust national dialogue – about science, data, community engagement, regulation, policy, practice, and our energy sources.  Our energy future, and the future of our planet, depend on it.

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