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Earth

Finding Fault With Anti-Fracking Science Claims 505

A widely carried Associated Press article (here, as run by the Wall Street Journal) reports that some of the convincingly scientific-sounding claims of opponents of fracking don't seem to hold up to scrutiny. That's not to say that all is peaches: the article notes, for instance, that much of the naturally radioactive deep water called flowback forced up along with fracking-extracted gas "was once being discharged into municipal sewage treatment plants and then rivers in Pennsylvania," leading to concern about pollution of public water supplies. Public scrutiny and regulation mean that's no longer true. But specific claims about cancer rates, and broader ones about air pollution or other ills, are not as objective as they might appear to be, according to Duke professor Avner Vengosh and others. An excerpt: "One expert said there's an actual psychological process at work that sometimes blinds people to science, on the fracking debate and many others. 'You can literally put facts in front of people, and they will just ignore them,' said Mark Lubell, the director of the Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior at the University of California, Davis. Lubell said the situation, which happens on both sides of a debate, is called 'motivated reasoning.' Rational people insist on believing things that aren't true, in part because of feedback from other people who share their views, he said."

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