Poll: Majority of people are concerned about "fracking"

The Civil Society Institute has released its poll data and report titled, "'Fracking' and Clean Water: A Survey of Americans" (pdf here). The findings:
  • 57% of Americans had at "least some awareness of fracking as an issue," including 19% “very aware," and 25% as “somewhat aware." Only 13% reported being unaware.
  • 69% are “very concerned” (40%) or “somewhat concerned” (29%) regarding water
    quality issues. Only 15% answered that they are “not very concerned” while 16% reported being “not concerned at all” (16%).
  • Between the political parties, Democrats reported the highest concern at 86%. Independents reported concern at 74% while Republicans, though least concerned, still answered with a majority at 57%. Interestingly, this is a bipartisan concern.
  • "Nearly three out of four Americans (73%) very/somewhat aware of fracking wouldbe 'very concerned' (58%) or 'somewhat concerned' (15%) to 'have such an energy project close enough to your home that there was even a small chance that it could have an impact on your drinking water.' A majority of Republicans (56%), Independents (86%) and Democrats (91%) would be concerned to 'have such a project near their home.'"
  • 69% of Americans say that they would involve themselves in a "community project to raise concerns about a fracking project" "if one was“proposed close enough to your home that there might be an impact on the quality of [their] drinking water.”
At the end of the report, they report a very interesting tie between energy and environmental concerns:
  • Americans have a hard time choosing between climate change (6%) and protecting our drinking water (18%) as the most urgent concern today. Most (66%) believe both are of equal concern.
Regarding drinking water, the Civil Society provides some commentary on their webiste:
Pam Solo, founder and president, Civil Society Institute, said: "Clean energy production is strongly favored by Americans over energy sources that create a danger to human health and safe drinking water in particular. Fracking is a perfect illustration of the fact that Americans don't think of an energy source as 'cheap' or 'clean' if there is a hidden price in terms of safe drinking water and human health. The message from our new survey is clear: Americans of all political persuasions prefer to see clean energy development that protects water supplies over traditional fossil fuel production that endangers safe drinking water and human health."

Commenting on the survey, Anthony Ingraffea, PhD, P.E., Dwight C. Baum professor of engineering, Cornell University, said: "The results of this survey indicates that the public has been educated and sensitized to the issues arising from tradeoffs among energy production, the environment, and health. Americans now understand that, especially with the allure of gas production from unconventional gas plays, even 'getting it right' from a technical and regulatory point of view might still be wrong in terms of clean drinking water. The public is increasingly ready to commit to change in its energy use patterns, invest in its children's energy futures, and is no longer willing to accept the notion that a corporate business plan is the same as a national strategic energy plan."
Does this mean anything for you and your community's decisions regarding energy use, climate change, water quality and natural environmental quality?

What is the balance between a national strategic energy plan, a corporate business plan, and a community's and ecosystem's well-being?


Penn State's Strategic Plan & Sustainability

This just in from Penn State's Office of Sustainability:
What would a sustainable Penn State look like to you? This is the key question to an ambitious sustainability strategic planning effort that was kicked off this fall with all the University’s top leadership—and the guidance of some of the world’s leading sustainable businesses. Town hall meetings and various other forums are being planned now to gather input. For more information, and to contribute, visit: http://www.green.psu.edu/SustPlan/default.asp
What do you think Penn State needs to do?


"It's not all that it's cracked up to be..."

But maybe it's all that it's fracked up to be.

Is the profit from gas worth the price of destroying tradition?

Are we in a third world country inside of a first world country? Why are farmers left to this? Are we left to "hoping" for clean water?

Thanks to Susquehanna River Sentinel for the post.

Is this the future of sustainability? The local and regional?

How will we adapt to peak oil? To climate change? To the fact that we are overworked and dependent? If you look at global happiness, "We the people" may have life and we may have liberty in purchasing, but our pursuit of happiness has been compromised by too much work and too much consumption. That consumption has been tied to toxification of our shared environment with plants, animals, and the microbes that support us all and none of that can last in a finite world. What is the future of human happiness?

On today's show we talked about biofuels and the future of regionalism: watersheds, foodsheds, and energy sheds. Is that our future?

Is the collapse of oil the end of nations as we understand them and the emergence of some new political, economic, and biological organization? Tell us what you think.

New shows up: Biofuels, Penn State's Strategic Plan, and Students for Sustainability

How do people tackle sustainability in the Centre Region? We have had some really great guests on the last few shows. We've had students fighting sweatshops, dirty fossil fuels, and climate change. Well what's Penn State's response as one of the biggest institutions in our state? And how is business in our area working toward cleaner and more sustainable energy? Listen in to see how students, institutions, and businesses are tackling the pressing issues of our day.

What do you think we need to do? What presses you?


Industrialized forests

There is a lot of concern about the speed of the shale play development in Pennsylvania. In fact, last night I was talking to a man from Renovo who said that the municipality has to spend roughly $10,000 to monitor their drinking water source now and in the future to check against possible contamination by nearby gas wells that are being put it. For a small rural community, every dollar counts. He wondered why the gas company doesn't pay for it if they are creating the jeopardy by creating an industrial wasteland nearby.

Industrial wasteland? That's what some people are seeing. They are watching tracts in the state forests like Sproul and Tioga State Forests turn into industrial parks that strip the trees from the land, disrupt human and non-human animal habitat, and interfere with animal corridors. PennEnvironment has posted short video piece about this featuring retired forester Butch Davey.

Is it really the responsibility of regulators to control this? Is it yours? The gas companies responsibility?


Going after the ostriches

A November 10th Daily Collegian featured a story titled, "Student project aims to prove global warming is occurring." The story describes an advanced undergraduate engineering class in which the students were challenged by their professor, Rick Schuhmann, to disprove climate change. If they could do it, they would win dinner at a local Thai restaurant. You think they could do it? The article reports

“The class found more than enough evidence to prove global climate change is occurring and humans are causing it,” Beatty said, referencing her project.

Rick Schuhmann, director of engineering leadership development, gave the students several sources for researching, including United States Senator Jim Inhofe, who said in a speech that global warming is a “hoax” and was proven to be a hoax by the nation’s top scientists.

Inhofe is one of the most politically powerful ostriches in the country, if not the world and he has become infamous for his hard-ball tactics with climate scientists and environmentalists. He has called for Al Gore to testify before congress for his "science fiction movie," An Inconvenient Truth. He has also advocated a criminal investigation into so-called "Climategate."

His ostrich and hoax work is not surprising. He is the biggest recipient of oil and gas industry money and lobbying. According to Common Cause, Inhofe received $630,000 in contributions from oil and gas groups in the first half of 2009 alone.

So this class poses a real challenge to students. It confronts them with effectively sorting through data, through rhetoric, and through a lot of information and making an informed judgment. And the students found that there was no scientifically credible argument against climate change. The story quotes one student, David Leaf, as saying “Global warming is happening. There is just confusion from unreliable sources and politics."

Leaf's group set up a Facebook page you can join called GLOBAL WARMING: Know your facts. Check it out.

The ostriches came out swinging. Samuel Settle of Penn State's chapter of Young Americans for Freedom sent a letter to the editor (the link is currently down) of the Collegian, arguing that people should be skeptical of human-induced climate change. In it he urged readers to view the scientific peer-review process as something of a flawed cabal of the same people continually rubbing one another's shoulders, essentially just telling each other what they want to hear.

This is an interesting thing for a political science major to make. The legitimacy of his field of study rests, in no small part, on the effectiveness of the peer-reviewed literature that it generates and the effectiveness of its predictions, explanations, and descriptions. In fact, the same statistical methods that inform climate science are used in Settle's favorite areas of study - political science and economics - but with less precision and certainty. There is nothing that we know of (and correct us if we are wrong) in Political Science so settled as the scientific certainty of climate change.

In November 11th's Collegian, a Gilman Ouellette, a senior in climatology and physical geography, responded to Settle's argument. Ouellette writes,
[Settle] goes on to misconstrue the peer review process, suggesting that the same conspiring climatologists review every climate change-related article and reject alternative views. In reality, the scientists who contribute to climate research come from a multitude of scientific disciplines, and many peer-reviewed articles on climate change are not published in specific climatology journals. Perhaps it isn’t obvious, but “colluding for political purposes” is an impossible feat when dozens of distinct scientific disciplines are purportedly involved. The letter further displays a lack of factual basis when it is suggested that “Climategate” stands as evidence of corruption among climate scientists. In reality, three separate investigations have found the scientists involved in “Climategate” to be innocent of scientific misconduct.
We've been pretty fortunate to have some pretty excellent people on this show regarding climate change. In February we had Ed Perry, the National Wildlife Federation Global Warming Outreach Coordinator, on the show. He detailed the ways that the climate denialists have manufactured a political controversy that looks like a scientific controversy. As Naomi Oreskes showed in a 2004 article grounds for “skepticism” have been soundly refuted; of 928 papers on climate science published between 1993 and 2003, there was no significant dissent from “the consensus view…[that] climate change is caused by human activity” leading to the conclusion that the evidence for human-induced climate change is “clear and unambiguous." In the six years since that paper was published, that consensus strengthened. An interesting discussion of Oreskes' work can be seen at Skeptical Science: Getting skeptical of global warming skepticism.

Richard Alley explained to us that climate change is basic physics. To paraphrase: People put more CO2 in the atmosphere. CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Adding a greenhouse gas traps more heat in the atmosphere. More heat in the atmosphere changes the climate. This climate change results in problems for the entire biosphere. The consensus around human-induced climate change is overwhelming.

And Michael Mann, the center of the Penn State manfuactroversy - he was cleared of all charges - explained this very clearly in an October op-ed piece in the Washington Post. Regarding the utterly baseless witch hunts that Settle and others associated with "climategate" have startedm Mann wrote the following:
Nonetheless, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is investigating my previous employer, the University of Virginia, based on the stolen e-mails. A judge rejected his initial subpoena, finding that Cuccinelli had failed to provide objective evidence of wrongdoing. Undeterred, Cuccinelli appealed the decision to the Virginia Supreme Court and this week issued a new civil subpoena.
So let's see Settle and his friends deal with this issue. It is settled (but not Settle'd) science and sadly the ostriches are doing us a great disservice. Mann's advice?
My fellow scientists and I must be ready to stand up to blatant abuse from politicians who seek to mislead and distract the public. They are hurting American science. And their failure to accept the reality of climate change will hurt our children and grandchildren, too.
How about you too? Do you have more wisdom than the ostriches?


What's worse? Public nudity or dirty fossil fuel?

In the U.S. we have lots of prohibitions about dirtiness and a lot of that is related to sex and body image. I remember listening to an interview with the philosopher Peter Singer about ethics and the interviewer asked him about morality and he talked about the ethics of eating animals and harming the environment. Sex or sexual "dirtiness" were not much of a concern.

Well what is dirty? Coal. Natural gas. Oil. At least, that's what EcoAction said in a protest yesterday at Penn State's University Park campus. The Daily Collegian reports:

Eco-Action members said they are concerned the university is not seriously considering using renewable energy.

“The West Campus Steam Plant consists of 95 percent of all campus heat and hot water. We want the university to do more extensive research on all of the different types of renewable energy like wind, thermal or geothermal energy,” Eco-Action Vice President Stefan Nagy (junior-economics) said.

One month ago, the club marched to Penn State President Graham Spanier’s office to voice its concerns. A coalition was formed between the students, faculty and administration to create goals for reducing carbon emissions, Nagy said.

“The march was a big success, but we don’t want our progress to be forgotten in the public’s eye so we came up with the idea for this protest,” he said. “A lot of issues still need to be resolved and we don’t want our voices to fade out.”

That's one way to keep attention up.

Stephanie Hallowich discusses water issues due to hydraulic fracturing

Penn Environment has just posted this video and it is really rather compelling. This is one of the more unconscionable things we've seen so far.

Benzene doesn't just show up in water. It is a carcinogen put in the hydraulic fracturing mixture. According to the EPA, it has been found in concentrations over 60 times the legal safe limit for drinking water. These children are showering in it. Learn more about this issue at PennEnvironment.

What would you do?

Penn State seeing what sustainability curricula it has

Some good news is in on this good day of days, Education for Sustainable Development Day. This just in from the Penn State Newswire:

To date, colleges and universities have had no standardized, comprehensive way to compare their sustainability efforts across institutions. The growing demand for such a system has led to the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS), developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). STARS is a voluntary, self-reporting framework for recognizing and gauging relative progress toward sustainability among institutions of higher education.

The PSU Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) Sustainability Course Survey seeks to identify academic offerings in sustainability across Penn State’s colleges and campuses. In support of Penn State’s current efforts to develop a strategic plan for sustainability, the participation of Penn State faculty members, instructors and graduate assistant instructors is sought.

The participation of full-time, part-time, adjunct, and graduate-student course instructors is encouraged. It is important that all those who teach resident instruction courses at Penn State have an opportunity to respond to this assessment survey and share their efforts in education for sustainability.

I know about this because I am working with the Center for Sustainability on these efforts. Next week, we'll be talking to Dave Riley from the Center for Sustainability and Erik Foley-DeFiore to talk about these and other developments. Stay tuned.


Food Safety Modernization Act passes

Yesterday, November 30, the Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510) passed the Senate, 73-25. This was a pretty big victory for local, sustainable, organic growers sellers. Bryan Snyder of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture writes :
But consider this . . . just a couple years ago, no one anywhere would have guessed that we, along with our partners across the country, could have the impact we did. Even a couple weeks ago the Tester-Hagan provisions looked very much in doubt. What we have going for us now, however, is a very credible and genuine movement of people who believe strongly in building and preserving more locally-based and sustainable food systems for all to enjoy.
The bill now waits a vote in the House. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition reports:

The bill still faces the hurdle of final House action. Top House Democrats have agreed to consider passing the Senate version to avoid lengthy reconciliation negotiations that would prevent the bill from becoming law and force the next Congress to start the entire process from scratch.

NSAC issued a press release following the Senate vote urging speedy House action to approve the Senate bill and send it on to the President for his signature.

Do you support small sustainable farmers?