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Jun 19 2013

Go frack this poll

The Ventura County Star has a poll up on hydraulic fracturing in California:

How concerned are you about fracking (hydraulic fracturing) in California?

  • I have little or no concern about it.
  • I’m concerned about its effects on water and the environment.
  • I’m concerned about a possible link to earthquakes.
  • I’m concerned that overregulation of it will kill jobs.

Fracking’s increasingly big news in California. My KCET colleague Char Miller has a good California fracking backgrounder here, but the short version is that the fossil fuel industry is eyeing the Monterey Shale, a Miocene marine sedimentary formation thought to hold as much as 15 billion barrels of oil. That’s twice what the Bakken holds in North Dakota. The stakes are high for the oil industry.

I’ve been informed by one of my geopals that the Western States Petroleum Association has quietly put the word out to its fanbase, asking them to swamp the poll. Right now votes of fracking opponents are about equal to those who either support fracking or don’t care, though the way the answers are phrased makes it look like opponents are well ahead.

I suspect there’s a diversity of opinion on fracking here. That’s fine. (Though those of you who disagree with me are wrong.) To its credit, the Star admits it’s a pointless exercise:

Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

But the oil lobby does seize on spurious polls like this for PR spin purposes, so whatever your viewpoint, go add some noise to the signal.

45 comments

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  1. 1
    bad Jim

    Only 700 votes so far (50% concerned about environment) so we might be able to swing this thing.

  2. 2
    David Marjanović

    I’m concerned about its effects on water and the environment.
    52% 376
    I’m concerned that overregulation of it will kill jobs.
    25% 182
    I have little or no concern about it.
    17% 129
    I’m concerned about a possible link to earthquakes.
    4% 33
    total votes: 720

    182 knee-jerk libertarians on the Internet?

  3. 3
    Randomfactor

    182 knee-jerk libertarians on the Internet?

    Here in the heart of Oil Country, California? Damn betcha.

  4. 4
    kantalope

    They built it to split the anti-fracking votes
    but the pro-fracking choice is kinda lame – why not do with the ever popular Frack-baby, Frack! or sure do fracking, if stripmining isn’t available.

    I guess they should have asked the Western States Petroleum Association to write the poll for them…oh, yea – they probably did.

  5. 5
    Inaji

    Added mine. Can’t stop the signal.

  6. 6
    anteprepro

    I gotta love (i.e. hate) how common the meme is: Fuck the environment, what about MONEY!?

  7. 7
    YOB - Ye Olde Blacksmith is a Spocktopus cuddler

    Response Percent Votes
    I’m concerned about its effects on water and the environment. 61% 542
    I’m concerned that overregulation of it will kill jobs. 20% 183
    I have little or no concern about it. 14% 130
    I’m concerned about a possible link to earthquakes. 3% 33
    total votes: 888

  8. 8
    YOB - Ye Olde Blacksmith is a Spocktopus cuddler

    Also, is this really a thing?

    I’m concerned about a possible link to earthquakes.

    Forget mowing the yard, I’m off to the google place.

  9. 9
  10. 10
    unluckyalf

    Horizon BBC 2 9:00 PM Today ( UK ) All about fracking – Should be good.

  11. 11
    UnknownEric the Apostate

    I gotta love (i.e. hate) how common the meme is: Fuck the environment, what about MONEY!?

    Fuck hedges, get money. – Notorious O.I.L.

  12. 12
    Alverant

    Isn’t triggering quakes part of the damage done to the environment?

  13. 13
    Lamont Granquist

    “I’m concerned about global warming, and think we need to be leaving more of the carbon in the ground.”

    that option is notably missing.

  14. 14
    CSB

    @13: Coal’s a much more significant contributor on a per-kilowatt level than natural gas, so moving from it to natural gas would still be a net improvement in that area. That said, I do think there are valid concerns about its impact on the water supply, but I also think that these concerns have little to do with fracking in and of itself and all but everything to do with the piss-poor state of regulations regarding the practice.

  15. 15
    CSB

    I meant per-kilowatt hour in the above comment, by the way. Just to clarify.

  16. 16
    anteprepro

    Fuck hedges, get money. – Notorious O.I.L.

    I thought that was Notorous C.E.O.?

  17. 17
    UnknownEric the Apostate

    I thought that was Notorous C.E.O.?

    Ooh, much better.

  18. 18
    timberwoof

    The immediate poisonous effects are demonstrably far worse than any link with earthquakes. The earthquake answer is there just to dilute the vote and provide an opportunity for oil company PR flacks to dismiss those concerns … and whitewash the pollution concerns because fewer people are worried about them.

    The stresses at the tectonic plate boundaries around here are way too high for fracking to have any measurable effects, and elsewhere they are too low to cause any serious earthquakes.

  19. 19
    YOB - Ye Olde Blacksmith is a Spocktopus cuddler

    Response Percent Votes
    I’m concerned about its effects on water and the environment. 78% 1453
    I’m concerned that overregulation of it will kill jobs. 10% 193
    I have little or no concern about it. 8% 150
    I’m concerned about a possible link to earthquakes. 2% 55
    total votes: 1851

  20. 20
    mikeyb

    A better question would be:

    Do you fracking understand what fracking is all about and the fracking effect it has on the environment, or do you only care about the fracking price you pay for fracking gas, no matter what it does to the fracking environment?

  21. 21
    rturpin

    I’m in the rather slim minority who thinks both a) that fracking is fine, and b) we need more regulation of it, as well as other aspects of exploration, production, shipping, and refining. Here’s what I wrote yesterday on this issue:

    http://rturpin.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/zero-tolerance-for-oil-spills/

  22. 22
    Jacob Schmidt

    Though those of you who disagree with me are wrong.

    It’s like you’re trying to give quote-miners the perfect pull quote.

  23. 23
    CSB

    @21: That’s pretty much my stance as well, although I’m not sure if my earlier post was clear on that.

  24. 24
    erichoug

    The alternative to Hydraulic Fracturing is to burn more coal.

    I have seen the solar and wind industry dip in the last few years as the subsidies have dried up in the face of poor performance.

    The Coal company execs who have blamed layoff and mine closures on the re-election of Mr. Obama are the biggest liars in the country right now. The real reason coal is down is because of fracking. Natural gas is cheap and plentiful and substantially cleaner burning than coal.So they are building more natural gas power plants than coal. And closing some of the older coal plants.

    Realistically, Nuclear is the only viable alternative if you want to eliminate coal, fracking and tar sands oil. But, nuclear isn’t very popular either.

    You could definitely make a dent in this by changing the way people lived and worked. I.E. live in a smaller house or a high rise and have both fewer and smaller cars or convert to public transit. But that too has never been popular.

    To be honest, from a technical standpoint, I really don’t see how you could keep everything the way it is as far as lifestyle, population growth etc and not include all of this stuff. You pretty much need to take an all of the above approach to it.

  25. 25
    zenlike

    The alternative to Hydraulic Fracturing is to burn more coal.

    Talking about false dichotomy…

    Ever heard about just. using. less. energy?

  26. 26
    mikeyb

    Yeah lets frack it away – pump millions of gallons of water with hundreds of toxic chemicals including carcinogens per frack -when the contaminated groundwater supply is discovered the fracking company will be long gone – with no liability -to drop costs a few percentage points – it’s fine if it happens to somebody else – in some other community – that’s the American way.

  27. 27
    erichoug

    @zenlike

    Maybe you should read more than just the first line of my post before you reply.

    eventually you will have to use less energy eventually. Many major cities are already starting to see problems with their grids in the summer months when the AC is cranking.

    What I would say is to move to smaller homes, more high-rise, more public transport or walking. Ever been to Paris or London? Something like that would help a LOT.

  28. 28
    erichoug

    @Mikeyb

    Just out of curiosity, have you ever been to a gold, silver or copper mine?

  29. 29
    WithinThisMind

    The Minnesota Science Museum gave a fascinating presentation on the history and effects of fracking. I was a little ashamed about the fact that I was the only person paying attention.

  30. 30
    mikeyb

    @erichoung

    Let me guess: gold, silver, you name it = lots of water + chemicals
    Fracking = same
    ergo – Fracking is groovy

    But seriously my bigger point is that this is done to make a buck, which isn’t necessarily wrong in itself, but is often done with insufficient public input, and insufficient accountability when something goes wrong as well as vastly insufficient (bordering on nonexistent) informed long term analysis of what real alternatives are for balancing environmental and economics in energy needs for supply, transport and use and how we should have plans for future energy use rather than just saying everything should be up to the market, which itself is a joke because the market is owned and operated by oil and gas companies cuz they have the money and make the bucks.

  31. 31
    Jadehawk

    aahh fracking. also known as “we don’t give a shit about your drought conditions, we need your water more than you st00pid farmers do”

  32. 32
    Jadehawk

    I have seen the solar and wind industry dip in the last few years as the subsidies have dried up in the face of poor performance.

    assuming this as true, the sensible solution of course would be to take oil and coal subsidies and stuff them into solar and esp. wind, as well as energy-saving measures.

  33. 33
    jerthebarbarian

    Jadehawk @32:

    the sensible solution of course would be to take oil and coal subsidies and stuff them into solar and esp. wind, as well as energy-saving measures.

    The problem with that is that even though it is the right thing to do, there aren’t nearly as many jobs available in the solar and wind energy production areas as there are in the oil, coal and natural gas extraction areas. Which means that there are two very large constituencies fighting for subsidies for oil, gas and coal and a very small constituency fighting for subsidies in wind and solar.

  34. 34
    Chris Clarke

    The alternative to Hydraulic Fracturing is to burn more coal.

    I have seen the solar and wind industry dip in the last few years as the subsidies have dried up in the face of poor performance.

    For what it’s worth, speaking as someone who reports on the energy sector for a living, the above-quoted is unburdened by any basis in fact.

  35. 35
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Check with PA on how fracking has been going for them.

  36. 36
    Jadehawk

    Which means that there are two very large constituencies fighting for subsidies for oil, gas and coal and a very small constituency fighting for subsidies in wind and solar.

    I said it’s the sensible solution, not that it would ever be the one US politicians would go for unless forced to do so.

  37. 37
    ekwhite

    The Ventura County Star is a notoriously right wing rag that is extremely pro-business. So far, this poll is leaning heavily towards the pro-environment side. Thanks PZ for linking to this. Is there a local group fighting fracking in Ventura County?

  38. 38
    Lamont Granquist

    @24:

    Realistically, Nuclear is the only viable alternative if you want to eliminate coal, fracking and tar sands oil. But, nuclear isn’t very popular either.

    Nuclear power has a negative learning curve and is becoming more expensive over time:

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421510003526

    See figure 13 at the bottom. Costs from various estimates are up to $6,000 to $8,000 per kilowatt of generating capacity, and the trend is that it is getting much more expensive.

    Nuclear might be a solution for edge cases where there’s no good alternatives, but solar and wind are getting cheaper.

    And fracking requires a large energy input, driven by diesel engines, to drill, frack, process and transport the natural gas, plus you have to consider the climate impact of methane leaks into the atmosphere which is the main component. Fracking is definitely worse for the climate than conventional natural gas drilling, and may be ultimately worse than oil or even coal.

  39. 39
    bad Jim

    Along the San Andreas fault, increasing the number of earthquakes might not be such a bad thing. It would be very nice if we could reduce the friction between the Pacific and North American plates so that they could slide more easily, with daily magnitude 4 quakes instead of a 6 or 7 every decade. It could be like controlled burns as a way to prevent catastrophic wildfires.

    (I’m kidding, of course; we’d need to lubricate the entire plate boundary, not just one gas-rich region.)

  40. 40
    ekwhite

    David Marjanović @2: This is Ventura County – there are 182 knee jerk libertarians in my neighborhood.

  41. 41
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    but solar and wind are getting cheaper.

    But you’re forgetting that Solar And Wind Energy Cannot Work, as was revealed by God itself to the prophet Hiddenagenda.

  42. 42
    timanthony

    I TRIED to add some noise to the signal. I selected option 2 as I consider earthquakes a secondary concern to the other negative issues.

    Then I checked the totals and it turned out that instead of adding noise to the signal, I had added signal to the noise! Therefore Claude Shannon (who invented the math behind the signal-to-noise ratio idea) rocks!

  43. 43
    timanthony

    Um, when I said 2nd option, I meant “I’m concerned about its effects on water and the environment.”

    Just gotta be specific because I’ve seen some other lists with the options in a different order.

    Anyway, so right now, the totals are:
    I’m concerned about its effects on water and the environment. 86% 3000
    I’m concerned that overregulation of it will kill jobs. 5% 205
    I have little or no concern about it. 5% 190
    I’m concerned about a possible link to earthquakes. 2% 84
    total votes: 3479

    In the last 50 minutes, 48 votes for option 1, none for #2, 2 for #3 and 1 for #4.

    Thanks to PZ for bringing this one up.

  44. 44
    lpetrich

    Here’s a thought that has occurred to me about fracking. Some of us may know about the Kennedy family objecting to a wind-turbine project off the coast of Cape Cod. Let’s turn the tables on advocates of fracking and ask if they are willing to accept it on their own property, complete with being willing to drink groundwater that had become contaminated by it.

  45. 45
    Chris Clarke

    ekwhite@37:

    Thanks PZ for linking to this.

    timanthony@43:

    Thanks to PZ for bringing this one up.

    I miss chigau 彼女はどこですか.

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