Paper No. 11
Presentation Time: 10:45 AM


DUGGAN-HAAS, Don, PRI and its Museum of the Earth, 92 South Dr, Amherst, NY 14226, ROSS, Robert M., Paleontological Research Institution, 1259 Trumansburg Road, Ithaca, NY 14850 and CRONIN, Kelly E., Outreach, Paleontological Research Institution, 1259 Trumansburg Rd, Ithaca, NY 14850,

Suddenly people are interested in where their energy comes from. The interest that many people are taking in slickwater high volume hydraulic fracturing has created a teachable moment. Obviously, this is an opportunity to help build understanding about the risks and benefits of the suite of activities that has been nicknamed “hydrofracking,” but it is a bigger opportunity than that. Indeed, one of the greatest challenges of hydrofracking education is helping people to understand that the most important things to understand about hydrofracking are not directly about hydrofracking, but about the larger energy system. Educational initiatives should reach beyond simply teaching people about the risks and benefits for human health, the environment and the economy directly associated with extracting natural gas from the Marcellus Shale, but to larger Earth system science issues, and, perhaps most importantly, to broader understanding of energy and climate.

It would be ideal if we knew what it meant to be "hydrofracking literate" before determining what specialized skills and knowledge are needed to teach toward such a goal. However, waiting for a scientific consensus regarding the environmental impacts of hydrofracking before defining fracking literacy is not really an option. Part of the specialized knowledge needed for teaching fracking therefore includes knowledge about teaching uncertainty. It is also essential to contextualize fracking and its associated issues in the larger energy system and, indeed, in the context of Earth system science. Further, understanding scale is essential to have a deep understanding of fracking.

The fundamental question about unconventional gas extraction is not, "Is this bad for the environment?" All large scale energy development is bad for the environment. The question is something closer to, "Is this less bad for the environment than things we are doing now (to get energy) or might reasonably do in the near future?" This is complicated work.

This presentation will address these issues and more without advocating for or against unconventional drilling.