Anti-Energy Activists Spinning ‘Wheel of Lies’

Denver_Post_Colorado_Wheel_OLAs part of our campaign to educate Coloradans about the radical views behind the loudest voices against fracking, we ran a full-page ad in the Denver Post and other papers depicting a “Wheel of Lies” that contains false and misleading claims peddled by radical activists. As the Denver Post editorial board puts it, the “fringe of anti-fracking activists has little interest in factual evidence or the opinions of government scientists.” We agree, and below we source the claims that appear in our “Wheel of Lies” ad.

Myth: Exploding Homes.
Fact: Food & Water Watch (FWW) claims a home in Ohio exploded “largely because of fracking.” The facts, however, tell a different story. Ohio regulators investigated the incident and concluded that poor cementing and inadequate casing contributed to the explosion, not fracking. State regulators also found that the incident caused no groundwater contamination.

Myth: Radioactivity.
Fact: A FWW direct mail letter claims that fracking causes “radioactivity.” This omits key context: while radiation has been detected near some fracking sites, radiation exists everywhere and there’s no evidence that the radiation levels were high enough to endanger public health. Indeed, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) explains, “When properly conducted, modern fracing is a safe, sophisticated, highly engineered and controlled procedure.”

Myth: Drought.
Fact: Activists in Colorado and other dry regions claim fracking exacerbates drought and takes water away from farmers. However, state regulators estimate that demand for water used in fracking will account for just 0.1 percent of all the water used in Colorado next year.

Myth: Blindness.
Fact: Activists are basing claims that fracking can lead to blindness on the fact that methanol is a frequent additive to fracking fluid, arguing that “consuming only 10mL will cause blindness in humans.” However, there has not been a documented case of methanol contaminating the environment as a result of its use in fracking. Additionally, the chemical only makes up 0.000007% of the volume of the liquid used for fracking, making it nearly impossible for an individual to ingest enough methanol to cause blindness even if the fluid did come into contact with groundwater.

Myth: Toxic Food.
Fact: Some activists claim that fracking fluid can taint our entire food supply. As the “logic” goes, livestock ingest contaminated groundwater, then we consume the livestock and ingest the chemicals. However, this hypothetical poses little risk in practice, given fracking’s aforementioned impressive safety record.

Myth: Cancer.
Fact: Like blindness, the claim that fracking causes cancer is misleading because it depends on someone ingesting fracking fluid that contains a known carcinogen. In fact, there’s “no evidence that exposure to fracking chemicals will change your sex or disrupt your sexual function or cause infertility, cancer, or birth defects,” according to Business Insider.

Myth: Flaming Faucets.
Fact: Josh Fox’s 2010 film Gasland popularized the thoroughly debunked flammable faucet myth. After Gasland was released, COGCC investigated the claims, concluding that the methane was naturally occurring, not caused by natural gas development.

Myth: Birth Defects.
Fact: Activists jumped on a University of Colorado study that found a correlation between birth defects in newborns and proximity of mothers living near a natural gas well. The report was criticized by state health officials as irresponsible and incomplete: “As Chief Medical Officer, I would tell pregnant women and mothers who live, or who at-the-time-of-their-pregnancy lived, in proximity to a gas well not to rely on this study as an explanation of why one of their children might have had a birth defect,” said Larry Wolk. “Many factors known to contribute to birth defects were ignored in this study.”

Myth: Brain Damage.
Fact: Here again, activists are using sleight-of-hand. Some fracking fluid may contain lead, and lead is known to cause brain damage in children. Therefore, fracking causes brain damage in children. The solution is simple: just as parents can keep the toxic chemicals under their sinks away from children with childproof cabinets, the energy industry takes precautions to prevent groundwater contamination during energy development — resulting in little risk of contamination.

Myth: Heart Disease.
The same Colorado study that found a link between proximity to energy development and birth defects also found a link between energy development and heart disease. Not only did the state health department criticize the findings, but even one of the study’s co-authors conceded its limitations: “It’s certainly not a conclusive study,” said David Savitz. “And it doesn’t demonstrate that pollutants related to shale development have caused birth defects.”

Myth: Spinal Cord Defects.
Fact: The above FWW mailer also links spinal cord defects to fracking, but cites the roundly criticized University of Colorado study. It proves that fear is a strong motivator and valuable currency.

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