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I’m sympathetic to Wintercow’s concerns about banning fracking: among other things, a hardline approach to natural gas will forego the benefits of substituting for coal (which burns far dirtier). At the same time, some of the cautions introduced in NY’s legislation seem reasonable–particularly the minimum aquifer proximity requirements. Innovative fracking is a great technology, but I’m sympathetic to keeping it away from drinking water. It’s yet another classic question of how to treat “fat-tailed risks” in environmental policy. The empirical questions about fracking safety will sort themselves out in the coming years; as more experience accumulates, we’ll have a better basis for evaluating how fat the tails really are. How often and in what geologies do radon-laced frackwater emissions occur? It’s probably worth avoiding major aquifers until we’re confident–and when we do know, we have to judge frackwater risks against the similarly dangerous coal mine effluence and the favorable emissions balance of natural gas at the point of combustion.

We should replace those “NO FRACK” signs with “Frack in an iteratively cautious fashion, being mindful both of tail risks and the favorable tradeoffs against other energy inputs”.

5 Responses to “My Two Cents on Fracking”

  1. Speedmaster says:

    I think you make perfect sense. But I also think that most of those claiming to be cautious on the issue are really just ‘fracktivists’ dead-set against it and are not waiting to learn more information.

  2. wintercow20 says:

    Alex always makes perfect sense! There is not any serious consideration of fracking in sensitive areas, which is part of the reason my ire is raised by the no-fracking movement. And there are good, strong regulations on the activity in Pennsylvania with no evidence of groundwater contamination. How long until the activity is deemed “sufficiently safe” in NY before it is permitted? How long since the moratorium was first placed?

    In other words, Alex’s last sentence is the current policy in all places I am familiar with. Except where we live, where the policy is: No Frack, No Way.

    The new signs all over the finger lakes have really got me nuts – we were at Honeoye Lake yesterday and saw dozens of “Water = Life” signs. Right, so I disagree that water is important, and my goal in life is to ensure that we have toxic water. I’ll buy dinner to whomever can come up with a creative analogy and get those signs made up. What about “Education = ….?” and assume that anyone who holds a different view must want kids to be dumb and poor forever.

  3. wintercow20 says:

    Worth perusing this study, I have a bakers’ dozen more in case folks are interested: http://www.platts.com/RSSFeedDetailedNews/RSSFeed/oil/8221049

  4. Harry says:

    Alex, with not bothering Mike, who has plenty to do, would you kindly work on a problem?

    Thank you all for eliminating the wordpress editor that caused so many problems. However, my simple phone is blocked as spam by wordpress. I cannot access theunbrokenwindow.com from my phone. As you can see, I can get to the site on my desktop computer.

    I did email WordPress, telling them of their stupid editor, but in more graceful terms, but I may have angered a couple of big-shot developers — who knows?

    In any event, I am currently blocked as spam whenever I try to get to Rizzo’s site from my phone. As you might appreciate, I do not want to publish my banned IP address here. It may take some time for Rizzo to return from the Adirondacs before he gives you my email, so I can send you my banned IP addy. I hate to bother him with this, since I do not want to be banned as one of his bestselling book editors.

    Surely you, Alex, can dispatch your nerd friends at Rochester — we are all Hayek and Bastiat nerds.

    Thanks for any help you might muster, Alex.

  5. Harry says:

    Regarding fracking, Alex, I reunited with a kid [!] who used to help me with the lawn and did general farm maintenance for me in the underground economy. He is now the Director of Economic Development for greater Syracuse. I have not yet sent him links to theunbrokenwindow.com, or Coyote, but I will. I think this kid just turned thirty.

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