Provocative Headlines Give Fracking a Bum Rap

Inflammatory headlines about hydraulic fracturing create negative public opinion of the practice.

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Your May 17 story [Fracking Might Be Worse for the Environment Than We Think] used an inflammatory headline about hydraulic fracturing that was not supported by the content in the story itself.

The author of the study on which the story focused, Radisav Vidic, concluded two things: First, there is no firm evidence of hydraulic fracturing contaminating drinking water. Second, more data need to be collected.

Vidic has also said: "I'll take my chances on winning the lottery over the chances of frack fluid in the groundwater."

[See a collection of political cartoons on energy policy.]

State and federal regulators have repeatedly affirmed that hydraulic fracturing is safe. Former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said there are no proven cases of the process contaminating drinking water. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell recently said "fracking has been done safely for decades." Researchers from MIT, Harvard, and Stanford have observed the same thing.

Since the premise was a lack of data, it would have been equally accurate for your headline to read, "Fracking Might Be Better for the Environment Than We Think." The fact that it did not, and instead presumed danger without basis, is both revealing and unfortunate – especially when the data we do have reveal safe operations.

The public's perception of hydraulic fracturing is shaped by the news reports that cover it. Provocative headlines and suggestions of harm – especially when there is literally no evidence to support them – only serve to mislead the public, which we can all agree is not the goal of the news media. At least it shouldn't be.

Steve Everley


Team Lead
Energy In Depth