The Politics of Fracking

Thursday 13 September, 2012
6pm, $0/Rsvp

One Bernard Baruch Way (55 Lexington Ave. at 24th St)

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The process of drilling for natural gas, commonly known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” continues to be a polarizing issue in communities across the country. The promise of a new source of cleaner domestic energy needs to be weighed against the potential environmental dangers fracking may hold.

Fracking has the potential to provide a domestic source of energy that pollutes less than coal and petroleum when burned. Expansion of the practice would provide jobs and income to thousands in many economically depressed areas and may lessen America’s dependence on foreign energy sources. However, fracking requires injecting sand, water and chemicals deep into the ground, presenting the potential for a number of serious environmental dangers to communities. It also requires an enormous industrial footprint and can contaminate groundwater supplies miles from the fracking site.

Recently, the debate over fracking has taken on greater political importance. Some residents in economically distressed areas in Upstate New York, for example, support the process because they believe it will bring jobs and raise property values. Others believe that the potential environmental devastation far outweighs fracking’s potential economic and energy benefits. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo appears to be seeking a compromise by allowing fracking in selected areas in the state that approve the process on a local level. Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council oppose this plan.

Our panel of experts will discuss how fracking is being addressed in the political and policy arenas. Do supporters of fracking exaggerate its economic benefits while understating its environmental harm? To what extent will fracking benefit local communities and not just the entrenched interests of the mining industry? Do opponents overstate the potential for environmental degradation? Should the decision to allow fracking be left to individual communities? If we reject fracking, what are the implications for the development of alternative sources of energy?
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