Public Policy lecturer Daniel Raimi explained the risks, benefits and uncertainties of fracking in the oil industry at a discussion of his new book, “The Fracking Debate,” Wednesday afternoon at the Ford School of Public Policy. About 55 students, staff and community members attended the event, which was sponsored by the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy and the Graham Sustainability Institute. 

Fracking is the process of oil drilling where a water, sand and chemical mixture is used to release gas in rock deep within the earth. The use of this technique in the oil industry has caused controversies due to its high use of water, release of dangerous chemicals and other environmental concerns.

Raimi began by explaining the technique’s new use of shale resources.

“It’s been applied to a larger scale than it was historically and it’s been combined with horizontal drilling and other new technologies to more economically tap these resources that were not economical previous to this revolution,” Raimi said.

Raimi also described his trips to Appalachia, Texas and Alaska to better understand public opinion and the complexity of the issue, areas that are particularly relevant due to. Residents he spoke to in Alaska — as with many other states that rely on oil drilling — held more positive views regarding the oil industry.

“Local officials that I spoke with and many native Alaskan groups, although not all…support the oil industry,” Raimi said. “They see it as a key economic engine for Barrow, for the North Slope, and for Alaska as a whole.”

Others, however, had negative perception. Raimi also noted that geography plays a role in opinions surrounding the practice of fracking.

“The places where you see fracking bans are places where there is no fracking,” Raimi said.

Raimi later participated in a question and answer segment with Public Policy professor Catherine Hausman and attendees. He went on to address misconceptions about the word “fracking.”

“The thing that I find really interesting…is that people use the word fracking to mean different things at different times depending on the objective of (their) argument,” Raimi said. “Generally speaking, those who are opposed to oil and gas development use fracking as broadly as possible…and I think that’s basically a messaging tactic based on the fact that fracking sounds like a really bad word.”

Raimi also addressed a question on policy changes regarding the oil and gas industry.

“The Obama administration proposed new methane emissions rules that the Trump administration is looking to roll back,” Raimi said. “That would be a definite (benefit) to shale gas.”

Public Policy graduate student Anthony Castaneda said although he was not necessarily in agreement with the speaker, he found the event worthwhile.

“I think overall it was just a lot of talking points that I probably disagree with, but it’s worth coming and listening to the other side of the argument if I want to be a policymaker one day,” Castaneda said.

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