Cincinnati University Academics Lose Interest in Publishing Hydraulic Fracturing Facts

March 4th, 2016

Comment by ERIC Director, Steve Wright

Being embarrassed to find that facts disprove your dogmatic hypothesis is perhaps understandable for an academic.  But running away from the truth when you have been paid $400,000 of taxpayers’ money to find it suggests a galling lack of integrity.

According to the US Chamber of Commerce, that is what appears to be happening at the University of Cincinnati, where a group of researchers looking into gas extraction have not found what they or, at least, their anti-gas backers, wanted.

The researchers are now refusing to reveal the findings of their three-year study into the effects of hydraulic fracturing of shale gas in Ucita province in Ohio.

The study of groundwater before, during and after hydraulic fracturing found no link to any groundwater contamination.

Further, the study found that “some of the highest observed methane concentrations were not near a fracking well at all” and that “there was no significant change in methane concentration over time, even as more and more natural gas wells were drilled in the area”.

We know this not because the results were published, but because the head researcher did a presentation to a small group of interested people – presumably so that the University could say it had shared its findings.

What has irked the US Chamber of Commerce is that the University was given a $400,000 grant to buy high-tech equipment to carry out the study.

“This obligates the University (under law) to publish its findings,” the Chamber said.

The research team leader Dr Amy Townsend-Small told the gathering the study would not be publicised because it was underpinned by financial backers (in addition to the Government grant) and they had “stopped supporting it… because they didn’t like the findings”.

“I’m really sad to say this but some of our funders, the groups that had given us funding in the past, were a little disappointed in our results,” Dr Townsend-Small reportedly told the gathering. “They feel that fracking is scary and so they were hoping our data could point to a reason to ban it.”

The results of this study are significant not only in their own right, but as a reference to a number of other university studies which have found elevated concentrations of methane in well water and then simply attributed this to hydraulic fracturing – without any evidence to say why hydraulic fracturing was the cause.

This important distinction between assumed cause and evidentiary link is what underpins much of the so-called ‘argument’ about HF.

It is why authorities in Australia including the CSIRO, the Council of Learned Academies and the NSW Chief Scientist have stated there is no evidence that HF has caused aquifer contamination.

To read the full story on the US Chamber of Commerce concerns, visit here.

 

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