In the sleight-of-hand movie ‘Gasland’, Josh Fox warned of the “industrial wasteland” which would be created by fracking in Pennsylvania. The Aussie anti-hero ‘Frackman’ followed the Fox formula, but really jumped the shark by predicting fracking would “destroy the world”.
For the ‘primed-to-believe’ audiences, the horror and consequences portrayed in these melodramatic movies were both real and current – and apparently hard to let go of. Many activists still carry forth their messages of fear, blaming fracking for everything from (misidentified) acid rain and poisoned creeks to dying cattle, despite the fact that these things have been categorically disproved.
Doctors for the Environment (DFE) are still at it, this time in South Australia, trying to parlay medical qualification into expertise on the science and engineering practices in fracking.
The problem for DFE is that there is no evidence to support their human health impacts and dying cattle claims in Australia. Organic-certified beef cattle have grazed happily among the gasfields of the Cooper Basin (northern SA) for decades. Natural gas has co-existed with farming in the SA south-east for decades as well.
Frackman provided a platform for claims made by some residents of a non-serviced area in Tara, in south-west Queensland. However, two investigations – by Government and independent physicians – found there was no basis for linking illnesses within two families to natural gas extraction in the area. What the investigations did note was that the lack of town services and household facilities could have contributed to health problems among some of the children.
DFE claims have previously hit rough ground in SA, when animal and human health impact claims aired before a Parliamentary inquiry two years ago were tested – and found to come up short.
Given the failure of the health impact claims in Australia, DFE, like many other activists, turned to the USA to try to find corroboration. The attempt failed.
So why do DFE and others continue with these unfounded claims? Perhaps because it is just another part of the anti-gas ‘keep it in the ground’ campaign which has been created in the USA and exported – with funding behind it – to Australia and Europe.
In fact, use of spurious health claims has been part of documented campaign tactics among the activist community since as far back as 2012.
The SA Inquiry two years ago was told of a long list of ‘peer-reviewed’ studies which proved health impacts from fracking in the US. The reality is, they did not provide any proof at all.
‘Peer review’ does not mean peers agreed with findings or even that the assertions in the findings had sufficient verification. Findings were often that there may have been health impacts, but more study was needed to substantiate theories.
Independent analysis has now shown that the ‘keep it in the ground’ movement has emphasised creating a volume of studies as a tool to influence people who have neither the time nor expertise to interrogate the propositions portrayed as evidence.
The lack of quality of the so-called evidence has been exposed over and again in recent times, as critical analysis has slowly, but steadily, caught up with the rapid-fire, alarmist activist claims.
As each year goes by without the predicted environmental calamity occurring anywhere in the USA, South America, Canada, Europe or Australia, the claims become more and more shrill.