Fact Check: British Columnist Johann Hari Wrong on ‘Fracking’

by William Yeatman on May 16, 2011

in Blog, Features

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London Independent columnist Johann Hari feels betrayed by British Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to embrace the American-made revolution in natural gas production, known as hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a., ‘fracking’). Recently, he wrote in the Huffington Post,

“When the British Prime Minister David Cameron gazed into the dewy eyes of a husky and promised to lead “the greenest government ever,” what did you think that would involve?… you certainly wouldn’t have expected David Cameron’s latest plan. He has decided to convert us to a new energy source [fracking] that seems, in the US, to have released cancer-causing chemicals and radiation into the water supply…”

“Cancer-causing chemicals” AND “radiation” have been released “into the water supply”….that sounds really scary! Fortunately for this American tap-water enthusiast, Hari is full of it. As I explain here,

“While there is some evidence that poorly built “fracking” rigs could lead to the escape of methane into local groundwater wells, this isn’t as disturbing as it sounds. Methane (ie, natural gas) does not make water poisonous, and there is no evidence that the fluids used in the process, which could be toxic, have leaked into well water. Much more importantly, there is ZERO evidence that the process affects water tables used for utility scale water supply, although environmentalist special interests are quick to try to conflate well-water methane contamination with water table contamination. The upshot is that hydraulic fracturing has been used in this country for fifty years, without harming public health and environment.”

Hari hits a wrongness exacta. His claim that hydraulic fracturing has released “cancer causing chemicals and radiation into the water supply” is bogus, and he also incorrectly conflates methane seepage into local wells and the contamination of utility scale water supply with toxic fluids.

At first I thought Hari was making stuff up, but then I learned he was simply borrowing from someone else who made this stuff up. To lend evidence to his baseless claims, Hari links here, to the Amazon page for “Gasland,” a thoroughly debunked agitprop documentary on the supposed evils of fracking.

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