Industry groups promoting shale gas drilling have had more than a few bones to pick with Cornell University engineering professor Anthony Ingraffea. His reaction is: Bring it on.
A thorn-in-the-side for groups such as America’s Natural Gas Alliance, Ingraffea is set to give a lecture at 7 p.m. today at Foothills Performing Arts and Civic Center in Oneonta. The lecture is titled, “Why Not Shale Gas in New York.”
In an interview Wednesday, Ingraffea said his goal will be to get his audience to think about why they either believe natural gas development will be a positive event for New York or why they think it will have negative consequences.
“I intend to give a very science based presentation, as I always do,” he said. “I will first explain what is necessary from an industrial point of view to make shale gas production in a place like New York profitable. There are certain things they have to do in a certain way because, otherwise, it doesn’t work. Once people understand what the whole technology landscape is, they can begin to see what the benefits might be and what the problems might be.”
After Ingraffea published scientific research warning of the environmental damage caused by hydraulic fracturing of shale deposits, the industry lambasted the award-winning researcher and his work, calling him an activist and his conclusions misleading.
Asked how it makes him feel to be the target of such jabs from the industry he has criticized, Ingraffea said: “Great!”
“I don’t like to be called what they call me,” said Ingraffea, a former engineer for Grumman Aerospace Corp. who has taught at Cornell since 1977. “But I take great energy from it because they are spending a lot of time and money trying to discredit me. It must mean I’m talking about something very important that they don’t like.”
“Anytime somebody from the industry wants to debate the science and the engineering,” he added, “I’m ready, willing and able to go up against anyone at any time.”
Ingraffea, who did his doctoral thesis on crack propagation in rock, said he accepts no honoria or other fees — not even travel expenses — when he speaks about gas drilling. On the other hand, he said that representatives of the gas industry have a built-in conflict of interest, as they stand to profit, if hydraulic fracturing is permitted in New York.
“Their job is to make sure they have an adequate return on the investment of the shareholders,” he said.
Ingraffea said current fracking technology only extracts 10 to 15 percent of the gas being targeted in a formation, leaving the rest unattainable forever.
“They are bludgeoning the poor landscape,” he said. “It’s a very inefficient way of generating the resource, and in the process they are actually ruining the resource for the future.”
It would make much greater sense, he said, for New York to vigorously embrace the development of renewable energy sources, which he contends could provide for all of the state’s needs. His research, he said, suggests it is possible for New York to derive 60 percent of its energy from wind turbines, 30 percent from solar power and 10 percent from other renewable sources.
Asked about recent public opinion polls showing New Yorkers are about evenly divided on the question of whether the state should permit fracking, Ingraffea said the gas industry has far outspent drilling foes in getting its message out to the public.
“It seems that you can’t watch a TV show now without seeing at least one ad that is pro gas,” he said.