One of our popular topics last year was earthquakes.  That makes sense, with the earthquake in Japan.  It's not like there was some greater instance of earthquakes but if you are a Doomsday fearmonger, any event is a good event; that means anti-science activists determined to send us back to the 13th century looked for ways to make earthquakes result from fracking.

If you dispute that, you get meaningless gibberish responses like 'you can't prove the earthquakes did not come from fracking', which is true, in the same way you can't prove I am not the disembodied brain of Adolf Hitler writing this piece from my Antarctic Fortress where I am plotting the Fourth Reich - but it's sort of silly to live your life believing it.

Yet people do just that.  A marine ecologist no one ever heard of became the darling of anti-science environmentalists by claiming that shale gas generates more greenhouse gas emissions than the coal. The New York Times loved it - well, the advocates in the editorial department loved it. Public Editor Arthur Brisbane not so much, since their piece was littered with anonymous quotes contending that energy industry insiders just knew fracking was awful.  And one outrageous claim by biogeochemist Robert Howarth that fracking was killing the environment.

It later turned out that Howarth was more well known than assumed - in his field he is regarded as an activist first and a scientist second.  Every field has those, of course, but the New York Times was going out of its way to create a James Hansen For Shale Oil. Because the Times is somehow still considered a valid source for science, their subtle efforts went all over the world.

 Andrew Revkin at the Times is far more balanced that skeptics of global warming give him credit for. He cites an actual expert, unlike Howarth, who says not only is Howarth wrong, he is off by as much as 200 percent in some of his claims. Just like people who claim obscure studies linking vaccines to autism are truth, or that a discredited claim from 1998 means that GMO foods are going to ruin us, anti-science progressives are going to insist once again that Big Science is under the thumb of...someone.  Basically it doesn't matter, if the idea is discredited they will persist anyway.

Shale Gas is not perfect but even the aforementioned Dr. James Hansen acknowledges that cars and other emission sources are basically irrelevant in global warming if we can (a) have cleaner coal or (b) have less coal because we use natural gas.

Cleaner fuel now will give basic research some time to come up with the ideal solution.

More reading:

Andrew Revkin at the New York Times
Jon Entine on Forbes
H/T RealClearScience