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Sep 5 / BARD CEP

Yale Panel to Debate Hydraulic Fracturing — New Haven, CT — Sep. 18 @ 4pm and Livestream

New Haven, Conn.—A panel discussion on a controversial method of extracting natural gas from shale will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 18, at 4 p.m. in Kroon Hall at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES).

The discussion, “Hydraulic Fracturing: Bridge to a Clean Energy Future?”, will explore whether hydraulic fracturing, better known as hydrofracking or fracking, will enhance America’s energy security, or deter the development of renewable energy sources and foster a continuing dependence on fossil fuels.

The event in Kroon Hall’s Burke Auditorium will be broadcast via a live-stream computer hookup that will enable viewers nationwide to watch the program and participate in a question-and-answer period. The program will also be shown in Sage Hall at F&ES. To tune into the discussion, visit

“This is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the economic, energy and environmental implications of shale gas development,” said David Skelly, F&ES professor of ecology and associate dean for research. “Hydraulic fracturing is little understood, but it has the potential to have a profound impact on this nation’s energy security, public health and global climate.”

The panel will feature John Hofmeister, a former Shell Oil executive and CEO of Citizens for Affordable Energy; Bill McKibben, an environmental journalist and founder of the grassroots climate campaign; Sheila Olmstead, a fellow at the nonpartisan think tank Resources for the Future; and James Saiers, F&ES professor of hydrology and a water chemistry expert. Brad Gentry, director of the Center for Business and the Environment at Yale and a member of the F&ES faculty, will be the moderator.

“Yale is using its unique convening power to assemble a distinguished panel that represents a range of perspectives,” said Gentry, “and to provide a forum that will enable audience members to compare points of view about hydraulic fracturing’s viability.”

Natural gas is a fossil fuel often found in underground reservoirs and comprised of methane and other hydrocarbon compounds. To extract gas from hard shale rocks, energy companies use hydraulic fracturing, in which large amounts of sand, water and chemicals are injected deep underground at high pressures.

Natural gas emits about half as much carbon dioxide as coal in electricity production, and proponents of shale gas development believe it’s the best way to achieve quick cuts in carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change. Opponents criticize hydrofracking for its potential to pollute water sources. A well can produce over a million gallons of wastewater laced with highly corrosive salts, carcinogens like benzene and radioactive elements like radium, all of which can occur naturally thousands of feet underground. In addition, opponents argue that the release of methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide, could exacerbate global warming.

Hofmeister founded Citizens for Affordable Energy, a nonprofit that investigates energy issues, in 2008 after leaving Shell. He is the author of Why We Hate the Oil Companies: Straight Talk from an Energy Insider, published in 2010 by Palgrave Macmillan.

McKibben is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and author of a dozen books about the environment. Time Magazine called him “the planet’s best green journalist” and the Boston Globe in 2010 said he was “probably the country’s most important environmentalist.”

Olmstead is conducting a study that will develop recommendations for the regulation of hydrofracking and voluntary steps that firms can take to reduce the risks associated with gas drilling. She taught environmental economics at F&ES from 2002 to 2010.

Saiers has published extensively on factors affecting the circulation of freshwater and the transport of contaminants and other chemicals in streams, wetlands and aquifers. He is also associate dean of academic affairs at F&ES.

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