Dr. Robert Chianese’s praise of the oil tycoon George Mitchell (“Power to Speak,” 8/22), demonstrates the clear and present danger facing academia these days. When academicians like Chianese depend on research grants from big oil, their work is largely influenced by the corporations that pay for their work. Of course, the first casualty of Big Oil power and money is truth.

In order to receive continued grant funding, professors like Chianese will continue to praise oil magnates like George Mitchell, and the professor will continue to write letters proclaiming Mitchell the Saint Theresa of philanthropy, when the truth is, he is closer to the opposite. When someone like Mitchell (Mitchell Energy Corp.) is in the Fortune 500, earning billions, “philanthropist” isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.  But Chianese, paid by Mitchell, will see him as such until the day he dies.

George Mitchell, as Chianese would have us believe, is the prime funder of environmental groups and programs across the country.  The truth is, he received his degree from Texas A&M and the Petroleum Institute. He took that degree, along with Halliburton and other oil tycoons, and started drilling wells for profit anywhere and everywhere he could.  And he didn’t give a damn or hoot about the environment in the process.

 
And just as where there is smoke there is fire, where there is oil there is gas — so, as a byproduct, Mitchell found a way to use that, too, for profit by developing the method of “fracking.” And when he did it, he convinced consumers that gas “would be too cheap to meter,” and in his campaign to exploit us, in my opinion, stopped the development of the solar hot water industry in its tracks.

Chianese praises Mitchell’s frack-vention, using the excuse “no beneficial innovation is without drawbacks and unforeseen negative consequences.” But this is only a truism. The whole truth is that benign energy alternatives pose far fewer hazards than finite climate changers, such as gas and oil, and the benefits of benign infinite alternatives outweigh the risks of their predecessors (such as fracking). In other words, there are sources of energy that are more beneficial to us than others. But only oil has the big money to pay for prime-time advertising, convincing us of the benefit of its faulty products.

Chianese’s faulty logic leads him to the conclusion that wind generation is just as harmful as fracking because wind blades kill a number of birds.

The whole truth is that comparing fracking to wind generation, is like comparing Hitler to Jeffrey Dahmer.  There is no comparison.  Fracking, with its 600 unnamed toxic chemicals dumped into millions of wells, estuaries, rivers and streams across the country in years to come, will be far more harmful and will irreversibly pollute any and all potable water supplies throughout the country, essentially changing ALL future life on the planet.  Several of these toxins have already been identified as highly carcinogenic.

In fact, when shale is pulverized in the fracking process, it releases radon particles or radioisotopes.  Ingested through our drinking water, we already know these emitters will produce thyroid, lung, muscle, bone, brain and genetic cancers.

I am a registered nurse. I or any doctor will tell you that human beings are 55 percent to 60 percent water and all life is mostly water. In other words, if our source of water that we drink is contaminated by the toxins we frack into it, we will all be contaminated. Perhaps Chianese does not understand how the rules of fracking have changed or how this industry has expanded, and he should just stick to his expertise in the field of literature. Or perhaps he can interview the Santa Barbara director of water management and learn that once oil-based chemicals are introduced into the water table, they cannot be removed. The toxic process is irreversible. Is this the legacy the professor wants to leave to his children?

Besides all these new unidentified toxic oil derivatives used in fracking, there are a number of other new developments in fracking since George Mitchell’s invention of drilling into shale. Fracking for natural gas today involves much deeper drilling into the earth’s surface. Because it is “slant drilling,” it means more land and water will be affected.

Deeper drilling also means more water must be used for the drilling process. The water and chemicals that through exerted pressure, frack or split the shale to reach pockets of natural gas, also have been shown to work as lubricants for ground shifts and earthquakes.  In Pennsylvania, where fracking is predominant, earthquakes are now a familiar occurrence. This may be because nowadays, frack-drilling goes deeper, upward of 5,000 feet into the earth’s surface.

Because fracking causes shifting and earthquakes, it does not take a geologist to figure out that fracking is not ideal for a fault-riddled California. And the only barrier that keeps methane gas from entering our water supply is a flimsy 10-inch cement casing. Six percent of these casings, according to the documentary Gasland II, have been known to fail immediately. And because the technology itself causes ground shifting, this figure increases dramatically over 30 years to more than 50 percent failure.  In Pennsylvania, this translates to homeowners being able to light the flow from water faucets on fire. (By the way, the George Mitchell foundation contributed nothing to the making of Gasland I or Gasland II.)

To compound the problem of failure is the company that will likely be doing the encasements.  That company is Halliburton. With a track record of abuse, including its part in the Gulf oil spill, it should be outlawed from doing work in California. By the way, H(e)lli-burton will also be doing deep ocean water containment off our coast, another disaster to look forward to.

Chianese should also be reminded of the carbon footprint of methane gas on climate change, which is 100 times greater than that of other sources of energy. “Natural gas exploration” these days should actually be called “fracking for methane.” No, it doesn’t sound as natural because it isn’t. But the former phrase is more marketable, even convincing professors like Chianese to continue their devout praise of the oil and gas industry, as well as Saint (Theresa) Mitchell.


Grant Marcus, RN, ME, grantpeacenurse726@gmail.com, residing in Ventura.