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Friday
Apr282017

Nature Climate Change commentary: out of the lab & into the field

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Reader Comments (12)

Dan,

The link is: http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v7/n5/full/nclimate3283.html

Do you have a non-paywall version?

April 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

@Jonathan-- not for 6 mos... send me email & I'll see what I can do

April 28, 2017 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Interesting link on the "belief gap" (amusingly in astrology) - about how hard it is to get reliable data from survey questions about beliefs:

https://phys.org/news/2017-04-people-astrology.html

"When I asked the astrologers who didn't "believe" for their reasons, they replied that astrology is no more a matter of belief than television or music: it is real, so has nothing to do with belief. Or to put it another way, people only believe in things which don't exist. Which is why public surveys on belief can come up with misleading results."

Yikes.

April 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Need some "fields"? NE Colorado would make an interesting place to study risk communication with regards to hydraulic fracturing right now:
'
http://www.denverpost.com/2017/04/26/anadarko-petroleum-shut-down-3000-wells-after-house-explosion/

April 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

"NE Colorado would make an interesting place to study risk communication with regards to hydraulic fracturing right now"

It's a fascinating piece of "communication"! I just love the way they bury the following snippet away in the penultimate paragraph...

According to family members, Mark Martinez and his brother-in-law, Joey Irwin, were working on a hot-water heater in the basement of the Martinez’s home in Firestone when the house exploded.

It's a remarkably clear (dare I say, blatant?) example. I think that tells you everything you need to know about the relationship between the honesty of journalists and the growth of the fracking controversy in public awareness.

Well done for finding it! :-)

April 29, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

NiV, the fact that the people in the home were working on their hot water heater is well understood. And has been, as it was in the article above that you read, included by journalists in their discussions. That's how you know about it. Nothing dishonest here. It certainly serves as a point for gas ignition. But not necessarily the source of that much gas.

Anadarko has a reputation in NE Colorado as being one of the most environmentally responsible operators. They had investigators in the field immediately after the explosion, and ongoing to the current time. I don't believe that they made the decision to close 3,000 wells without considerable concerns as to cause. Their actions have now been followed by a second gas company; http://www.dailycamera.com/state-west-news/ci_30953763/colorados-great-western-oil-and-gas-shuts-down.

Unfortunately, one of the actions taken by large companies such as Anadarko to reduce their risk has been to sell to smaller less well capitalized companies. Most of those are not taking part in these closures.

The problem is not so much that hydraulic fracturing could not take place safely under the right circumstances and with the right precautions. But in many areas, as in NE Colorado, new wells are being drilled into areas that have been subject to previous drilling. Those older well bores and gathering lines may have been "sealed" but perhaps not very completely. And certainly even well owners with good intentions could not have foreseen the high pressures to which casings might be subject in the future. These then can serve as conduits when the new wells are fracked. This area of Weld County is one in which sprawling suburban residential housing has overrun oil and gas production areas. Additionally, Colorado has "forced pooling" laws that mean that even owners of mineral rights have little power to stop oil and gas operations on their properties. And the new drilling techniques have led to major "fracking" operations taking place in residential neighborhoods, with individual sites containing as many as 40 wells (heading out in different directions and at different depths from one wellhead). This is a major industrial operation requiring hundreds of truck visits, as well as the large scale drilling equipment. No other industrial operation can operate in residential areas like this.

In Colorado, the hydraulic fracturing process takes place as close as 500 feet from homes for new wells. The home that exploded had an older well only 178 ft away. They also need to be 1000 feet away from school buildings, but not playgrounds. An initiative to expand this is currently before the state legislature. There was a recent case at a high school in which students on the athletic field noticed that they had water eyes, and were coughing. The teacher (whose report I heard) determined that this was due to some sort of cloud of gases emanating from a well just up the hill from the school
The students were brought into the school building which was then put on lockdown, and once the authorities thought of it, the school's air circulation system was shut down. This left all of the students in the building, feeling like they were choking, until local authorities decided it was ok to open up the school. This "lockdown" process only works for short term clouds of potential toxic fumes. (And is only really effective if you can figure out that the shutdown needs to take place prior to the toxic cloud reaching the areas). What if the high school, containing several thousand students, had had to be evacuated?

All of this would be more or less moot, if the oil and gas field were located, as many are, in remote isolated almost completely unoccupied areas as are oilfields in much of Wyoming or western Colorado. There, even large scale methane and other emissions may be an atmospheric climate change issue, but they dissipate relative to the ground. Even big flameouts expose only the trained oil and gas crews.

April 29, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

"NiV, the fact that the people in the home were working on their hot water heater is well understood. And has been, as it was in the article above that you read, included by journalists in their discussions. That's how you know about it. Nothing dishonest here. It certainly serves as a point for gas ignition. But not necessarily the source of that much gas."

It was dishonest. There was an entire article full of panic and alarm, and the information that there was a perfectly natural alternative explanation was left until the second to last paragraph, long after a lot of people would have stopped reading, or have already made their minds up.

I agree, it's not *necessarily* the source of that much gas, but it's not necessarily not, either. There have been plenty of gas explosions caused before by people doing DIY maintenance of gas central heating. It's the obvious explanation.

"I don't believe that they made the decision to close 3,000 wells without considerable concerns as to cause."

Given the controversy around such issues, I think they were trying to pre-empt the public hysteria and accusations by shutting down as a precaution, demonstrating how seriously they take it. That the same people will see that as an admission of guilt is equally predictable, but less damaging.

"No other industrial operation can operate in residential areas like this."

As we've already discussed, there are gas pipes and sewer pipes running into every single house in almost all residential areas, with thousands of miles of pipe running through the ground and directly into houses (not just vaguely in the neighbourhood) to bring that about. There's a lot less regulation and oversight of that. And it puts all the same materials and pollution risks running through the ground above (or through) the water table, and nobody bats an eyelid.

Trucks and drilling rigs don't cause houses to explode. Methane is lighter than air, and explosive only at fairly high concentrations, so you would have had to have had a pipe running directly under the house (fairly unlikely) spring a leak (very unlikely), for the leak to lead directly into the house basement (extremely unlikely) rather than dispersing into the open air, for it to concentrate to a pretty high level.

And by a total coincidence for a pair of amateur householders to be tinkering with the gas water boiler - an activity well-known to risk gas explosions when not done right - at precisely the time the gas exploded?! Oh, come on...

"There was a recent case at a high school in which students on the athletic field noticed that they had water eyes, and were coughing. The teacher (whose report I heard) determined that this was due to some sort of cloud of gases emanating from a well just up the hill from the school"

*What sort* of gas? Methane is odourless and non-toxic, so it's not that. Are we talking about an oil well and hydrogen sulphide/sulphur dioxide? And nobody at the well even noticed - let alone shut down the pumps and raised the alarm? I thought oil wells all had gas detectors for precisely this problem. How did the teacher figure out it was from the well? Did it turn out to be from the well when it was investigated? How did it get out of the sealed pipes? Given the standard of reporting in this area, I'd not take anything for granted.

I remember when my old school got partly evacuated because someone at the school swimming pool had an accident with the Chlorine. It's not an uncommon occurrence. Nobody suggested that we ban all swimming pools, though.

(I'm a bit nervous about pointing that out, since I'm sure there are people who *would*, if word got around and it became a thing. Talk about a polluted science communication environment!)

April 29, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

This actually ought to be part of a much greater discussion on the cultural cognitive aspects of science of science communication, economic progress and public policy development.

I've mentioned Cornell's Peter Dear before, whose work, The Intelligibility of Science has to do with science as an expansion of human knowledge as compared to how science is utilized to fuel technologically based socio-economic advancement. In a reflection of the commonly segmented approach to academic pursuits, in an exchange with me he agreed I was raising interesting questions, but his focus remains on the history of the rise of the Scientific Revolution, and he is not personally interested in being drawn into considerations of its potential decline.

What is the cultural framework that allows science to thrive and to be utilized in ways that enhance the greater social good? How can that be maintained in ways that fuel what Dan Kahan likes to call the Liberal Republic of Science?

The issue in the case of hydraulic fracturing, as is true of many other advancements in industrial regulation, is that we use an econmic development and regulatory strategy that is action first, followup with considerations regarding about environmental or social harms lagging behind. The burden of proof is on those who have already been harmed to prove that they were harmed. As opposed to one in which the intent is "first do no harm". Or the emerging concepts of a public trust doctrine applied to nature as advocated by University of Oregon law professor Mary Christina Wood in her book Natures Trust and here: http://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1080&context=ealr

In fairness, cultures that heavily value continuity, with strong incentives against innovation, may be environmentally stable but they rarely advance. Thus there is a linkage between the Scientific Revolution and other Western European philosophies like the Doctrine of Discovery that caused Western Europeans to use the technological tools available to them to colonize much of the rest of the world and exploit it to their own advantage. At perhaps the opposite extreme, California's Ohlone Native Americans lived simple lives in an incredibly bountiful environment. Further north, the Haida of British Columbia periodically amassed wealth, but by their cultural norms, the appropriate demonstration of wealth and power was to hold a giant party (potlatch) to disperse it. It never occurred to either group to chop down the available redwood and cedar trees, build a giant armada and go off to conquer other cultures. (Although much further south, the Aztec and Incas did conquer their neighbors). The Japanese describe this pressure for conformity by the saying "The nail that sticks up gets hammered down".

Back to fracking: There is almost never anyone at any of these wellheads. There is usually also no atmospheric gas emission monitoring equipment. Leakages are usually monitored not chemically, but with gas line pressure equipment. And thus, other than the physical symptoms that the students and staff experienced while traced to the wellhead and addressed as a leakage there, was never documented chemically. The issue for the students was how they felt, not what they smelled, and so it may have been largely methane. But nobody really knows.

In the ongoing investigations regarding the house explosion, key here is the fact that there is a collision going on between expanding oil and gas operations and expanding suburban development. Big well head blowouts in remote area get much less attention. For example this case further east, which also involved Anadarko: http://www.denverpost.com/2017/01/23/oil-well-blowout-closes-road-denver-anadarko/. This would have been quite a disaster if it had occurred at one of the many wells now being drilled with 500 foot from homes, in the middle of a subdivison of such homes. These wellheads are frequently located in a small patch of "open space" behind a group of houses. The wellhead itself in these cases is usually a small grouping of tan painted metal sheds enclosing piping and tanks. Inconspicuous except when being serviced or re-fracked. Modern techniques allow for less concentrated wellheads but vastly increase the impact of each wellhead that is developed.

So in our economic system, regulation lags economic development. The EPA did not even start a study of the impact of hydraulic fracturing on water resources until oil and gas operations were well underway in most areas. Just like years ago, the regualtion of Pittsburgh area steel mills did not start in earnst until after the deaths at Donora: https://www.aiche.org/chenected/2011/10/donora-death-fog-crisis-led-modern-air-pollution-laws. The idea that injection wells might cause earthquakes was known, but it is only after some damaging earthquakes have occurred that Okalhoma is considering regulation of deep well wastewater injection.

In this case, what is now being highlighted, to the horror of homeowners and others in this region of Colorado where oil and gas operations are increasing, is that while new wells were restricted as to distance the wellheads could be from homes, and this distance has been expanding, nobody regulated pre-existing structures. http://www.denverpost.com/2017/04/30/firestone-home-explosion-drilling-setbacks/

"Colorado authorities impose no limits on how close homes can be built to existing oil and gas facilities, which include 55,000 active wells and an estimated 36,500 inactive wells that are connected to tens of thousands of miles of underground flow lines. State officials also do not regulate the construction of homes above that network of active and inactive pipelines, and they don’t always require companies to test those lines for leaks."

"Municipalities north of Denver mostly are friendly to home builders, setting few hard limits or looser limits — compared with the 500-foot setback state regulators require for companies drilling new wells. In Firestone, new houses can be built as close as 150 feet to old wells, and pre-existing flow lines can be located directly underneath houses."

Click on the well map graphic at the link above to get some idea of the density of wellheads in this area. Also consider that from any one of these wellheads, modern hydraulic fracturing techniques would allow operations to extend out as far as a mile or two in any horizontal direction, and at varying depths. Presumably all based on mineral rights.

Historically, Firestone was a small coal mining company town. Towns such as this have boomed recently as surrounding landowners realize that by annexation to such a town they can cash in on development.

These homes are some of the least expensive available in the Denver-Boulder metropolitan area and are frequently purchased by first time homebuyers.

Yes, people are alarmed.

April 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

"The burden of proof is on those who have already been harmed to prove that they were harmed. As opposed to one in which the intent is "first do no harm"."

The problem is that there are potential harms on *both* sides of the equation, but advocates and partisans only ever consider the harms on one side and require overwhelming proof of harms on the other.

Industrial development trades the potential for environmental damage against jobs, prosperity, reduced poverty, and specific products that can do everything from making people's lives happier to saving lives. The harm done by *not* going ahead with industrial development is easily quantifiable and proven. It has to be for them to get the investment to set up the business in the first place. Nobody is going to spend a few million of their own money developing a mine unless they're sure there's enough benefit to society that they can make that money back from society buying it.

But environmentalists require that we ignore these proven harms, but give absolute priority to their speculative, unproven, hypothetical ones. "Just in case."

I'm all in favour of considering the potential for environmental damage and threats to health in making these decisions, and in advance of the harms taking place But they have to be *proven*. We need to have *actual evidence* for them.

It's the demand for evidence-free decision-making that gives rise to all the arguments. As we scientists say: "Prove it."

"Back to fracking: There is almost never anyone at any of these wellheads. There is usually also no atmospheric gas emission monitoring equipment."

That's why I was asking if this was an oil well. Gas wells don't have toxic gas monitoring because they don't produce toxic gas. Methane is, as I said, odourless and non-toxic. Oil wells, on the other hand, do.

So if this is a gas well we're talking about, the gas almost certainly didn't come from there.

"And thus, other than the physical symptoms that the students and staff experienced while traced to the wellhead and addressed as a leakage there, was never documented chemically. The issue for the students was how they felt, not what they smelled, and so it may have been largely methane. But nobody really knows."

I don't believe it. A mining company just gassed a school and nobody investigated?! Nobody figured out what just happened? How was it traced to the wellhead if nobody investigated? The company wasn't interested in fixing their leaking pipework? They didn't notice the pollutants in the gas at the other end at their collection station? There's something very weird about this story!

Also, methane is non-toxic. At a high enough level it can cause asphyxiation, but the symptoms you report are entirely inconsistent with methane.

It sounds made up to me. One of those "convincing anecdotes" campaigners tell to support their case, that usually fall apart on closer examination. (Like "There was this lady who got her kid vaccinated and a week later he was diagnosed with autism...") I might be wrong, but you'll need a lot more detail to convince me.

"So in our economic system, regulation lags economic development. The EPA did not even start a study of the impact of hydraulic fracturing on water resources until oil and gas operations were well underway in most areas."

Fracking has been in use for nigh on fifty years, with no significant problems. The only new thing is the ability to drill round corners, which allowed them to recover gas from tight formations by drilling just one long hole vertically and then lots of holes sideways, making a wider range of deposits economic. The only differences from a conventional gas well (which we've had operating for even longer) all go on half a mile or more down, where they're not going to make any difference to anything going on at the surface. It's just a gas well.

People only started protesting about it when they realised it was going to muck up their climate change arguments. Instead of switching to uneconomic renewables, the energy industry could instead economically switch to gas and reduce CO2 emissions at the same time. (Terrible!) It's an artificial scare story ginned up as part of a political campaign. Impressively effective, though.

""Colorado authorities impose no limits on how close homes can be built to existing oil and gas facilities, which include 55,000 active wells and an estimated 36,500 inactive wells that are connected to tens of thousands of miles of underground flow lines. State officials also do not regulate the construction of homes above that network of active and inactive pipelines, and they don’t always require companies to test those lines for leaks.""

Yes. For the same reason they don't impose any of those restrictions on the consumer gas delivery system - which pipes the exact same gas directly *into* every house!

To object to one and not the other is insane. And to object to gas being supplied to people's houses through pipes would just get you laughed at. State officials don't regulate it for good reason.

"Historically, Firestone was a small coal mining company town. Towns such as this have boomed recently as surrounding landowners realize that by annexation to such a town they can cash in on development."

Ah! Local people getting rich. I can see how that would be alarming.

"These homes are some of the least expensive available in the Denver-Boulder metropolitan area and are frequently purchased by first time homebuyers."

So the people in them can sell them for more money, and as richer people move in, they move out of some other area where prices will drop as a consequence.

There's still the same number of people, the same number of houses for them to live in. The market adjusts prices to distribute the most desirable to those who can afford them. If one set of houses becomes more desirable, without reducing the desirability of any houses elsewhere, then the average desirability has to rise. But with no change in numbers, there is no additional shortage of supply over demand, so average prices will remain the same. Everyone benefits.

And that's really bad news for the anti-fracking campaigners, who find themselves opposed to the interests of the poorest local communities, who would otherwise welcome the economic windfall. "First do no harm" doesn't apply to them.

April 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

NiV, natura gas does NOT come out of the ground as pure methane. I couldn't find an easily accessible listing for Colorado, but here is one for Western Canada: https://www.uniongas.com/about-us/about-natural-gas/chemical-composition-of-natural-gas.

While there is some coal bed generated methane in the region, the hydraulic fracturing is done into oil and gas bearing sandstone and shale formations, and what is produced can be a complex mixture of oil, gas and water. The need to dispose of the hydrocarbon, salt and sometimes radionuclide containing produced water is the reason for the injection wells that have been identified as causing earthquakes. In some situations, particularly in remote areas, the natural gas is frequently not collected, and simply flared off. In eastern Colorado, wells are drilled in to the Wattenberg, Pierre and Niobarra formations. See for example; https://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2011/1175/pdf/OF11-1175.pdf.

As I've explained to you in previous comments on this blog, technological advancements in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling make these processes much more extensive large scale industrialized undertaking than those employed in years past. The newest installations going in in Eastern Colorado have as many as 40 wells per drilling site. Hailburton claims that they can run horizontally up to 12,000 ft: http://www.halliburton.com/public/common/Case_Histories/H08944.pdf. This, of course, is supposed to be limited by mineral rights. The other new issue here is the proximity of so many homes, schools and businesses to these operations. Older wells may or may not have been sealed, but such sealing would not have been done with the expectation of either future hydraulic drilling or housing developments.

The household service gas lines running to residential homes are (hopefully) well sealed. They also contain odorants, commonly the mercaptan 2-Propanethiol, the smell of which serves as a safety warning. Frequently, this too could use better regulation: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-pge-san-bruno-pipeline-blast-20160809-snap-story.html. Yes, these pipelines should be leak tested! And no, homes are not supposed to be built on top of the lines.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Commission is currently attempting soil monitoring in the area of the house explosion: http://denver.cbslocal.com/2017/04/27/firestone-home-explosion-gas-wells/. It would have been possible, of course to do so before homes were built in the area. But also, circumstances may have changed if there turned out to be any pressurized interconnections between current hydraulic fracturing activities and old wells and lines.

Regulations would have been able to prevent home from being built over old gas wells and feeder lines in the first place. "The market" will only resolve this at the expense of current homeowners who may lose their investments, or perhaps even their health or their lives.

The landowners are already rich: http://www.denverpost.com/2011/03/05/colorado-tax-break-intended-for-struggling-farmers-enriches-developers-investors/

April 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

NiV: Here's a new example of transparency driven actual free market capitalism! As of this morning the local newspapers, the Denver Post, Boulder Daily Camera and Longmont Times Call (which are owned by the same entity anyway) are running a link to a Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission website on which any local address can be entered to determine nearby wells: http://www.denverpost.com/2017/05/01/oil-gas-wells-colorado-map/.

From a public policy point of view, I think that this is a political sea change that will catalize a sudden increase in awareness. For example, a legislative proposal to change the limits on how far away from public schools drilling can occur tabled into presumed oblivion just last week, is likely to be revived.

The Greeley Tribune does not seem to have that map up as of yet, but is running a column analogous to a crime report listing providing recent oil spill information: http://www.greeleytribune.com/news/local/weld-county-oil-and-gas-spill-report-for-may-1/. The Tribune also has an article from 30 years ago showing explosions are nothing new: http://www.greeleytribune.com/news/local/public-interest-in-colorado-oil-and-gas-safety-nothing-new-in-wake-of-1984-lasalle-lumber-yard-explosion/. In investigations then, even when "Officials removed a slab of concrete from the Wickes basement. A fountain of water and gas shot 4 feet into the air. Officials said the water came from an unknown, abandoned water well. ". This was never definitively attributed to the change in subterranean pressures from hydraulic fracturing. Such uncertainty may also be the case for the recent house explosion. There is no reasonable way to investigate all of the potential cracks and crevices underground that may serve as conduits.

Science doesn't work on the same framework needed to provide a legalistic absolutely beyond a shadow of a doubt guilty verdict.

But reliable predictions can still be made, and precautionary principles still can apply.

May 1, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

"NiV, natura gas does NOT come out of the ground as pure methane. I couldn't find an easily accessible listing for Colorado, but here is one for Western Canada"

An excellent counterpoint! 95% methane isn't 100% methane. Thank you!

Now, let's see if it rescues the argument.

Toxicity for ethane: https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/a?dbs+hsdb:@term+@DOCNO+941
"From a toxicologic standpoint, methane and ethane are of low anesthetic potency and are practically inert; however, at very high concentrations, they act as a simple asphyxiant and can cause suffocation by displacement of oxygen from breathing atmosphere, below the critical level of 16% oxygen that is required to sustain life."

So, not that.

Toxicity for propane: https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/a?dbs+hsdb:@term+@DOCNO+1672
"Human exposures to propane were consistent with the model predictions for /central nervous system depression/ onset and speed of action. Humans exposed at 1,000 ppm (0.1%) propane for 10 minutes did not experience any CNS symptoms, while those exposed at 100,000 ppm (10%) experienced distinct vertigo in 2 minutes. These data indicated that the onset of /CNS depression/ for propane exposures occurred at a concentration between 1,000 and 100,000 ppm (eg, possibly at 47,000 ppm as predicted by the model) and occurs quickly (under 15 minutes)."

So, they predict about 4.7% can make you dizzy. The listed maximum value of 1.5% (if you breath it straight out of the pipe) is conceivable, but you would only need a 10-fold dilution to put it below the level of any detectable effect.

Toxicity for butane: https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/a?dbs+hsdb:@term+@DOCNO+944
"A 10-minute exposure at 10,000 ppm (1%) butane gas results in drowsiness, but no other evidence of systemic effects."

So 1% for observable effects is considerably above the peak values 0.3%. Again, 10-fold dilution would put it way below.

And so on. You can look up the rest for yourself. None of them, you'll note , report coughing and watering eyes as symptoms, which indicate an irritant of some sort, not an anesthetic.

At the top end of the "typical range" for any of these gases, they're still below the level at which toxic effects are expected, even if you breath the gas straight out of the pipe. Presumably your theory, therefore, is that the gas coming up the well was extraordinarily rich in one of these higher MW alkanes (100%?), that simultaneously there was a major leak allowing a huge amount of this gas to escape. And simultaneously the atmospheric conditions were such that this plume of gas stayed concentrated as it drifted downwind to cover the entire school. If we're talking about a volume 100m x 100 m x 10 m (which would be a fairly minimal plume to cover an athletic field), that's 100,000 cubic metres of air, a 10-fold dilution (about as far as you can go before even the pure gas would be at or below the toxic level) would require 10,000 cubic metres or 270,000 cubic feet of gas, worth about $900.

That's quite a lot of money to be losing and not notice.

So, they got a pulse of a completely different gas, which broke the pipe open entirely, the escaped gas pooled in a concentrated mass, and gassed a school. But nobody investigated sufficiently to even figure out what gas it actually was, and from the reported symptoms wasn't one of the gases normally found in natural gas well. Hmm. Do you believe all that?

"As I've explained to you in previous comments on this blog, technological advancements in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling make these processes much more extensive large scale industrialized undertaking than those employed in years past."

But not as extensive as the consumer gas delivery system, yes?

"The household service gas lines running to residential homes are (hopefully) well sealed."

Isn't that true of all of them?

"And no, homes are not supposed to be built on top of the lines."

How does the gas get into the house's heating system, then?

"From a public policy point of view, I think that this is a political sea change that will catalize a sudden increase in awareness."

Excellent idea! I think I'll set up a Feng Shui Map website on the same basis. I'm sure that will raise public awareness of the health dangers of a lack of woodland to the east of your house...

But seriously, that's the way to do it. Provide data to feed the argument.

"This was never definitively attributed to the change in subterranean pressures from hydraulic fracturing."

Classic!

The autism was never definitively attributed to the vaccination, but if we mention them in close conjunction with one another, people will draw their own conclusions.

--
I think it's clear by now that arguing about the facts of the cases isn't going to resolve our differences of interpretation. I think it's a question of different requirements for the level of evidence needed - what Dan once described as "*Can* I believe this?" versus "*Must* I believe this?"

So, there's a report of a school being gassed, and associated with a nearby gas well. There's not a lot of detail. We don't know what gas, or what volume, or what wind/weather conditions, but in a "Can I believe this?" frame of mind we don't even think about that. None of the details we *do* have trigger any major conflicts. It's something we find a priori plausible and comfortable. We conclude it's probably true, and therefore that the evidence we've seen is sufficient logical support for it.

Somebody in a "Must I believe this?" frame of mind finds the initial assertion conflicts with what they already know, and that the claim is implausible. They start looking for "the trick", that has somehow made a false claim believable to the person making the claim. Where are the gaps? What additional necessary details of events leading up to it can we fill in? What predictions can we check? What previously known facts can it be connected to?

Of course, once we find a few facts and connections to cast doubt on the claim, we're back into "Can I believe this?" territory. So I know that natural gas is fairly pure methane with very little of the sulphur compounds that are the most likely candidate for such symptoms, and that's sufficient for me to answer the question "*Can* I believe that the claim is shown to be invalid because it doesn't contain the right sort of gas?" with a "yes".

You, of course, asking "Must I believe this?" about my counter immediately note that I haven't excluded minor contaminants as a possible cause, and produce a valid objection. But then you didn't follow up by checking the toxicity data, or trying to figure out concentrations and volumes and so on to make this possible. "Can I believe that the 'methane is non-toxic' argument has been refuted by the presence of additional gases?" Yes.

And so on. I'm sure we could do this all week. We'd both learn a lot about gas wells and toxicity calculations, and probably *never* come to an agreement. But we'd both have a far better and more detailed understanding of what the argument for our own position actually is.

As Mill put it:

,blockquote>The loss of so important an aid to the intelligent and living apprehension of a truth, as is afforded by the necessity of explaining it to, or defending it against, opponents, though not sufficient to outweigh, is no trifling drawback from, the benefit of its universal recognition. Where this advantage can no longer be had, I confess I should like to see the teachers of mankind endeavouring to provide a substitute for it; some contrivance for making the difficulties of the question as present to the learner's consciousness, as if they were pressed upon him by a dissentient champion, eager for his conversion.

That's what the systematic scepticism and adversarial challenge of the scientific method is all about. It forces us to fill in the gaps in our own arguments, and is the immune system by which we weed out errors and misunderstandings from the body of scientific knowledge.

So once again it's been interesting discussing this with you. Thank you.

May 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

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