Flawed Fracking Research Retracted… Belatedly

What’s a team of researchers to do once they figure out their “alarming findings” aren’t so accurate? At the University of Maryland, you sit on it—for three months!

In the spring of 2017 a group of researchers released a paper that claimed there was a massive amount of methane leaking from the Marcellus Shale region. The methane leaks supposedly made fracking worse than using coal. The American Geophysical Union piled on saying the methane leaks were enough to power a city twice the size of Washington D.C.! Except, none of this was true.

Turns out the researchers made an error in wind measurements used to calculate the emissions, which reduced the methane release estimate by 50 percent! That’s not just an error. It’s a giant blunder. What else is wrong with their research methodology or the implementation of it that is skewing their findings? Nobody knows. They probably don’t know. But what I do know is that when you screw something up royally you should own up to it pretty quick, not wait three months to sheepishly correct the record.

This case is just one example of many that is eroding the public’s trust in research findings. Ok, they screwed up and admitted it. Stuff happens. But waiting three months to correct the record allowed anti-fracking activists to use their inaccurate work as a cudgel against shale producers. Media outlets lapped up the bad news about fracking and methane and the public was deceived… again.

Of course the shale gas haters will say I’m just some hack defending the industry (It’s a tick they just can’t help). No, I’m defending science. The more this sort of thing happens, the less the public will trust ANY research. That’s not good for anyone, not even the shale haters.

Power On, America

One reply on “Flawed Fracking Research Retracted… Belatedly

  • Randall Taylor

    Mark,
    I love this site. I met you through Cody Lee at one of the AAPL Director’s meetings several years ago, and have been a fan of yours since then. I bought a bunch of copies of “spOILed” and sent to many of my friends and colleagues. Keep up the good work and I will donate when I can.

    Reply

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