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The Striking Challenge of Fracking: Who Does it Benefit and Who Gets Hurt

Two experts on fracking debate the controversial topic with strong — and sometimes opposing — points of view as part of a new collaborative media project .

Fracking is now a flashpoint in debates about climate change, energy policy, and inequality.

AlterNet has partnered with the Nathan Cummings Foundation to produce Summits on Tenth, a new video series featuring conversations that challenge conventional thinking on the issues you care about. In our second installment, “The Striking Challenge of Fracking: Who Does it Benefit and Who Gets Hurt?” Michael Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute and Kate Sinding of the Natural Resources Defense Council present strong — and sometimes opposing — points of view on this complicated topic.

Find out what fracking looks like to people from different vantage points and learn about the trade-offs, the dangers, and the future of fracking.

You can watch the highlights of the debate or the full debate below, plus read a series of mini op-eds from diverse thinkers who respond to the debate. You can also read the full transcript of the debate here.

Watch the highlights of the debate:

Here's the full program:


Read responses to the debate:

Phil Radford, Executive Director of Greenpeace

Natural gas is a false hope fuel that is too risky, expensive, and the American people don’t need it--the Fossil Fuel industry of the past, like ExxonMobil and Chesapeake Energy, does.   

Natural gas has increased in price by  60% this year  compared to this time last year, so the promise of cheap gas was a false promise that will only lock America into another dirty fossil fuel. The American Gas Association says itself that if you want to get fracked gas from places like Ohio you’re paying a price that is more than you pay for solar and wind. Even markets are projecting that natural gas will be cost effective for electricity production. Wind is the cheapest form of new electricity, making up  over 9%  of TX’s energy mix, and counting, and 25% of  Iowa’s. And I’m one of thousands of people across the country who just put solar on my home, and I’m saving 30% on my electric bill. The fracked natural gas supply is  now outstripping demand  in the US, which is why companies want to export it, but exporting liquified natural gas means more drilling which means more fracking, more air and water pollution, and more unnatural weather disasters. It’s the fossil fuel cycle we must avoid.  

All new electricity generating capacity in the United States in January 2013 was  renewable energy sources . Renewables were  49% of all new electricity last year.  Farmers in Kansas and electricians in North Carolina know that these jobs are real, and they’re here now. This is a way to save the family farm.

We need an energy revolution now.  The barriers to clean energy are political, not practical.  Once the natural gas boom is officially over, it will no longer be the cheap solution to other fossil fuel pollution energy companies claim it is.  We can already see natural gas prices leaping upwards, and that will only continue as the price of extraction, storage, and transport continues to rise.


Jonathan Cedar,  Chief Executive Officer of BioLite

In the recent Summits on Tenth debate, Kate Sinding condemns fracking by first acknowledging that natural gas is cleaner than coal, but then stating that “better is not good enough.” While I agree with Ms. Sinding that a new generation of CO2 neutral technologies is needed to replace fossil fuels, we should not let our pursuit of the ideal interrupt the practical, implementable, affordable steps available today to minimize CO2 emissions and slow our rapid pace of climate disruption. 

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