State Capitol veterans loved the story coming out of Washington, D.C., on Tuesday about Gov. John Hickenlooper drinking fracking fluid because it reminded them of the time a state transportation chief swilled a mixture of magnesium chloride. The drinks were intended to show the stuff is safe.
Then-Department of Transportation director Tom Norton drank his concoction in a legislative committee in 2002 after getting complaints about the magnesium chloride sprayed on Colorado's roads to fight ice and snow.
Hickenlooper on Tuesday told a U.S. Senate committee that he swigged fracking fluid once. His admission came when he testified that states and not the federal government should lead in regulating natural gas production, a sentiment that angered environmentalists and drew applause from energy groups fighting the Environmental Protection Agency.I don't think that there are huge acute/chronic human toxicity issues around hydraulic fracturing fluid -- that said, you don't see me volunteering to have a rig next to my house any time soon. I believe that shale gas is, on balance, a positive development for our country and is having/will have good effects on US chemical manufacturing.*
Drinking a glass of hydraulic fracturing fluid (which is mostly water and salt with some various other things (polyols, I'm guessing)) doesn't really demonstrate anything other than a lack of acute toxicity -- presumably, that's not really the issue that people care about. I believe that chemophobia is mostly based on concern about long-term health effects, not short-term ones. (i.e. my couch will give me cancer in twenty years, not that it is killing me right now.) So, nice try, Gov. Hickenlooper, but I don't think folks are buying it.
Readers, what's the best demonstration of non-toxicity that you've seen?
*Let me go on the record: I think hydraulic fracturing is good news, and like most resource extraction issues in the United States, there will be hard-working men and women in this country who will exploit those resources to the very, very fullest. That's the story of our country, from the coal mines of West Virginia on west, good, bad and ugly. I don't believe very many of the acute/chronic toxicity issues that arise around hydraulic fracturing fluid (especially in the popular press), but I don't think that they've been studied particularly well. We could always use more research.