RealClearScience Nails Shabby Maddow Spin on Fracking and Earthquakes

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow engaging in "unscientific, selective reporting of the facts" -- no!

This is what RealClearScience's Alex Berezow is alleging in response to a Maddow segment last week linking a series of minor earthquakes in Texas to fracking in the Lone Star State. (video after page break)

"Over a span of 40 days, between June and July, north Texas was rocked by an astonishing eleven separate earthquakes," Maddow said while showing a map of fracking sites in the vicinity of quake epicenters.

Berezow describes what Maddow chose to leave out --

But a paper published in PNAS, also from the University of Texas, provided more information. Did fracking cause earthquakes? Yes, probably small ones. Maddow enthusiastically reported this. But, many injection wells (where waste water was injected) did not have any earthquakes at all. The author hypothesizes that earthquakes can only occur if there is a suitable fault nearby. Did Maddow report that? No, of course not.

It's also worth noting that geothermal energy -- a green source endorsed by many environmentalists -- also causes earthquakes. One such project in Basel, Switzerland was shut down because of them. Did Maddow mention that? No.

Berezow concludes that Maddow's analysis is "nothing more than a biased, one-sided presentation of a serious science policy issue." This is unfortunate, he writes, because she "likes to present herself as scientifically-minded. But presenting only the facts that support your case, instead of all the facts, isn't what a scientist does -- it's what a partisan does."

Berezow included a clip of entire Maddow segment in his post. In the clip I've embedded here, Maddow's claims are undercut by the sources she cites --

A 3.7-magnitude earthquake in east Texas, sort of unheard of. The Timpson City secretary told a local news station that she initially thought a nearby train had derailed. She said it 'shook the whole city hall' for about 15 to 20 seconds. Even the experts couldn't seem to figure it out. Gary Patterson of the US Geological Survey in Memphis says survey geologists are baffled by the event. He says, It's not where we normally see earthquakes in Texas.'

This was kind of a mystery, this thing in Timpson, Texas. No injuries were reported. There was some minor damage to local buildings, but a 3.7-magnitude earthquake came and went in a place where there never are earthquakes, and nobody seemed to know why.

But the expert Maddow cited didn't say the area around Timpson City "never" gets earthquakes. He said it's an area that "normally" isn't hit by earthquakes. Not an earth-shattering lie on Maddow's part but a chasm you would not build a foundation on.

It got better with the next source cited by Maddow --

MADDOW: Then a week later it happened again.

KLTV ANCHOR (May 17) -- For the second time in just a week and just the fourth time since 1981, an earthquake has struck in east Texas.

Where this "never" happens, at least by Maddow's reckoning, except that it does every eight years on average in recent decades. Put another way, if Obama wins re-election, we will have seen as many two-term presidencies since 1981 as earthquakes in east Texas.

Thirty-one years, not incidentally, barely qualifies as the blink of an eye in geologic time.

Jack Coleman
Liberated ex-liberal from the People's Republic of Massachusetts