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Center for Policy Studies

Public Affairs Discussion Group

Environmental Dimensions of Fracking

Matthew Sobel, Ph.D. - William E. Umstattd Professor of Industrial Economics, Professor of Operations, and Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Case Western Reserve University
Friday March 23, 2012
12:30-1:30 p.m.
Dampeer Room
Kelvin Smith Library
Case Western Reserve University

Dear Colleagues:

What do we know and what should we think about the environmental risks of fracking?

Natural gas provides a quarter of the country’s total energy. An advisory board to the Secretary of Energy reports that,

“owing to breakthroughs in technology, production from shale formations has gone from a negligible amount just a few years ago to being almost 30 percent of total U.S. natural gas production. This has brought lower prices, domestic jobs, and the prospect of enhanced national security due to the potential of substantial production growth. But the growth has also brought questions about whether both current and future production can be done in an environmentally sound fashion that meets the needs of public trust.”

The “breakthroughs” involve “fracking,” and to say there are “questions” puts it lightly. A raging debate about environmental consequences is matched by an industry-led campaign to diminish concern by claiming there will be massive economic benefits both for the nation and for the areas where fracking occurs, such as Ohio.

The debate is fueled by many reasons for distrust. A great deal isn’t known about both effects and best practices, yet fracking has been adopted widely without waiting for that information. In the 2005 Energy Policy Act, Congress and the Bush Administration agreed to prohibit the EPA from regulating fracking under the Safe Water Act. Among other things, this allowed companies to avoid disclosing the components of the fluids used for fracking, which raises suspicion for obvious reason. One ingredient at least sometimes is diesel fuel, and EPA did have concerns about its use. The EPA therefore negotiated a “Memorandum of Understanding” with major companies that they would not use diesel fuel, and that appears to have been ignored.

These uncertainties are not limited to the United States. The French have banned fracking, but other major nations have not. At the same time, the Department of Energy report “shares the prevailing view that the risk of fracturing fluid leakage into drinking water from fractures made in deep shale reservoirs is remote.” Versions of fracking have been used in drilling “many of the nearly 270,000 oil and natural gas wells drilled in the West since 1980.” One might think negative consequences would have been clear by now.

We discussed policies to pay for negative externalities of fracking on February 3. This coming Friday we will look more closely at the evidence about what those effects might be. As you will see in the biosketch below, very few people have as superb a background to discuss these issues as Professor Matthew J. Sobel. It should be a very informative discussion.

Very best regards,
Joe White
Luxenberg Family Professor of Public Policy and Director, Center for Policy Studies

About Our Guest...

Matthew J. Sobel is William E. Umstattd Professor at Case Western Reserve University where he is in the Department of Operations in the Weatherhead School of Management (which he chaired) and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (by courtesy). Before he joined the Case faculty in 1998, he was on the faculties of the State University of New York at Stony Brook (where he was the dean of the Harriman School for Management and Policy), Georgia Institute of Technology, and Yale University. His research concerns environmental and energy management, coordination of operations and finance, preference theory and its applications, and optimization of large-scale stochastic dynamic models. He teaches sustainable operations management, operations research, and statistics. He is an INFORMS Fellow, shared the Lead Award of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, and was on the Academic Advisory Board of the Central European University. He was educated at Columbia and Stanford Universities.

He did water quality planning in the Division of Water Supply and Pollution of the U.S. Public Health Service, an agency that became part of EPA when it was created. That work became standard fare globally in planning environmental quality improvement. Since then he has tithed a portion of his research efforts to ecology and environmental and energy management. One result was his work with D. B. Botkin on the stability of ecosystems, regarded as heretical at the time it was done, that is now generally accepted. He is working with David Zeng, chair of Case’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, on a shale gas research project funded by Case’s Great Lakes Energy Institute: “Evaluation of Long-Term Environmental, Economic, and Social Impacts of Fracking Technology.”

Where We Meet

The Friday Public Affairs Lunch convene each Friday when classes are in session in the Dampeer Room of Kelvin Smith Library from 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm. The Dampeer Room is on the second floor of the library. If you get off the elevators, turn right, pass the first bank of tables, and turn right again. Occasionally we need to use a different room; that will always be announced in the weekly e-mails.

Parking Possibilities

The most convenient parking is the lot underneath Severance Hall. We regret that it is not free. From that lot there is an elevator up to street level (labeled as for the Thwing Center); it is less than 50 yards from that exit to the library entrance. You can get from the Severance garage to the library without going outside. Near the entry gates - just to the right if you were driving out - there is a door into a corridor. Walk down the corridor and there will be another door. Beyond that door you'll find the entrance to an elevator which goes up to an entrance right inside the doors to Kelvin Smith Library.

Friday Lunch Upcoming Topics and Speakers:

March 30: Just Do It or Just Say No? The Politics of Sex Education. Mark Carl Rom, Associate Professor of Government and Public Policy, Georgetown University

April 6: Election 2012: Twenty Years After the "Year of the Woman." Karen Beckwith, Flora Stone Mather Professor of Political Science

April 13: Russia’s Presidential Election. Andrew Barnes, Associate Professor of Political Science, Kent State University

April 20: TBA

April 27: Obama and Alinsky, or: What Happens When a President Thinks Like a Community Organizer. Justin Vaughn, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Cleveland State University
March 19, 2012

If you would like to reply, submit items for inclusion, or not receive this weekly e-mail please send a notice to: padg@case.edu

Upcoming Events

Documentary screening, panel discussion on Iran’s education policies to be held March 22

Join the Social Justice Institute, The Baha’i Communities of Greater Cleveland, Amnesty International and the Inamori Center for Ethics and Excellence for a screening of the documentary Education Under Fire. The film, produced by Social Justice Institute Director Rhonda Y. Williams, documents a 30-year policy in Iran that denies members of its Baha’i community the right to attend any institution. A panel discussion will follow. The screening and panel will be held March 22 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Strosacker Auditorium.

Going Out (zou chuqu) and Arrival In (desembarco): China, Latin America, and Contemporary Globalization

Julia Strauss, Senior Lecturer in Chinese Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London, Monday March 26, 2012, 4:30-6pm, Room 309, Clark Hall, Case Western Reserve University. Free and Open to the Public. Sponsored by the Center for Policy Studies at Case Western Reserve University with the generous support of Ms. Eloise Briskin.

One aspect of the "Rise of China" that is causing anxiety among foreign policy specialists and other people looking for something to be anxious about involves China's developing relations in what used to be called the third world. As part of China's "rise," its state and businesses have become increasingly involved in both commercial and development activities. There is a lot of speculation about whether China is challenging the existing norms of international economics and politics. Dr. Strauss co-edited a special issue of The China Quarterly about China and Africa, and she and colleagues will be publishing an issue about China and Latin America in March. Her talk will focus on how the Chinese think about their engagement in Latin America, and in particular differences in how Chinese actors are engaging with small countries like Peru, as compared to another "rising" state and economy, Brazil.

Dr. Strauss served as editor of The China Quarterly, the premier academic journal about China, from 2002 - 2011. She brings to her currrent work not only deep knowledge of China but close attention to how the relationship works from the other side, from Latin America.

Party and Ideology

John Zaller, Professor of Political Science at UCLA, Tuesday April 17, 2012, 4:30-6pm, Room 309, Clark Hall, Case Western Reserve University. Free and Open to the Public. Sponsored by the Center for Policy Studies at Case Western Reserve University.

March 2012







































About the Friday Lunch Newsletter

If you would like to reply, submit items for inclusion, or not receive this weekly e-mail please send a notice to: padg@case.edu.

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