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No Fracking Way! Industry Says Word 'Frack' Has Been Co-Opted

"It's Madison Avenue hell"

- Common Dreams staff

"Hydraulic fracturing" is more commonly known as "fracking."

During this week's State of the Union address, President Obama said:

"It was public research dollars, over the course of thirty years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock, reminding us that Government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground."

But he never said the F-word, no doubt pleasing industry lobbyists.

From the Associated Press:

“When you hear the word ‘fracking,’ what lights up your brain is the profanity,” says Deborah Mitchell, who teaches marketing at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Business. “Negative things come to mind.”

But a growing number of Americans believe the real profanity is fracking itself. Ellen Cantarow writing on Common Dreams last Monday:

Fracking uses prodigious amounts of water laced with sand and a startling menu of poisonous chemicals to blast the methane out of the shale. At hyperbaric bomb-like pressures, this technology propels five to seven million gallons of sand-and-chemical-laced water a mile or so down a well bore into the shale.

Up comes the methane -- along with about a million gallons of wastewater containing the original fracking chemicals and other substances that were also in the shale, among them radioactive elements and carcinogens. There are 400,000 such wells in the United States. Surrounded by rumbling machinery, serviced by tens of thousands of diesel trucks, this nightmare technology for energy release has turned rural areas in 34 U.S. states into toxic industrial zones.

Tonight's Associated Press report:

No Energy Industry Backing for the Word 'Fracking'

NEW YORK (AP) -- A different kind of F-word is stirring a linguistic and political debate as controversial as what it defines.

"It was created by the industry, and the industry is going to have to live with it" -- Kate Sinding, Natural Resources Defense CouncilThe word is "fracking" - as in hydraulic fracturing, a technique long used by the oil and gas industry to free oil and gas from rock.

It's not in the dictionary, the industry hates it, and President Barack Obama didn't use it in his State of the Union speech - even as he praised federal subsidies for it.

The word sounds nasty, and environmental advocates have been able to use it to generate opposition - and revulsion - to what they say is a nasty process that threatens water supplies.

"It obviously calls to mind other less socially polite terms, and folks have been able to take advantage of that," said Kate Sinding, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council who works on drilling issues.

One of the chants at an anti-drilling rally in Albany earlier this month was "No Fracking Way!"

Industry executives argue that the word is deliberately misspelled by environmental activists and that it has become a slur that should not be used by media outlets that strive for objectivity.

"It's a co-opted word and a co-opted spelling used to make it look as offensive as people can try to make it look," said Michael Kehs, vice president for Strategic Affairs at Chesapeake Energy, the nation's second-largest natural gas producer. [...]

The word does not appear in The Associated Press Stylebook, a guide for news organizations. David Minthorn, deputy standards editor at the AP, says there are tentative plans to include an entry in the 2012 edition.

He said the current standard is to avoid using the word except in direct quotes, and to instead use "hydraulic fracturing."

That won't stop activists - sometimes called "fracktivists" - from repeating the word as often as possible.

"It was created by the industry, and the industry is going to have to live with it," says the NRDC's Sinding.

Dave McCurdy, CEO of the American Gas Association, agrees, much to his dismay: "It's Madison Avenue hell," he says.

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