On Wednesday afternoon, the USC Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics in partnership with the Schwarzenegger Institute held its second Students Talk Back of the semester. The weekly forums allow students to engage in discussion about a political issue.
This week, experts discussed policies on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the process of using high-pressure water to fracture rocks, extracting from the shale reserves underneath. The debate-like format of the discussion allowed for investigation into the issue.
The event panel consisted of students Kelsey Harrison, a senior majoring in political science, and Jake Jordan, a senior majoring in international relations (global business) and professionals Dave Quast, the California Director of Energy in Depth, a pro-petroleum think tank, and Brenna Norton, the Southern California Operator from Food & Water Watch, an anti-fracking advocate. Daniel Rothberg, an editor at the Daily Trojan, and Dan Schnur, director of the USC Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, co-moderated the debate.
Before the event, Ivan Kumamoto, a sophomore majoring in business administration, shared why he attended the forum.
“I expect to find out more about recent developments in the natural gas industry and if … environmental concerns [have] changed at all.”
The debate was not without tension.
“Hopefully, we have a legitimate level of intellectual honesty. Because a lot of the discussion on [the oil industry’s] side of the debate has, in my opinion, been false or preposterous,” Kumamoto said after learning of Quast’s affiliation with Energy in Depth.
Both sides were asked to define fracking before launching into the debate.
“I know what the oil and gas industry tells what fracking is. But, in the bigger picture, fracking has come to mean the whole process, the trucking in of thousand gallons of water, all the sand they have to move to extract from that well, all the waste water that comes up from the process, radioactive material that comes up from fracking,” Norton said.
Quast defined fracking as “the injection of fluid at depth.”
“It takes place in a heavily regulated environment in the state level. Hydraulic fracturing is not a new thing. It has been going on since the Truman administration,” he said.
Norton’s main points included environmental concerns at increased oil production, lack of regulation and contamination. She was in favor of a ban on fracking all together.
Harrison presented a study that she had helped to conduct. According to the study by USC and the Los Angeles Times, 41 percent of L.A. Democrats and 43 percent of Republicans were in favor of regulated fracking, and 14 percent were in favor of all forms of fracking.
Quast held that a ban on fracking would disrupt economies and harm the industry. He also held that fracking, as a process, is safe.
“There’s never been a single case of water contamination,” Quast said.
Alec White, a sophomore majoring political science, found the event insightful.
“I found most interesting that fracking will not contribute to the cost of gasoline at all. That puts me on the side against fracking,” White said.
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