Tainted 'fracking' study cited in Europe

Aug. 4, 2012 at 12:34 PM
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AUSTIN, Texas, Aug. 4 (UPI) -- A controversial report on hydraulic fracturing out of Texas has been cited increasingly in the debate over natural gas production in Eastern Europe.

The report from the University of Texas downplayed environmental concerns about "fracking," but it was recently revealed the lead author of the study was on the board of directors of a natural gas producing company.

Questions about potential bias in the report apparently have not diminished its usefulness in the politically charged discussions over whether or not to use hydraulic fracturing in European nations that are currently reliant on Russian gas imports, the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman said Saturday.

Rice University energy analyst Ken Medlock told the newspaper that easing current restrictions on fracking in nations like Bulgaria would enable those countries to produce their own gas, which would in turn reduce Russia's leverage in the region.

"That serves U.S. policy interests," Medlock said. "You take that market away from Russia, and they either have to reduce exports to Europe or change the way they're pricing the gas. That changes revenues structure, the way they approach the market and foreign policy."

The Texas Energy Institute, which issued the report, told the Statesman-American the financial interests of lead investigator Charles Groat probably should have been mentioned, but failure to do so did not mean the conclusions weren't true or would have undue influence in the European debate over fracking.

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