For as big a role as fracking plays in US energy production, the national conversation about it is sadly lacking, writes Gretchen Goldman at LiveScience. For that, blame the companies involved in the hunt for natural gas—along with inept government agencies, writes Goldman, an environmental engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists. Companies have "fended off citizens with silence," she writes. "They say little about the technological practices they use, including information about the chemicals they inject into the earth and the wastewater that comes back."
Meanwhile, state and federal agencies "have been asleep at the switch," unable to keep up with industry advances and proper regulations. All this is not to say that fracking is evil—some communities might be perfectly willing to accept higher risks for the payoff. But the point is that the entire debate needs to get better so people can make informed choices, writes Goldman. "Science is like a trusty flashlight in these contentious debates," she writes. "Let's let it illuminate our path, no matter which road we take." Click for her full column, or for a "toolkit" of information for citizens from the UCS.