A team of researchers from the University of Texas at Austin will investigate the environmental effects of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking", a process used to extract natural gas from shale rock. Fracking has become a widespread practice in the United States and Texas for extracting vast reserves of domestic energy, but it is also the subject of fierce criticism from environmentalists who say it pollutes ground water and air.
"If you look at the distribution of concerns and complaints, they're pretty broad across the country," UT geology professor Chip Groat told KUT News. "Nobody has really taken a look at the whole batch of things to see what's actually going on."
Groat will lead a multidisciplinary team that includes experts in law, public policy, and communication. The Environmental Defense Fund is involved with designing the survey. The research is being funded by UT Austin's Energy Institute.
Cornell University researchers recently published a study that indicated the environmental consequences from fracking made it no more environmentally friendly than coal, even though natural gas emits fewer greenhouse gases. Researchers said it was mainly due to methane released into the atmosphere.
Here's an interesting short documentary about fracking produced by the PBS program Need To Know.