Friday, January 16, 2015

Physicist on 'CBS This Morning' misstates the process of hydraulic fracturing and earthquakes

Michio Kaku, Ph.D.
Dr. Michio Kaku, who often discusses science on CBS News programs, is a brilliant physicist. But today on "CBS This Morning" he wandered off base as he discussed earthquakes and hydraulic fracturing.

Kaku, a professor at City University of New York, said there is evidence that a swarm of small earthquakes in Oklahoma is being caused by "hydraulic fracking," specifically the injection of wastewater to free gas and oil from dense, deep shales.

Whoa, Professor. Yes, fracking does involve the injection of wastewater, but not to produce oil and gas. The process injects a mixture of water, chemicals and sand, and results in wastewater that must be disposed of -- in separate injection wells, the type of wells that have been associated with quakes.

Perhaps Kaku was condensing information into the time CBS gave him, but he was also off base on a bit of geography. He said the largest quake ever in the U.S. was near New Madrid, on the border of Missouri and Tennessee. Actually, New Madrid, Mo., sits across the Mississippi River from a bit of Kentucky that is separated from the rest of the state by the bending river.

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