Professor gives community lecture on fracking


Rachel Wang

Members of Meadville Senior Center listen to Ronald Cole giving a lecture on hydraulic fracturing.

Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is an industrial technique that fractures the earth and rock with a hydraulic liquid. It is widely applied in Northwestern Pennsylvania to collect gas and oil, and it impacts people’s lives in various ways, thus raising the public awareness of fracking.
On Sept. 30, Meadville Senior Center and Active Aging, invited Ronald Cole, professor of geology at Allegheny College, to give a lecture on hydraulic fracturing and shell gas.

According to Krista Geer, the Executive Director of the Meadville Senior Center, the center gained a grant from the state to conduct a lifelong learning institute that works with Allegheny College to provide a series of free, non-credit classes to seniors in the community. Recently, members of the Senior Center have expressed interest in learning about hydraulic fracturing, which fits the academic focus of Professor Cole.

As a professor in the geology department, Cole has been giving lectures on hydraulic fracturing and shale gas for years. Almost a year ago, he started turning these academic lectures into a public, broader lecture series, first as a part of Bousson Advisory Group Information Session.

“I think there is a lot of misconceptions about the whole process of hydraulic fracturing, and about what we should be concerned with”, said Cole, at the beginning of the lecture. “And that’s what we are all sharing today, about where we should focus our intention on, in terms of some of the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing.”

During the lecture, Professor Cole helped seniors to understand hydraulic fracturing through talking about basic background of deep shale gas drilling, and its impacts on water resources and earthquakes.

Afterwards, he led a discussion among the seniors focused on the risks of developing different kinds of energy, including alternatives like solar and wind, and how to use resources in a sustainable way concerning the future of shale gas.

“We should talk about the environment. We should all be concerned about what we are doing to the environment”, said Bertha Mesarch, a senior volunteer of Crawford County Senior Environmental Core. She helps test the quality and pollution of French Creek, and has been informed about fracking’s impacts for the waterway.

“We’ve had speakers talking about fracking before, but he is a promoter of this activity,” said Mesarch. “But today’s lecture is more about educating us about the geology of fracking in our area. We need to be educated because there is a lot of fear out there, and we were concerned that there would be a lot of pollution when fracking wells were being drilled.”

“Our minds have been set already, but we should educate the younger generation and get them involved,” said Mesarch, at the end of the discussion.
Lorri Drumm, an untraditional student in her third year at Allegheny College, is volunteering at Senior Center to help with a lifelong learning institute.

“It is a way to offer something new to seniors and to keep them learning, being active and engaged. And I think the staff and professors really enjoy spending their time talking about what they teach,” said Drumm.

Cole was highly impressed by this experience.

“The discussion was outstanding. There were great questions and dynamics. The audience really had some interests on this topic,” he commented.