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Jim Letourneau's Blog

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Geologist Taury Smith Smeared

I don't know Taury Smith but I do know hundreds of working geologists with similar backgrounds. Dr. Smith has published papers on carbonate geology, he's supervised graduate students, he's consulted for a variety of oil and gas companies and he is currently employed by the New York State Museum as the Curator of Subsurface Geological Collections (I suspect this means drill core, well logs etc.).

He was recently interviewed by James Odato of the Albany Times Union where he gave his informed views on shale gas fracturing which included The worst spin on the worst incidents are treated as if it's going to be the norm here, and an optimistic view of what abundant natural gas resources provide, This could really help us fight climate change; this is a huge gift, this shale. He also commented on some of the recent media stories about shale gas, Those are exaggerated problems; each incident wasn't the result of hydro-fracking. There were incidents of groundwater contamination near frack sites, but they were unrelated.

Subsequent to Odato's article, Dr. Smith was smeared by several environmental groups. They didn't rebut his comments with any facts, they immediately went for the jugular by attacking his character. They accused him of being on the payroll of oil companies and having a biased opinion.

Here's what Dr. Burns Cheadle (Associate Professor & Bill Bell Chair in Petroleum Geology at The University of Western Ontario), who recently met Dr. Smith has to say about him:

The notion that Taury Smith is in anyone's "pocket" is absurd. I had the pleasure of meeting Taury not long ago, and he is one of the most sincere and thoughtful public servants I have had the pleasure of speaking with.

Fortunately Odato followed up on his original story this week (read A controversy for state's geologist) and  the Times Union subsequently ran an op/ed piece (A Bad Lesson in Censorship). Today, Reason's hit & run blog picked up the story. I was encouraged by the solid reporting on this story - I know the New York Times won't be providing any.

While discourse amongst scientists is not always pleasant, it rarely degrades into instantaneous personal attacks. Real scientists lose credibility when they resort to storytelling and slander to push their views, unfortunately their critics are not held to the same standards.