From The Colorado Independent's Troy Hooper:

ASPEN — After an Oxford-style debate Sunday night, environmental attorneys Deborah Goldberg and Katherine Hudson convinced 15 percent of the audience here to change their minds about hydraulic fracturing. Before the debate, only 38 percent of the audience agreed that the detriments of hydraulic fracturing are greater than its benefits but afterward, 53 percent agreed fracking does more harm than good.

“There are hundreds of millions of dollars being spent to ensure that this industry can continue to operate without the science and without the protections we need — $320 million spent on lobbying the federal government in just two years,” Goldberg said. “As a result, what we are hearing now is not how we’re going to end our addiction to fossil fuels, but instead, a hundred years of gas. Now, a hundred years of gas is based on extracting every molecule of gas from all of our reserves, even those that we haven’t actually discovered yet, when it is well known that only about 10 percent of those reserves tend to be economically feasible to develop.”

On the other side of the debate were New York Times op-ed columnist Joe Nocera and former U.S. Department of Energy assistant secretary of policy Sue Tierney.

“Think about a world where you don’t have to worry about cartels, you don’t have to worry about being dependent on our enemies for oil, a world where foreign policy is not dictated by our need for oil,” Nocera said. “The ability of the United States to have its own resource once again in a way that we never thought we were going to is a tremendous gift that’s been handed to us, and fracking is the way that we’re taking advantage of it.”

The debate, hosted by Intelligence Squared at the Aspen Ideas Festival, tapped into the controversial practice of fracking, in which millions of gallons of water, along with sand and chemicals, are pumped thousands of feet into the ground, under high pressure, to break up rock to release oil and gas. One byproduct of fracking, methane gas, is often released into the air and it can even pollute drinking water. Studies show there is an increased risk of cancer and other maladies for residents in gas-land areas.

“One, there will always be accidents, spills, mechanical failures, and human error,” said Hudson. “Two, the gas industry has consistently fought enforceable rules and there is insufficient state and federal staff to ensure compliance with what rules do exist. Three, the idea that the industry as a whole will comply with voluntary best practices — as I think our opponents have acknowledged — in the face of falling gas prices, is unlikely. Given the continued risk of harm and all of fracking’s costs weighed against its limited benefits for most, it is beyond dispute that the natural gas boom is doing more harm than good.”

Tierney and Hudson called for a balanced energy outlook, one that embraces the promise of natural gas, which is abundant in the United States and burns more cleanly than traditional coal production. Natural gas is also more affordable than many fuels and viewed as “a bridge fuel” to renewables, they said.

“What I really wish is that people would stop demonizing this fuel, because it makes it impossible to find sensible solutions in the middle,” she said. “There are sensible solutions in the middle. We should be working on enabling those to develop over time. Our main argument is that the two principal sources of energy in the United States, coal and oil, are much more damaging to the environment than is natural gas, and that’s for the communities where those are used as well as to the nation as a whole.”

The debate is being broadcast this month on National Public Radio, and it will be telecast on WNET on July 18, the same day as a celebrity-driven protest is planned in Washington, D.C., called “Stop the Frack Attack.” The event will have three demands for Congress: stop dangerous fracking, close seven legal loopholes that exempt the oil and gas industry from parts of the Safe Drinking Water, Clean Air, and Clean Water Acts, and implement a pathway toward 100 percent clean renewable energy. The event will include Mark Ruffalo, Pete Seeger, Lois Gibbs, Bill McKibben, Ed Begley Jr., Ed Asner, Josh Fox, Gus Speth, Cornel West, Vandana Shiva, Holly Near, James Hansen, Dar Williams, Michael Kieschnick, Joe Uehlein, Margot Kidder and over 100 organizations and community groups.

Big and small governments across the country are grappling with ways to best regulate fracking, including North Carolina where on Monday night a state representative mistakenly cast the wrong vote. Democrat Becky Carney accidentally pushed the green button when she meant to hit the red one. It was the deciding House vote and it ultimately meant that North Carolina will have to wait until it establishes rules for hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling for oil and gas exploration.

“Oh my gosh. I pushed green,” she reportedly said, blaming her gaffe on fatigue.

“I feel rotten, and I feel tired,” she added.

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  • In this file photo from Oct. 14, 2011, a drilling rig is seen in Springville, Pa. State regulators blamed faulty gas wells drilled for leaking methane into the groundwater in nearby Dimock, Pa. It was the first serious case of methane migration said to be related to the Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale gas field drilling boom. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, FILE)

  • British police secure the area where demonstrators erected a mock fracking rig with a banner reading 'No fracking in the UK' in a protest against hydraulic fracturing for shale gas outside the Houses of Parliament in London on December 1, 2012. AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS

  • SPRINGVILLE, PA - JANUARY 18: A truck with the natural gas industry, one of thousands that pass through the area daily, drives through the countryside to a hydraulic fracturing site on January 18, 2012 in Springville, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

  • SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 30: Protestors stage a demonstration against fracking in California outside of the Hiram W. Johnson State Office Building on May 30, 2013 in San Francisco, California. Dozens of protesters with the group Californians Against Fracking staged a protest outside of California Gov. Jerry Brown's San Francisco offices demanding that Gov. Brown ban fracking in the state. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

  • People demonstrate on August 3, 2013 in La Petite Brosse, near Jouarre, outside Paris, to protest against an exploratory oil shale drilling, considering that it opens the door to the exploration of shale gas in the Parisian Basin. Banner reads 'Stop gas and oil shale'. AFP PHOTO / PIERRE ANDRIEU

  • In this Nov. 26, 2012 photo, Steve Lipsky demonstrates how his well water ignites when he puts a flame to the flowing well spigot outside his family's home in rural Parker County near Weatherford, Texas. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had evidence a gas company's drilling operation contaminated Lipsky's drinking water with explosive methane, and possibly cancer-causing chemicals, but withdrew its enforcement action, leaving the family with no useable water supply, according to a report obtained by The Associated Press. The EPA's decision to roll back its initial claim that hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” operations had contaminated the water is the latest case in which the federal agency initially linked drilling to water contamination and then softened its position, drawing criticism from Republicans and industry officials who insisted they proved the agency was inefficient and too quick to draw conclusions. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

  • In this file photo of Jan. 17, 2013, Yoko Ono, left, and her son Sean Lennon visit a fracking site in Franklin Forks, Pa., during a bus tour of natural-gas drilling sites in northeastern Pennsylvania. Ono and Lennon have formed a group called “Artists Against Fracking,” which has become the main celebrity driven anti-fracking organization. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

  • In this March 29, 2013 file photo, a worker checks a dipstick to check water levels and temperatures in a series of tanks at a hydraulic fracturing operation at a gas drilling site outside Rifle, Colorado. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

  • In this March 29, 2013 file photo, a worker switches well heads during a short pause in the water pumping phase, at the site of a natural gas hydraulic fracturing and extraction operation outside Rifle, in western Colorado. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

  • In this March 29, 2013 file photo, workers tend to a well head during a hydraulic fracturing operation at a gas well outside Rifle, in western Colorado. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

  • Josh Fox, director of the anti-fracking, Oscar-nominated documentary “Gasland” testifies during a House Committee hearing on oil drilling, "fracking" legislation at the Illinois State Capitol Tuesday, May 21, 2013, in Springfield, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

  • This is a Thursday Aug. 15, 2013 image of the Cuadrilla exploration drilling site in Balcombe, southeast England. (AP Photo/Gareth Fuller/PA)

  • A child plays near a farmers' protest in an area where oil company Chevron plans to put a drilling rig exploring for shale gas in the south-eastern Polish village of Zurawlow on June 11, 2013. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI

  • Protesters hold a banner during a protest outside of the Momentive resin plant, Monday, July 8, 2013, in Morganton, N.C. Dozens of environmental activists blocked a chemical plant Monday to protest against the company's sale of products used in the natural gas drilling process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. (AP Photo/The News Herald, Mary Elizabeth Robertson)

  • A fracking rig exploring for shale gas of oil company Chevron on June 11, 2013 in a village of Ksiezomierz in south-eastern Poland. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI

  • People demonstrate on August 3, 2013 in La Petite Brosse, near Jouarre, outside Paris, to protest against an exploratory oil shale drilling, considering that it opens the door to the exploration of shale gas in the Parisian Basin. AFP PHOTO / PIERRE ANDRIEU

  • Opponents of hydraulic fracturing in New York state attend a news conference and rally against hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, on January 11, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

  • Eric Weltman of Food & Water Watch attends a news conference and rally against hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, in New York State on January 11, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

  • Opponents and supporters of gas-drilling, or fracking, walk into the last of four public hearings on proposed fracking regulations in upstate New York on November 30, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

  • Engineers on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

  • Engineers at work on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

  • General views of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

  • Engineers look at the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

  • A lump of shale rock on display at the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

  • Engineers on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

  • Engineers at work on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

  • Drill heads on display at the entrance to the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

  • An engineer displays a lump of shale rock at the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

  • Actor/director Mark Ruffalo (C) speaks at the Hydraulic Fracturing prevention press conference urging the protection of the drinking water source of 15 million Americans at Foley Square on April 25, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images)

  • (L-R) Actor/director Mark Ruffalo, Denise Katzman, Wenonah Hauter, and Water Defense co-founder/campaign director Claire Sandberg attend the Hydraulic Fracturing prevention press conference urging the protection of the drinking water source of 15 million Americans at Foley Square on April 25, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images)