Liberal outlet Think Progress criticized a black researcher Tuesday for promoting “old and racist” ideas about the effects pollution has on minority populations.
Uni Blake, a scientific adviser with an oil and gas lobby, supposedly used a racist argument to suggest that poor genetic makeup might help explain the effect pollution has on black people, according to Think Progress’s Sam Fulwood. He failed to mention that Blake is a black woman with years of experience in toxicology.
“The notion that genetic differences account for disparate health outcomes across racial and ethnic groups is an old and racist idea that has its roots in the noxious eugenics movement of the late 19th and early 20th century, when white supremacists advocated forced sterilization of humans — often people of color,” Fulwood noted.
He was referring to a piece that Blake posted on Energy Tomorrow dismissing a report from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) finding that more than 1 million black people live within a half-mile of oil and gas wells and operations, and that another 6.7 million live in counties with refineries.
“As a scientist, my overall observation is that the paper fails to demonstrate a causal relationship between natural gas activity and the health disparities, reported or predicted, within the African American community,” wrote Blake, a scientific researcher for the American Petroleum Institute.
“Rather, scholarly research attributes those health disparities to other factors that have nothing to do with natural gas and oil operations—such as genetics, indoor allergens and unequal access to preventative care,” she added. Blake also noted that the best way to address the health problems facing black people is to deal with the “socio-economic factors that contribute to the disparities.”
She included in her criticism examples where the health of black communities improved in areas where natural gas development was occurring. Data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Blake notes, shows that asthma hospitalizations among black people have decreased significantly at a time of increased natural gas production in the state.
The shift from coal to natural gas cut carbon emissions more than 2 billion metric tons in the last decade, which is about 72 percent more than emissions reduced through increased “non-fossil generation,” according to a report earlier this year from the Energy Department’s statistical arm.
Nearly 1.2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide was reduced through the “growth in non-carbon electricity generation, especially wind and solar,” but that figure also included hydropower and nuclear energy, analysts with the Energy Information Administration estimated last year.
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