What do the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and anti-fracing temporary tattoos have in common? Would you believe hydraulic fracturing? The Plainview-Elgin-Millville FFA Chapter decided to study the silica sand issue during a debate competition at the 2012 Minnesota State FFA Convention, according to the June 10 issue of the Winona (Minn.) Post. Six FFA students noted that silica sand was used as a proppant in hydraulic fracturing. They were also aware that sand was being mined in the region, and this was a topic of debate in the agricultural community. The FFA members -- P.J. Aarsvold, Blake Betcher, Becky Duden, Dan Evers, Ashley Klassen, and Caroline Rother -- competed against other teams in the agricultural issues category. They picked their topic last January and have been researching silica sand mining with the help of school advisor Scott Hinrichs. The students chose to present the pros and cons of their research using real-life situations. Two students narrated the debate while the other four portrayed a local farmer, mine operator, activist and Department of Natural Resources representative. All sides of the topic were discussed. At least one judge was worked up about the issue and asked a lot of tough questions. They never did find out if he was for or against the mining, the paper reported. The team won the gold medal in the category and will compete at the national convention this fall in Indianpolis. They have the opportunity to update their information and prepare for even tougher questions at the national finals. It is great to see young people taking on a controversial topic and providing a balanced look at the issue. On the not-so-balanced side of the issue is Smock, which calls itself an eco-stationery line. The upstate New York company has chosen to print earth-friendly cards to focus on the “dangers of hydraulic fracturing.” Smock prides itself on its “Change the World” series of cards that bring attention to hot-button environmental issues. The company donates 100% of the profits from the series to environmental causes. The company worked with Earthworks on the anti-fracing card. Not only do you get a card raising awareness of the “earth-damaging” process, but you also get an anti-fracing temporary tattoo. The press release talks about the number of wells being fraced each month. It also noted, “A large percentage of the chemical-laced water that is used in this process remains in the earth, soaks into the ground, and threatens the clean water supply.” It doesn’t sound as though they actually know how the process works. Their oversimplified version leaves out a few details. Finally, if you’re interested in companies that make an environmental difference, then Shell and Travel Centers of America (TA) have taken a major step towards moving long-haul trucks away from diesel to liquefied natural gas (LNG) as the primary fuel. Under a pending agreement, Shell agreed to build more than 200 LNG fuel lanes at about 100 TA sites and Petro Stopping Centers throughout the U.S. interstate highway system. If a final agreement is reached, the first LNG fuel lanes would begin operating in 2013. The agreement marks the second such LNG-fueling move for Shell, which agreed last year to sell LNG to heavy-duty fleet customers at select Flying J truck stops in Alberta, Canada, starting in 2012. Along with Clean Energy’s proposal to build 100 LNG-fueling stations across the country, the Shell-TA agreement would provide even more infrastructure to make LNG-powered 18-wheelers a reality. The only thing that has been missing in making the move possible has been the infrastructure. That would bring cleaner air one step closer. Contact the author, Scott Weeden, at sweeden@hartenergy.com.