Environmentalists LOVE the word NO. They like to tell us NO, you can’t build that house or that office building or that church or that shopping center. They like to tell us NO you can’t use those aerosol cans or drive that car. They also like to tell us NO, you can’t throw your soda can in THAT trash can. All of their demands have one common theme: making our lives — and the practice of capitalism — more expensive and challenging.
Now, the environmentalists are hollering about a practice called ‘fracking.’ (Until this recent news, my only exposure to the term ‘fracking’ was an epithet frequently used in the Battlestar Galactica TV shows. I know — I’m a nerd.)
For non-nerds, fracking is a relatively new method for mining natural gas — you know, one of those alternative energy sources that environmentalists so often preach about. They are doing it like gangbusters in North Dakota, and the state is booming economically.
Environmentalists are claiming that the practice of fracking is harmful to the environment. The debate is raging in our state, and even locally here in Moore County. But a recent story about some anti-fracking Duke University research, and the practice of fracking in Pennsylvania, brought some new information to the debate:
At a recent drilling industry conference, Josh Fox, director of the anti-drilling documentary “Gasland,” suggested the issue was the very survival of civilization.
“What I’m witnessing in Pennsylvania is a systematic destruction of the state,” Fox said at a news conference. “What we’re doing is contemplating taking our civilization off of an insane cliff.”
Fox didn’t mention that Pennsylvania had up to 325,000 oil and gas wells before gas-fracking even started, according to the Pa. Department of Environmental Protection. Some date back to 1859, and DEP says thousands of those old wells were probably improperly plugged and that no one even knows where many of them are. The figures don’t include abandoned coal mines, which can also leak gas.
All can contaminate drinking water.
Some in the industry have responded with their own exaggerations and florid prose.
At the same conference Chesapeake Energy Corp. CEO Aubrey McClendon called critics of shale gas drilling fear-mongering extremists who want Americans to live in a world where “it’s cold, it’s dark and we’re all hungry.”
Other executives have claimed that there’s never been a single reported case of fracking contaminating water supplies.
And DEP Secretary Michael Krancer criticized the Duke researchers for an editorial in which they said they “would like to see shale gas become largely unnecessary” in the future. Krancer said that was evidence of their bias against gas drilling, an opposition that is “not based on science or fact.”
Kathryn Klaber, president of the gas-industry group Marcellus Shale Coalition, said the role of an industry critic in the Duke report “raises a host of questions regarding academic veracity.”
Yet Terry Engelder, a Penn State University geologist who was one of the first to claim there are huge gas reserves in the Marcellus, found the Duke results “neither surprising or new.”
“It could be cherry-picked depending on which camp you come from,” said Engleder, who has degrees from Penn State, Yale and Texas A&M, and has worked with companies such as Saudi Aramaco and Petrobras.