Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"What the frac?"

Natural gas drilling has ramped up across the nation and probably none more so than Pennsylvania. Being a western Pennsylvania native whose hometown is right in the midst of the Marcellus shale natural gas plays, I have seen firsthand both sides of the argument. You have those in full support of natural gas drilling (and much like Pennsylvania's Governor Tom Corbett....they do not see a need for any tax) and those who are vehemently against it. Rallies have raged, protests have happened, and yet the drilling continues. In today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, an editorial was printed from a local woman against natural gas drilling due to hydraulic fracturing, also known as "fracking." Essentially, it is mixing water, sand, and other chemicals to fracture the shale and extract the gas from the fissures creates. 

How does fracking work?

Unfortunately, the woman does not state any sources for her argument yet claims that well-drilling is accident prone and sees one major environmental violation or accident per well. Unfortunately for her, this is a very flawed argument. Accidents from natural gas drilling have been relatively few compared with the number of wells that have been driven. Many argue that fracking hurts the water supply, yet studies have recently come out stating that gas drilling does not contaminate drinking water. To those opponents to natural gas drilling, I bring you this argument. Name one industry that has not witnessed at least one accident. Did NASA let accidents stop the exploration of space or did Henry Ford let automobile accidents hinder the development of some of the first automobiles? 

Accidents are expected as we move forward with natural gas drilling. It is not a perfect system, yet we learn as we go on. Exxon and other oil drilling companies have learned from the Gulf oil spill of 2010, as natural gas drilling companies have continually learned from their mistakes. What we need is to tax the natural gas companies at a reasonable rate (i.e. one that does not attempt to bankrupt the company) and invest 100% of this tax into the development of renewable forms of energy (wind, solar, hydro, geothermal). These technologies are the future and, unfortunately, they are not at an economically feasible point nor is their output efficient enough to supply U.S. energy needs...but again, that is what research & development (trial & error) is ultimately for. 

You can support the extraction of natural gas and still support the protection of America's pristine places...it's not hard. I do it. The key is to think smart...learn to fight your battles. Natural gas drilling is here to stay. We can either fight it and lose, or support it and push for safer and more environmentally sound ways to extract it. 

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you that the answer might be in the grey area. My bias is towards policy decisions wherein all stakeholders work together to come up with creative, sustainable solutions through collaborative learning and dialogue. The problem I see is with the power disparity between the corporations and the public/non-profits. Everyone needs to be at the table, and the gas companies should not have the power to bully the EPA, DEP, or citizens into doing things their way. Oversight and clean up requirements are important, and undermining the environmental protection agencies (e.g. Clean Water Act exemption, self-oversight) is not a sustainable or ethical path forward. I think you're right that this is happening one way or another... We just need that 'way' to be win-win for everyone: not just the gas companies.