This contentious issue has the oil and gas industries, development interests, and cash strapped landowners looking to make some quick lease money, on one side… facing down environmentalists, agricultural, tourism interests and other landowners looking to protect the nature of their land and water from what they see as polluters and wastrels, on the other.
In the middle is water, the use and abuse of billions of gallons of it, and the potential pollution and ruination of billions, trillions… or some impossibly larger quantity, more.
For those unfamiliar with the process, fracking, (diagram) involves the drilling of a bore hole in the earth, usually going from vertical to horizontal in order to affect the largest area of the shale gas deposit and pumping it full of water mixed with (among other things undisclosed) diesel fuel, hydrochloric acid, methylene, sand, ceramic beads, and other things you probably wouldn’t include in a highball. This is done at very high pressures in order to fracture the gas (or oil) bearing shale or coal and increase the flow rate for economically efficient extraction.
The water is then pumped out and separated from the gas and treated for use as… well, I don’t know what I’d use that water for, perhaps the livestock… but then there’s PETA.. it’s a quandary, for sure.
Anyway, somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of the water mixed with sand and diesel fuel, methane, and other toxins and carcinogens, or what the industry calls “goodies”… let’s just call it a fracking cocktail, shall we, stays in the earth to go whereever it will.
Some say it gets mixed with underground supplies of drinking water, private and public wells, and contaminates aquifers. The “experts” of the gas and oil industry say this is “twaddle.” The environmentalists, meanwhile, have presented videos of fire-breathing and Oscar-nominated faucets as evidence of what the water is finally worth. The jury is out on any definitive conclusion, as they’ve not yet been fully paid by the money guys.
A few months back T Boone “Cornpone” Pickens was all over the talk shows pitching his program of natural gas and wind energy, his “Pickens Plan” to save America from the Asian and Middle Eastern hordes, and the subject of fracking came up often. T Boone “Cornpone” Pickens unabashedly said “… you’re not talking about Ned in the first reader. I’ve been here. I have fracked 3,000 wells in my life… I’ve never seen anything damaged.”
More recently, something (perhaps credit default swaps) has taken the wind out of the Pickens Plan, but the basic fracking plan is still there. In addition to one of the world’s larger money collections, I think old T Cornpone owns more than a few cubic miles of natural gas.
Meanwhile, back at the Andes town meeting where Mr. Fish reported that a full 10% of the population showed up (imagine, for a moment, that the city council meeting in your town was attended by 10% of the citizens… yeah, I’m thinking SWAT teams too). And, when, after 3 hours and 40 minutes of New England civility:
..as Mr. Fish tells it: “One speaker called for a straw poll. ‘Anyone in favor of fracking?’ Not a hand was raised.”
Sources and related links on fracking:
- Earthworks – Hydraulic Fracturing 101
- What is hydraulic fracturing? at ProPublica
- FracFocus Site indicating chemical composition of fracking fluid of individual wells
- Hydraulic fracturing shale gas extraction YouTube
- Hydraulic Fracturing, Debated – NYTimes.com.
- Review of Hydraulic Fracturing Technology and Practices US House of Reps / pdf
- T. Boone Pickens On ‘The Daily Show’: Attacks OPEC, Defends Fracking (VIDEO)
Map: Energy Information Administration
Lifelong liberal of the Tom Paine wing. Marine Vietnam vet. Have worked as a photographer, cab driver, bartender, carpenter, cabinetmaker, writer and editor. Now retired on a Veterans Disability program I spend my time writing, and complaining about politics and the environment.