There are many downsides to hydraulic fracturing and the natural gas it's used to harvest, but for the people who work in America's booming oil and gas fields there's a positive that outweighs a lot of the problems other people worry about. At High Country News, Jonathan Thompson writes about the financial benefits fracking holds for families, especially those where the people working don't have a college degree. With fewer and fewer well-paid manufacturing jobs, hydrocarbons are one of the few industries left where your job can improve your kid's chances of reaching a higher income bracket
. — Maggie
Tom writes, "Arizona is poor in natural gas, so you'd think it would escape the fracking controversy. Maybe not
The Copper State is one of the best places in the world to find helium, which has been in short supply
The catch is, it takes fracking to mine it. The pipeline company Kinder Morgan paid $30 million last year for fields rich in helium, and also CO2, which is used to pump the last drops of oil from old wells in Texas and New Mexico.
Arizona may have rich, frackable deposits of shale oil, too. The Navajo Oil & Gas Co. has applied for a permit to do some exploring."
Here at BoingBoing, we've talked before about the fact that earthquakes can be triggered by things humans do
— everything from building particularly large reservoir to, most likely, injecting wastewater from fracking operations into underground wells
. After a 5.7 earthquake hit Oklahoma in 2011, researchers there began gathering evidence that is making the link between rumbling earth and oil-and-gas discovery a lot stronger. At Mother Jones, Michael Behar has a story about this research and and how it is (and isn't) affecting the industry
. — Maggie
Above: Artists Against Fracking
have released a short documentary by filmmaker Josh Fox
on the group’s recent tour of fracking sites in Pennsylvania. The group will air a winning TV ad from its #DontFrackNY video contest next week. Below, Yoko Ono’s new television spot
in response to NY Gov. Cuomo’s silence and his upcoming Feb. 27 deadline for a decision on fracking. The ad features Ono directly addressing the Governor, a response to her unmet requests for meetings.
Read the rest
NPR's Robert Krulwich circled this bright spot on a night-time satellite image of the United States. As Krulwich points out, this cluster of lights is new — it wasn't there in 2005. And it's not a city.
Instead, that bright spot is a shining reminder of the natural gas boom. What you're seeing are the lights from drilling rigs and flares burning gas.
CBS Outdoor via Rolling Stone
Yoko Ono and Sean Ono Lennon launched "Artists Against Fracking" earlier this year, and have received no response from NY gov. Andrew Cuomo to their request to meet and talk about the idea of a ban of fracking in New York. Now, Ono and Lennon have launched a billboard campaign on a route where the governor often passes. “Governor Cuomo: Imagine there’s no fracking,” the sign reads.
Read the rest
BURN: An Energy Journal, the radio documentary series hosted by former NPR journalist Alex Chadwick, has a 2-hour election special out. It's the most powerful piece of radio journalism I've listened to since—well, since the last episode they put out. You really must do yourself a favor and set aside some time this weekend to listen to “The Power of One.”
Energy policy, defining how we use energy to power our economy and our lives, is among the most pressing issues for the next four years. In this special two-hour edition of BURN, stories about the power of one: how, in this election season, a single person, place, policy or idea can — with a boost from science — affect the nation’s search for greater energy independence.
The documentary examines how "individuals, new scientific ideas, grassroots initiatives and potentially game-changing inventions are informing the energy debate in this Presidential Election year, and redefining America’s quest for greater energy independence." It was completed and hit the air before Hurricane Sandy, but the energy issues illuminated by that disaster (blackouts, gas shortage, grid failure, backup power failure at hospitals) further underscore the urgency.
Read the rest
In the New York Times, an eloquent op-ed by Sean Lennon that serves as a manifesto of sorts for Artists Against Fracking, an organization started with his mother, Yoko Ono. Snip:
Natural gas has been sold as clean energy. But when the gas comes from fracturing bedrock with about five million gallons of toxic water per well, the word “clean” takes on a disturbingly Orwellian tone. Don’t be fooled. Fracking for shale gas is in truth dirty energy. It inevitably leaks toxic chemicals into the air and water. Industry studies show that 5 percent of wells can leak immediately, and 60 percent over 30 years. There is no such thing as pipes and concrete that won’t eventually break down. It releases a cocktail of chemicals from a menu of more than 600 toxic substances, climate-changing methane, radium and, of course, uranium.
Video: THE SKY IS PINK by Josh Fox and the GASLAND Team.
In North Carolina, a legislator accidentally pushed the wrong button on her vote-making machine and now the state will be open to fracking operations
. Even though Rep. Becky Carney realized she'd hit the wrong button almost immediately, she was not allowed to change her crucial, outcome-changing vote. Suddenly, I feel a bit better about my problem with it's vs. its. (Via Colin Schultz
) — Maggie
The National Research Council published a report today, reviewing and analyzing peer-reviewed literature, federal and state documents, data requested from private companies, and more …
Read the rest
“House-Arrest Amber,” Featured Dancer at Whispers. Photo: Mark Ebner.
Veteran muckraker Mark Ebner of "Hollywood, Interrupted" has a knack for producing beautiful writing from ugly subjects. Scientology, pit bull fighting, celebrity scandals, scam artists... you name it, he's investigated it.
Now, Ebner travels to a town several hundred miles north of Deadwood, South Dakota. In a state wracked by joblessness, this little enclave is home to a new gold rush: Fracking.
Read the rest
Human activities can cause earthquakes. It sounds a little crazy to say, but it's something we've known about for a while. For instance, seismologists say that a 6.3 magnitude quake that struck India's Maharashtra state in 1967 was directly caused by the 1963 construction of a major dam and reservoir project in that region.
Basically, fault lines exist. When we start messing with them—applying very heavy weights, taking very heavy weights away, or lubricating the fault line with various liquids—we can trigger movement. Usually, these are not large earthquakes. But they can be felt. And they are something we want to avoid.
Now, a study done by the Ohio State Department of Natural Resources has concluded that a series of small quakes in that state were directly caused by improper disposal of wastewater from a natural gas fracking operation.
Fracking, as a reminder, is a process of freeing up trapped natural gas by injecting liquid into the Earth. The force of the water cracks rocks so the gas can flow through. This is not the part of the process that's been implicated in the Ohio earthquakes, however. Instead, it's about what happens to that liquid once the fracking is done.
Fracking liquid is called "brine" and it's often referred to as being water, but it's actually water mixed with a lot of other stuff, some of it toxic. Wastewater treatment plants aren't set up to deal with this kind of contamination, so the standard way of disposing of this liquid is to pump it into the ground. In Ohio, regulators say, the site chosen for wastewater disposal wasn't vetted carefully enough. Instead of being geologically inert, it turned out to be the site of a fault line. The liquid lubricated the fault line and helped it move. The result: Earthquakes.
Now, according to the Associated Press, fracking operations disposing of wastewater in Ohio are going to have to follow much more stringent rules and provide a lot more geologic data to the regulators before they'll be allowed to pump any more liquid into the ground. The report states that this process can be done safely. It just wasn't being done that way.
Image: Earthquake damage - Bridge Street., a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from 23934380@N06's photostream
Image: A Dimock, Pennsylvania resident who did not want to be identified pours a glass of water taken from his well after the start of natural gas drilling in Dimock, Pennsylvania, March 7, 2009. Dimock is one of hundreds of sites in Pennsylvania where energy companies have raced to tap the massive Marcellus Shale natural gas formation. Residents say the drilling has clouded their drinking water, sickened people and animals and made their wells flammable. Picture taken March 7, 2009.
Over the weekend, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reversed a commitment to deliver safe water to residents of Dimock, PA, a small village where natural gas drilling operations have poisoned water supplies. Why? So far, federal officials won't explain why.
Only 24 hours after promising them water, EPA officials informed residents of Dimock that a tanker truck wouldn't be coming after all. The about-face left residents furious, confused and let down — and, once again, scrambling for water for bathing, washing dishes and flushing toilets.
Federal Agency Cancels Water Delivery to Pa. Town - ABC News.
In ProPublica's extensive reporting series on fracking in America, Dimock has been mentioned often. Christopher Bateman's 2010 Vanity Fair piece on fracking in rural Pennsylvania is another good read, and focuses on Dimock.
Read the rest