The new black gold – fracked methane gas and oil

The term fracking conjures up so many knee-jerk-bad reactions that I am hesitant to broach the subject.   I suppose if I am going to wade into the topic I should give some bona fides to display my knowledge of the petroleum industry, but not too many bona fides so that I might be seen as a talking wonk for the gas industry.  I worked for one year as an engineer for a well service company called Schlumberger (world’s largest) and two as a geologist with Shell Oil.   Shell gave its geologists full responsibility for drilling a well from the time it was proposed to production if it hit oil.  Of the 11 wells I proposed, 3 hit oil which was above the industry standard in producing fields in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  Eventually I realized my calling was in teaching and research and left to go back to school for my PhD.  But not before I got a pretty good idea of how the industry works.

The process of drilling is not complicated although the devil can be in the details.  A rig contains strings of thirty-foot drill pipe which attach to a tri-cone tungsten carbide bit (see the image below).  The bit spins from drives or motors as drilling fluid, called mud (contents vary but clay, water and lubricants are typical), is pumped through the pipe string to keep the bit cool, increase pressure, and bring the rock debris from drilling back to the surface along the outside of the pipe.  One of the technological marvels developed in modern times is the ability to direct the drill bit to specific locations with pin-point accuracy by knowing where the bit is in three-dimensional space usually thousands of feet below the surface.  Directional survey measurements are complex but are based on measurements while drilling through various instruments.  These advances have enabled horizontal drilling which has become important in fracking.

800px-Tete-de-foreuse-p1010272Rama, Wikipedia

I would be remiss not to emphasize the importance given to protecting the water table when drilling.  State and Federal regulations require the well to be sealed off at least 50 feet below where potable groundwater can be produced, and those laws have been in place as far back as anyone can remember.  The drill pipe is tripped (pulled completely out of the hole) when regulators deem the surface casing should be set to protect the water table (something on the order of 500 feet usually).  The casing is cemented in place, and if it is done correctly,  we know from the drilling of hundreds of thousands of wells over many decades that the water table is protected.  After the surface casing is set, drilling is continued until the target zone is reached.  The pipe is tripped again and the entire well is generally set with cemented production casing.  The hole is plugged at the bottom usually up to 50 feet below the horizon of interest.  The casing is perforated by tools that blow holes in it precisely where the rock containing oil and/or gas exists.  Lisa Margonelli has written an excellent book entitled Oil On the Brain about the details of drilling and its impact on the politics of many countries like Nigeria and Venezuela1.

When I worked for Schlumberger, it was my job to determine if production casing should be set by running tools in the hole.   The measurements produced records called well logs that gave us information about not only the rock below but whether it contained producible oil or not.  Drilling is a chancy business, not for the faint of heart.  Most wells never produce a drop of oil.  I have seen many an owner of a wildcat well near tears as he realized from the logs that the well was a “duster”.  That has changed to a great extent in the new-world order of gas and oil production through fracking.  The new targets — usually oil shales — were discovered decades ago by previous drilling.  They were ignored because shales do not naturally flow under the pressures at depth.  Shale is very porous but not permeable.  You need permeable rocks to produce oil and/or gas, or so it was thought.

That was before Mitchell Energy, a midsized exploration and production company, drilled the S. H. Griffin #4 well in North Texas into the oil- and gas-rich Barnett Shale in 1997.  They used fracking techniques to produce large quantities of methane gas from what was traditionally seen as non-producible rock.  If you are interested in more of the details, read Gary Sernovitz’s immensely entertaining and witty book The Green and the Black2.  Sernovitz, even with ties to the petroleum industry, takes a rather neutral approach to adjudicate the brouhaha over fracking.  One of the highlights of the book is his look at the impacts of the new United States gas and oil reserves on the political and economic scene.

The S. H. Griffin #4 not only produced gas, it produced it in steady quantities (1.5 million cubic feet per day).  So how does fracking make an otherwise impermeable rock produce as if it was a well at the height of the oil boom of the 1960s in the United States?  Fracking sounds ominous and sinister and conjures up visions of rock being fractured all the way to potable water zones.   But it is nothing of the sort — pure fiction.  The technique took decades of testing and experimentation in wells to develop.  The secret is hydraulic pressure from fluids injected into the well to cause the shale to fracture.  The fracturing is usually limited to about 300 feet in an outward radius around the drill hole.  And don’t forget, the drill holes typically go down for thousands of feet below the surface and are protected with cemented casing that has only been perforated in small sections usually at the bottom of the hole where the target rock exists.

It did not take companies long after fracking became successful to incorporate horizontal drilling, another United States technological advance, into the new smorgasbord of production proficiencies.  With the ability to target a bit within inches of a desired location, drillers learned how to gradually arc a pipe into the horizontal (see image below).   The technology turned out to be a bonanza when combined with fracking.  Companies drilled and set casing directly within and parallel to the oil shales enabling them to frack large sections of the rock which sent production through the ceiling.


The chemicals used in fracking were originally a trade secret, but people talk, and once the word was out, companies like Halliburton published the composition of their fracking liquids.  Turns out 90 percent of the frack is made up of water, 9.5 percent consists of a proppant which is usually sand, and only 0.5 percent consists of the scary chemicals often used to undermine the industry.  The sand serves as a support to keep the fractures (caused by the pressurized fluid) propped open so gas and/or oil will flow.  I am not going to pull punches here.  It takes a lot of water to frack a well.  Sernovitz estimates that a typical frack (an average of 22 stages) uses between 4 and 8 million gallons of water and about 6 million pounds of sand.  Unfortunately, not all of the fracking fluid stays in the hole.  Some resurfaces.  Today the water that comes back is reused or disposed of by pumping it into former producing fields in a concerted effort to make sure the chemicals within the water (even if they are only 0.5%) are placed out of harms way.

It has been widely reported that fracking causes earthquakes.  Actually the disposal of water being pumped into the ground (usually from fracking) causes the seismic activity.  Perhaps it seems like a trivial difference, but the public seems to have the idea that the pressure from fracking is so great that it directly causes earthquakes.  The typical increase in seismic activity in a state like Oklahoma is usually effectively mitigated by diverting the injection of water from fields responsible for the activity or requiring the water to be disposed of via other methods.  There can be little doubt that the earthquakes are associated with well injection and regulatory commissions need to fully address the problems.

The HBO premier of Gasland, a 2010 documentary about the natural-gas industry in general and fracking in particular, was probably responsible, at least in part, for New York State banning fracking and a great deal of misunderstanding about natural gas and its impact on the environment.   I have two conflicting opinions about the documentary by Josh Fox.  1) It is clearly tarnished with misrepresented science, almost hysterical overreaction, and historical inaccuracies.  The documentary has been thoroughly taken to task by Energy in Depth.  2) Having said that, there is no question that it is emotionally moving.  It was difficult to watch people whose lives have been impacted badly by the failures of the gas industry.  My conclusion — Gasland was necessary to open a national debate about the issue which has led to more government oversight and less rogue shortcuts leading to serious problems.  However although there will always be problems associated with any industry, drilling for natural gas and/or oil on land in the United States is relatively safe to groundwater.  We simply have to make sure that casing practices are properly implemented.  Water taps catching fire in Dimock, Pennsylvania, happened because of sloppy cement work and poor casing in 27 holes during the early days of drilling in the State (gas leaked through the casing into the surrounding water table).   I find it reprehensible that companies would not protect the water table at all costs and fully agree that the companies cited deserve the penalties they received and payouts they had to make to people they injured.

Finally, I need to emphasize that in 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did a summary paper entitled Assessment of the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas on drinking water resources and concluded that “Assessment shows hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources”.  We can conclude that the gas industry has made mistakes, but we cannot contend that our drinking water is in danger because of fracking despite claims to the contrary in sources like Gasland.

Let’s not forget why Fox started filming the documentary – to protect his vacation home in a pristine part of Pennsylvania near the border with New York.  I get it.  No one wants a drill rig in their back yard even if it is only there for 40-days worth of drilling.  By the way, if you want to read a reasoned and enlightening book about how people are affected adversely by drilling, I recommend Seamus McGraw’s The End of Country: Dispatches from the Frack Zone3.  He weighs the potentially bad impacts of drilling with a healthy dose of understanding that gas and oil companies are filling a demand created by the United States and other world consumers.   Unfortunately, Fox never examines the financial impacts of shutting down the fracking industry.

I recently wrote an article on the serious implications of global warming particularly related to the increase of athropogenic gases in our atmosphere.  Of the three major fossil fuels, coal is, by far, the worst polluter of carbon dioxide followed by petroleum.  Natural gas is the least (see figure below showing the effects of anthropogenic gases as radiative forcing).  In fact, Sernovitz has emphasized that “the United States has led the world in carbon dioxide emissions reduction because of shale gas [use of methane gas instead of coal]”.


IPCC Fifth Assessment Report 2013

It would be unfair not to point out that methane leaks into the atmosphere directly from the production of methane gas contributing to anthropogenic gases (as methane) also, but according to the EPA in a report entitled Overview of Greenhouse Gases: “Methane (CH4) emissions in the United States decreased by 6% between 1990 and 2014.”  During the period from 2007 to 2014, natural gas production was increased tenfold according to the US Energy Information Administration database.   The EPA goes on to comment that “During this time period [1990 to 2014], emissions increased from sources associated with agricultural activities, while emissions decreased from sources associated with the exploration and production of natural gas and petroleum products.”   Note the lack of effect from the natural gas boom between 2007 to 2014 in the graph below showing total United States methane emissions (converted to carbon dioxide equivalents).   In a paper funded by the green-friendly Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Allen et. al4 estimated from measuring 190 onshore gas locations that about 0.42 percent of the methane produced leaks from drilling and completion of the wells.   The EPA is working with the gas companies to further reduce this figure but, once again, it is hardly having the impact sources such as Gasland have portrayed.


The oil production in thousands of barrels per day since 1966 from the top ten oil producing countries (as of 2015) is shown in the diagram below.  One of the most startling aspects of the graph is that the United States has become the World’s largest producer of oil.  It’s not Saudia Arabia or Russia, it’s the United States.  What is even more remarkable is that our world lead came through good old fashion American know how — the technology that enabled the United States’ producers to frack horizontally.   I am no flag waver, but there is no denying how the United States has transformed itself.  The halcyon days of the 1960s when the United States led production worldwide were thought to be gone forever (see figure).  By the early 1980s, even secondary recovery processes in declining oil fields could not up American production.   Our decline in oil production continued until about 2005 when fracking began to be felt.  The dramatic impact of that technology can be seen by the subsequent rise in production for the last 10 years in the graph below.  However, our increased production does not meet our ever-increasing demand, but it not only helps our trade deficit but decreases our dependence on oil from the troubled Middle East and a hostile Russia.  Along with the increase in oil production, we have also become the world’s leader in the production of natural gas (don’t forget that both oil and natural gas have less impact on climate change than coal).

kbdData from BP

I asked Gary Sernovitz what he thought about America’s new role as a leading oil and natural gas producer: “One of the strange things about the gas boom is that even as prices have gone down, and activity has gone down (because of low prices), volumes have still gone up—a credit to how productive have been [sic] the wells in the Northeast US.  This year [2016] gas production is down slightly, but we’re still producing 34% more than the Russians so no risk of losing our crown. 2015 was the year that we exceeded Saudi Arabia in total oil production, and became the world’s largest oil producer. We’ve temporarily lost that crown in 2016, but I’d expect [our] prices to recover for that leadership to happen again soon.  And I do think we’re still by far the largest oil and gas producer, despite the dip in oil production because of prices, as we’re far ahead of Russia on oil now too.”

So I would like to summarize the article by stating categorically that we need to curb anthropogenic gasses (carbon dioxide, methane, etc.).  But attempting to shut down the oil and gas industry in the United States because of fracking and/or to solve the climate change problem is like trying to take out a drug cartel to stop drug usage in the United States.  The only way we are going to reduce our dependency on oil and gas is to reduce the increasing need for it.  Fracking is relatively safe to the consumer and looks to be giving America another chance to remain less dependent on other suppliers while we find alternative sources to replace or at least curb America’s craving for energy.

  1. Margonelli, L. (2007) Oil on the Brian: Adventures from the Pump to the Pipeline: Doubleday
  2. Sernovitz, G. (2016) The Green and the Black: The Complete Story of the Shale Revolution, the Fight over Fracking, and the Future Energy: St. Martin’s Press
  3. McGraw, S. (2011) The End of Country: Dispatches from the Frack Zone: Random House
  4. Allen, D. T. et. al (2013) Measurements of methane emissions at natural gas production sites in the United States: Proceedings of the Natl. Acad. Science: 110, 17768–17773
10 replies
  1. Ryan Brechak
    Ryan Brechak says:

    When the research is in your favor and that research is coupled with innovative working technology, it is hard to discount the outcome, even if that outcome could be controversial. I am referencing the innovation of fracking. When referring back to the graph “oil production in thousands of barrels/day” it shows how the United States has had a steady increase in oil production for the past ten years. As the article states, we are now less dependent on oil from countries such as Saudia Arabia and Russia which is a really good thing in terms of being self reliant.
    I first heard about fracking maybe eight years ago. At first I had a negative opinion about fracking without fully understanding the facts. Let’s just say I was more on the side of Josh Fox and his documentary Gaslan, even though I never owned a vacation home in Pennsylvania, which is the main reason why he started filming Gasland which was to protect his view. However, we see from the article that the only reason there was controversy in the first place was because of the poor casing job done at the well in Dimock, Pennsylvania. Due to the sloppy cement work and poor casing in 27 holes due from the early days of drilling in the state, gas ended up leaking into the water table. Although this is a black eye on the whole operation, it is hard to let just this little downside stand in the way of the potential upside this technology can bring. Also, when a correct casing is established, it is easy to see that fracking can be a favorable procedure in years to come.
    It is hard to argue who is right or wrong in a moral since because I can see both sides to the argument, however I would say that I learn more in favor of fracking than against it. The EPA has done studies that show there is no change into the contribution of pollutants to the water table where fracking has taken place. As long as it is in an easily managed stage and the casing is done correct, I am in favor of fracking.

  2. DerekPowell
    DerekPowell says:

    Science is key.
    This sentence seems to be at the core of this article as well as my peers responses.
    It was rather interesting reading your article not only for its content but for the unique perspective you offer. Coming from a background of working in the industry your knowledge of the work flow processes and simple explanations of the science behind the work of drilling wells offers both a basic understanding for those reading the article and legitimizes your expertise, and therefore your opinion, on the topic. Both of these things were crucial for me, and others I believe, to understand the main point you argue.
    Liken to wolves17, someone else who commented, most of my understanding of what fracking is comes from a narrative which condemns the practice. Just as you address in the piece, stories of earthquakes and flammable sink faucets are all that would fill my head. Additionally, another major concern that I had was in the “scary chemicals often used to undermine the industry”. Although all three of these things should not be ignored or underrated, I must say they seem a lot less scary now that I have read your article than they did before hand. I had no idea of the surface casing that is put in place to ensure the integrity of the water table nor did I know how low the concentration of chemicals is in fracking. Furthermore, our understanding of how to drill has only improved leading to the ability drill horizontally and although the practices for dealing with the waste product of fracking are not ideal they have been improving and should continue to do so.
    All this being said, the figure you gave for the amount of water used was staggering, fracking hasn’t been perfected in terms gas leaking nor post production clean-up and the negligence of companies that practice fracking has the potential to cause immense damage to people and our environment. So why do we do it?
    This is what I believe the core of your article is about. Where can we find the middle ground of protecting our environment and satiating human interest/demand? Where does science and politics come together?
    Fracking is not the most ideal solution for our worlds energy needs. It does however maintain an extraordinary and ever-growing demand for energy while being less damaging to our planet than any other fossil fuel. The true enemy of our planet is the rate at which we consume and only by addressing this will we be able to truly address global warming.
    Science is key in understanding the overall perspective of an issue and is a tool that allows us to ignore the narrative that our tribe tells us and seek to understand the issue at large.

  3. tatum88
    tatum88 says:

    I read the article on fracking and the oil industry. Professor Defant was an engineer and geologist in the oil industry which has lead him to have a lot of factual information regarding the oil world. In the article, there was an explanation of how to dig oil wells and the laws pertaining to the water table. After the companies dig to find if there is oil in the rocks thousands of feet below the surface, then they have to cap off the well in a cement casing fifty feet below the surface. They have to cap off the well in order to protect drinking water from getting contaminated. Then he goes on the talk about the technological advances of fracking and horizontal drilling. There are many debates about fracking affecting our water sources and perhaps causes earth quakes. However, this article states that the Environmental Protection Agency says that an assessment found out that hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to any impacts on the drinking water resources. The United States uses fracking as well as other methods to extract oil reserves. The United States in currently the leader of oil production. Although, there are many arguments about the natural-gas industry, the real problem has become the reliance on oil and our rates of consumption of oil. Professor Defant explains that we need to focus on our consumption rather than trying to end the problem by shutting down the oil industry. I like the way he stated that we need to focus on our consumption rather than trying to end the problem. I feel that the problem is humans always want to point fingers instead of doing their part to help solve the problem.

  4. kkapustiak
    kkapustiak says:

    We need to be able to innovate to keep up with the changing times. Although there is some controversy surrounding fracking methods, fracking is a technique that was developed to change with the times. Traditional drilling was not meeting the demand, but fracking has found a way to produce stable, bountiful yields. Fracking has enabled us to reach wells that were once unobtainable. Fracking has led the United States to become a leading producer of oil and natural gas. This has significant economic impacts on our society and leads to less dependency on other nations to supplement our demand. Given some concerns over fracking, such as harmful gas production or earthquake activity, it would seem to be an uphill battle to shut down the technique in its entirety. The benefits brought about from fracking helps to offset some of the more negative aspects that people quickly jump to exaggerate. I appreciate that this blog entry touches on your personal history in the drilling industry because it offers a different perspective than what you would typically see offered in headlining news and other articles that would focus primarily on the negative impacts that fracking has on the environment. Although it is easy to draw attention to the “bad guys” who use questionable techniques and improper measures to find producible oil wells, the positive impact that fracking has brought to our nation should not be undermined.

  5. wolves17cassmcgrane
    wolves17cassmcgrane says:

    I chose to comment on this article because I was intrigued by the somewhat neutral/alternative, experience based perspective on the fracking debate. As a student in environmental science I am accustomed to hearing more about the horror stories of fracking, and less about the relative safety or science behind fracking. With mostly stories of earthquakes and contaminated water to form my opinion, I will admit I previously felt disdain towards fracking, however reading about your experiences in the industry and regulations such as t the protective casings for the water tables changed my perspective. While I used to view the energy debate as two sided, renewables vs non renewables, I am now starting to realize that the fracking controversy lies somewhere in the gray area of moving forward with sustainable development. Though I don’t view fracking as sustainable, I understand that improvements can be made to the regulation of fracking to improve its environmental safety. Furthermore given the current energy crisis it is important to stay open minded towards alternative to fossil fuel, and fracking presents a reasonable bridge for transforming our energy sources.

    When it comes to the threat of earthquakes I agree you that regulations must further enforce the diversion of the “injection water from the field responsible for the activity.” Just last week an article claiming that the largest earthquake Kansas has ever experienced is directly connected to fracking activity (article found here: ). It is critical that if industries continue fracking they must adequately handle their wastewater to avoid instances such as this. Furthermore, I believe fracking should be viewed as a short term solution for energy as we move towards more renewables such as solar and wind. I believe these are better long term solutions as the amount of water consumed in Fracking is too high to be sustained on a large scale, or for the long term.

    On a further note, I believe that spatial limits to fracking must also be acknowledged, for fracking is simply more dangerous in certain locations of the world – and in the spaces, the benefit does not outweigh the consequence. The state of Florida represents a spatial limit to fracking that I believe should be enforced. Florida’s bedrock is composed of karst brittle limestone. Due to this fragile bedrock, Florida is threatened by potentially life threatening and property damaging sinkholes that not only hurt the economy but also causes citizens grief. Moving forward with fracking in Florida could dramatically exacerbate the threat of sinkholes, and therefore I do believe that the industry should be banned in this state. I see that this argument parallels your point that no one will want fracking in their own backyard, however I think Florida represents a special scenario and I would fight for the ban whether I lived here or not.

    The transition to 100% renewables will not happen overnight and fracking can help mitigate the impact of our energy consumption as we move towards sustainability. I believe it is important that we use our science and technological abilities to frack in the most sustainable way possible. If fracking must be embraced, I hope that these industries will continue to employ expert geologists and scientists to ensure the practice is done in the most sustainable way possible, and in the most appropriate and safe regions. Furthermore, I hope that governmental regulations will adequately enforce environmental safety precautions through policy and regulation so that our water stays clean, and earthquakes due to fracking decline.

    • Marc Defant
      Marc Defant says:

      It was really nice to see your perspective. You did an excellent job of writing the response. Unfortunately America has broken up into what seem to be tribes. Because many people don’t understand or don’t have the time to get the facts, they believe what their tribe tells them. A good example is the global warming debate. The right seems to be convinced that its tribe is telling them correctly that there is no global warming. The left has tribes too. We should all be scientists first and try to understand the issues rather than the opinions of a tribe. And if we don’t have the time to do the research we should ignore our tribes and see what the best scientists in the land have to say on the issue – they are the ones studying the problems. I am not saying that scientists always get it right (many of my essays deal with scientists cheating the system) but it is the best place to start. Nice work.

      BTW in any environmental problem there are always two sides – damage to the environment and our well being as humans. I think we need to weigh the cause and effects. The fracking issue is a good case in point. How much more money are we willing to pay at the pumps (and to oil producers outside the US) in order to do away with fracking or until we can get clean energy. A US less dependent on other countries may be worth a few earthquakes in Oklahoma although I am not sure people in OK would agree 🙂

  6. mollybell
    mollybell says:

    First of all, I am no where as educated on the subject as fracking and was able to learn from this article. Not only am that, I also did not know some of the facts that were stated, such that you cannot drill more than 50 feet above groundwater. I understand the points being made here about fracking and why it exists. It is hard to think of there being an energy crisis on our hands, but the possibility of this has been looming on the surface for quite sometime. Fracking is indeed extremely controversial but it is important to view things that can produce energy in an efficient way in a positive light. The United States being the top oil producer comes as a complete shock to me, I have been told time and time again that the oil lies in the Middle East. Fracking has always seem to have such a negative connotation when discussed that I did not think to look up the components, never knowing how much of this is really made up of water. However, even though 0.5% is all there is of the scary chemicals, I cannot help but think this is still a scary number. There is a reason these chemicals seem frightening to us, and though this may be a small percentage, it does not necessarily mean it does a small percentage of damage. Although it does seem a rather small difference between causing earthquakes and seismic waves, it is important for the public to understand the difference between the two. The situation described above in the documentary sounds very similar to the documentary Blackfish and the mayhem it caused around Seaworld. Like is said about this documentary, it gives a wrong representation, but it pulls at the heart strings and really knows how to drag the emotions of people in.

    • mollybell
      mollybell says:

      I was asked to re-summarize because of a misunderstanding in my summary, this is the sentenced I was speaking of above: State and Federal regulations require the well to be sealed off at least 50 feet below where potable groundwater can be produced”. Perhaps my sentenced was not interpreted the way I meant it to be. I simply meant that I was not aware of the regulations on drilling and the 50 foot below rule. I apologize for any inconvenience. I would like to further discuss the part of the article that discusses methane. In the article it is stated that methane production has decreased from the years of 1990 to 2014. A 6% decrease within this time period is rather impressive, especially considering agricultural production of methane has increased while the petroleum source of methane decreased.


    Throughout time people have always searched for more efficient ways to produce and refine energy sources. Ever advancing technology has brought endless ideas and more eco- friendly methods of harnessing the power we as a people so badly crave. It is such a shame it has taken us so long to realize (or at least admit) the long term problems associated with our energy addiction. Fracking has made it possible to produce more energy, more efficiently and safer for our planet. The ability to use imaging to pinpoint exactly where to drill limits the danger to both the surface and our water table.
    Launching the U.S. into the top producing spot of natural gas further limits our dependency on other nations. The economics of being a leading producer of any energy source is fairly confusing to me. I realize it is not this simple, but here is where I get lost: The U.S. uses/needs X amounts of energy, the U.S. produces Y amounts of energy. If we are leading producers of various forms of energy we should not be exporting and importing so much of it. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration it appears we as Americans are not even using our own energy sources and seems to be storing far less than we could to ever become independent. A current Supply & Disposition table of Petroleum and other liquids can be found here:
    To say the small seismic activity caused from fracking or other mining endeavors is insignificant when looking at all of the benefits makes we wonder what other secondary effects are occurring. If there is unnatural seismic activity – especially in areas such as Oklahoma and Texas – the composition of the earth is being unnaturally changed. I wonder what the long term effects these new advances will bring. Even the sealed dry wells it would seem have a negative effect on the structure of the earth after all we are leaving drilling materials (cement, steel and chemicals) buried in the ground. When I was younger I recall my dad catching me digging a hole in the back yard and scolding me. Once I filled it in and after a few rain storms the ground sank and resettled leaving a depression in the yard. That may be the extent of my scientific knowledge of drilling, but if I feel that way there must be others who do not understand the processes involved.
    I have heard that fracking could be or is a bridge to renewable energy. Perhaps it is election year cynicism, but this sounds like another sales pitch using all of the benefits up front and in fine print disclosing the negative impacts. For me that bridge will never be crossed. There is far too much money involved in resource industries to switch to a source where the same mighty few cannot profit. I for one am not going to turn off the lights and I am going to drive my car today so there will be no complaints from me.

    • Marc Defant
      Marc Defant says:

      Your comment is one of the better ones I have seen Mariana. Thank you for taking the time to put some thought into this. You are absolutely correct to questions our dependence on oil and gas. There is no way that this is a bridge to renewable resources. Americans (and the industrialized world) is dependent on oil, gas, and coal primarily because we do not conserve. I think I read recently where 80% of the cars have only one person – the driver. The reason fracking is good is because it gets us away from coal which is the worse thing we can use. But the best way to prevent global warming is to drastically reduce our consumption.

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