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Natural Gas Extraction; What the Frack?!

05.24.2011

Photo: Marcellus Protest

There are some indications that America may be experiencing a bit of a natural gas “boom” right now.  Last year the country produced 22.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, up 3.1 trillion from 2005.  Natural gas is seen as a better alternative to coal (which is used to generate half the country’s electricity) and is cheaper and more abundant than wind and solar.  In 2009 the U.S. recorded the lowest amount of emissions since 1995.  This is due in part to the lame economy, sure, but renewable energy and increased use of natural gas played a role as well.

What accounts for this increase?  New drilling technology called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” (not to be confused with a style of dance banned at your local Jr. High).  The process has come under fire lately (literally) as residents living near extraction sights have voiced concern over the chemicals used; there have been accounts of igniting tap water.  Shockingly ;) so far it has gone widely unregulated, and only 5 states require public disclosure of the chemicals used.  The French think it’s wack to frack, and have already placed a moratorium on the process and are close to a full ban.

The EPA are now looking into it, and in 2009 House Democrats proposed legislation requiring companies to disclose chemicals used.  Why the delay?  Well it’s kinda like watching Scooby Doo, you most likely already know who the bad guy is before he’s unmasked, but you have to go through the whole episode for the punch line to take effect.  “And I would’ve gotten away with it too if wasn’t for you meddling environmentalists!”

More details in the May 14th-20th edition of The Economist



Stewart Cezar

written by Stewart Cezar

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