Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World

As someone who has been working in the energy sector for more than 40 years, I am probably more familiar with the subject of drilling and fracking than the average citizen, but I still learned some things from Russell Gold's "The Boom." It is always healthy to look at an issue as sensitive as fracking from both points of view, and this is something that Gold does an admirable job of via this book.

The new fracking technology was originally intended to tap into the huge natural gas reserves that were until the last decade or so pretty much beyond the ability of contemporary drilling methods to recover economically. That technology has proven to be just as effective in the recovery of the shale oil that had previously been way too expensive to recover and bring to market.

The question now is one of safety and environmental impact of the fracking techniques being used in so many thousands of new wells each year. Economically, there is no doubt that fracking has had a huge beneficial impact on the country. Environmentally, the final judgement is yet to be reached because, while it is true that some water wells have been contaminated by natural gas leaking into the neighboring water systems, this has happened so few times that there is no great impact involved - so far. On the other hand, those who lease their property to drilling companies do often find their personal lives shattered and changed forever by all the drilling activity that suddenly springs up around their homes, farms, and ranches. Of course, they can always take the big money and run - and lots of them do - but that's not a welcome option for everyone.

Too, as Gold points out, substituting natural gas in place of coal in the electricity-generating process cannot help but have an immediate, and positive, impact on the environment. The U.S., in fact, is one of the few countries in the world (despite never having signed the Kyoto Agreement) that has significantly cleaned up its air in during the past two decades. Many environmentalist have reluctantly come to the conclusion that natural gas is a "bridge fuel" that buys the world more time to develop alternative fuels that we can actually afford, ones that will ultimately provide ALL of the energy we need in this country and not just a tiny fraction of it.

So, love fracking or hate fracking. It's your choice - and "The Boom" might help you decide which side of the issue you come down on.

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