Frack Fever

Money Talks

The full phrase is harsher, indicating in a few words how nothing matters except money. In the oil trade, of which fracking is a major subsidiary, the phrase takes on the aura of truth. But it is not the kind of truth that is either awesome or kind. I do not mean to make everything personal, but self-reflection tells me that I can easily shift with the prevailing wind. At first, like almost everybody, I regarded fracking as an absolute, irredeemable evil. Then, I discovered the other side to the story, involving the creation of jobs and lowering dependency on foreign oil. I decided to look into fracking further in order to write another, more enlightened article for HubPages. As I sank into the scientific underpinnings of fracking shale rock and extracting oil and gas, I realized that the entire subject does, in fact, have to do almost exclusively with money. Talk of reduced carbon emissions falls flaccidly on the ear. There is no glory whatsoever. That elusive quality came and went in Giant (1956). Even then, black gold had its seamy side. Today, I guess, enthusiasm for fracking is the exclusive property of those who most benefit from it. Unfortunately, even fracking's greatest detractors are, however reluctant, beneficiaries.

Venting But No Repenting

The Anti-Frack Van
The Anti-Frack Van | Source

Fracking Has Come a Long Way

This is true. Read its scholarly historians and find out a slew of amazing anecdotes. For example, it was a civil war soldier who made an early, pre-fracking discovery by observing the detonation of explosives in rivers. Under water, pressure was driven sideways or outward. Later, down oil wells, another observation was made to the effect that cement did not seal uniformly. There were, as it turned out, certain natural fissures or fractures. Oil and gas were trapped inside inside. Water could get into them, but water mixed with sand propped open the desired passages. Even better, water, sand, plus chemicals really did the trick. This is merely a sketchy introduction to how crazy things got. For example, a great deal of hope was once placed on the use of nuclear bombs, more powerful than Hiroshima's, to widen the areas in which oil and gas were already found. The result, highly radioactive gas and oil, did not at first daunt the era's ambitious oil men, who planned on its continuation irregardless. But finally, the public began to speak its mind and have its say. Underpopulated Wyoming, for example, steadfastly refused a proposal to deploy forty nuclear bombs beneath its surface. Wyoming stood firm. Apparently, although money talks, it is not always persuasive.

Holes in the Ground

The Barnett Shale
The Barnett Shale | Source

Hypocrite Nation

Here come the environmentalists! It was one thing for young Texan petroleum engineers to grovel for the sake of venture capital. It was another for environmentalists to employ the courts to fine them after they had experienced a measure of success. Most complaints centered on pollution, though presumably, everyone involved at loggerheads with one another was a loyal consumer of the culpable substance. Nevertheless, new developments indicated much worse than expected. Fracking might be inducing man-made earthquakes. The USGS (United States Geological Survey) is currently engaged in determining whether a 5.3 earthquake in Colorado, as well as a 5.6 incident in Oklahoma, were the direct result of fracking. Thankfully, damages and injuries have been relatively minor. Thus far, it seems as if insurance companies stand a good chance of being the biggest winners of the entire controversy. Scientists have not reached a consensus on whether or not the injection of wastewater -- a large industry byproduct -- into wells is responsible. Concomitantly emerging into the light is the hitherto obscure fact that there is much more seismic activity going on on a regular basis than the average man or woman ever realized.

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Water Power

Some of the facts relating to fracking apart from questions of right or wrong are hard to believe. A long column of water, poured into a well, mixed together with so many chemicals that a pure reversal, turning the resultant composition back into water, would be questionable, can crack a whole, unfractured rock containing oil. For a while the "water" will keep the oil from going anywhere, but then, somehow, it would bubble up. Enviros, as they are sometimes called, are free, as far as anyone knows, to conduct their own analyses. It will not be the first time businesses encountered enormous friction, whether from the government or the private sector. But these frackers mean not to be moved or have their jobs outsourced. Still, to read about millions of gallons of water in a hungry, thirsty world, being wasted to mine oil makes the armchair humanitarian wonder.

Back in Business

It really is not over until it is over.
It really is not over until it is over. | Source

The Resurrection of Oilfields

Parts of Texas oil land once regarded as dried out and later sold for a pittance are now attracting a lot of renewed interest. What the old pumps could not do, deep horizontal fracking is accomplishing with a vengeance. Horizontal wells are now commonplace, not the exception. The claim is often made that progress cannot be stopped. But is fracking really the path to the future or a massive retreat into the past? If it were possible to see around corners and peer directly into what lies ahead, decisions about fracking and its threats to health and the environment would be easy. But the plain fact is that gas and oil are useful, valuable, and indispensable.

GROW: solar cells and wind power art

Now on exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.
Now on exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. | Source

The Sustainable Development Argument

Think tanks like the Earth Institute and its multi-national voices object to short term fixes at the sacrifice of long term solutions. If nothing else, one has to admire the voice of reason, seldom heard. It persists in the face of mockery and indifference. Its scope in this case is large, encompassing the whole of humanity, with an unswerving conviction that doing things in the same old way, whether by drill or fracturing shale, is only a very limited solution. Frackers have given a second wind to the oil industry, but after it goes bust, as it will invariably do, there is no third wind waiting in the wings. Nevertheless, the second wind is not going to fizzle anytime soon. The Marcellus Shale, for instance, is reputedly 100,000 square miles in size. A private citizen has invited the Earth Institute to check his water and air in anticipation of his Pennsylvania home being affected by nearby fracking. The chief concern, of course, is contaminants.

After all is said and done, it is clear that fossil fuels are prevailing once again against green technology. It gets the needed product to the consumer and more than compensates the provider with profits and the incentive to keep going. Personally, I like the idea of alternative sources of energy, as awkward or undeveloped as they might be in comparison to the messy tried and true. The main obstacle, as I see it, is that partnering with UN studies, conferences, committees, and then enacting actions that seldom get attention is never going to equal what the NYSE has to offer. After all, we are talking about major oil-based and oil-related companies who are not frequently accused of price gouging for nothing. They make big bucks. Even relatively small investors can cash in with MLPs and the like. Morningstar puts their general yield in the 6-7% range. However, if anybody has a magic wand, now might be a good time to wave it.

Anti-Fracking: The Scenic View over the Marcellus Shale

Sullivan County, Pennsylvania.
Sullivan County, Pennsylvania. | Source

Pro-Fracking

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1 comment

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 19 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Well the more I learn and think about Fracking the less I am convinced either way. I do like our country importing less that is for sure. I suppose the best any of us can do is to try to minimize our fossil fuel usage.

Thanks for a good read.

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