EcoWatch Journal February/March 2011 : Page 8

megan quinn bachman Megan Quinn Bachman writes for the Yellow Springs News, teaches global ecology at Antioch University Midwest, lectures on sustainable and local economies and serves on the board of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO-USA). She can be reached at megan@ecowatch.org. which oversees fossil fuel drilling and fracking, maintain that no groundwater contamination has taken place in any of the 80,000 fracked wells in Ohio, and that strict state regulations mandate cement casing within a well to isolate underground aquifers from the fracking taking place several thousand feet below them. Also required are proper wastewater disposal and site remediation when wells stops producing. Are the potential threats from fracking in oil and natural gas producing states greater than the impact of potential shortages and spiking prices in Ohio and across the nation? What if Ohio could produce a lot more of its own oil and natural gas to help maintain stable prices for its own households, businesses and manufac-turing plants, while the nation builds a wind, solar and geothermal infrastructure—a decades-long undertaking that will require lots of fossil fuel? What if, with beefed up production, more crude oil could be shipped from our communities to the state’s four refineries to help substitute for lower output else-where as worldwide oil production heads into perma-nent decline? What if more locally-produced natural gas could be pumped directly into local utility pipelines to heat homes and businesses? Still, with Ohioans con-suming nearly 50 times as much petroleum as the state produces each year and 8,000 times the natural gas, we could never provide for our own energy needs without huge cuts in consumption. While the possibility of an underground gas explo-sion may indeed frighten us, as well as the prospect of plummeting worldwide oil production, an even more earth-shaking realization should be our danger-ous dependence upon these ancient, underground and ultimately finite fossil fuels. TO ‘FRACK’ OR NOT TO ‘FRACK’? Ohio, the home of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, and site of the world’s largest oil provinces in the late 19th century, is again at the center of the action in domestic fossil fuel production as a controversial drilling technique, known as fracking, is draining Ohio’s remaining oil and gas reserves. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh has prohibited this extraction method and New York state has issued a mora-torium on combining fracking with horizontal drilling while environmental and safety issues are studied. With fracking (the formal name is hydraulic fractur-ing), water and chemicals are injected at high pressure to break up rock reservoirs so more oil and gas can be extracted—a practice which has drawn protests from environmentalists in Ohio and elsewhere who are concerned about groundwater contamination and other environmental threats. But the question is: Are working oil wells in our fields and farms, however drilled, just the price we Ohioans must pay to satiate our fossil fuel addictions? With global oil production peaking and the number of new large oil finds dwindling, is increased domestic production in Ohio and other states through fracking a vital contribu-tion to our energy security, or a fate to be fought? Though Col. Edwin L. Drake got all the glory in Pennsylvania in 1859 for drilling the first commercial oil well in the U.S., producing wells in Ohio’s Washing-ton County near Marietta came online soon thereafter. By 1896 Ohio reached its peak yearly production, 24 million barrels from about 6,000 producing oil wells, mostly from the rich Lima-Findley oil field. Natural gas went into commercial production in Ohio in 1884. Ohio’s oil and gas industry was all but dead when fracking, first used in the state in the early 1950s, dramatically increased the amount of recoverable oil and gas from our Clinton sandstone and Devonian shale. Today, roughly 64,000 wells pump out 5 million barrels of crude oil per year, according to state figures. But statewide natural gas production provides more than twice as much energy, with 88 billion cubic feet of natural gas being produced annually. Though a 60-year-old technology that is used in 90 percent of all oil and gas wells drilled today, fracking is increasingly used to extract oil and gas deposited in deep underground shale using modern-day horizontal drill-ing, where wells are drilled at an angle to access more source rock. Most oil and gas exploration is taking place in the eastern part of the state, located in the Marcel-lus and Utica shale formations that have begun to yield huge amounts of natural gas, and large companies like Chevron and Chesapeake Energy, one of the largest gas producers in the nation, have started leasing land. So what are the problems with fracking? Opponents worry that the chemicals used to frack will contaminate underground aquifers. They also cite excessive water use—since four to nine million gallons of water are injected each time a well is fracked—and wastewater pol-lution and air pollution from open air wastewater pits. To emphasize the dangers, opponents point to a case in Bainbridge Township in Northeast Ohio where a house exploded in 2007 when natural gas from a gas well 1,000 feet away migrated into the home due to over pressuriza-tion of the well’s surface casing, investigators determined. But geologists at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Mineral Resources Management, Film and Discussion, including a presentation on how to compost and the benefits of recycling. Dirt: The Movie March 15 What to plant, where and when? A master gardener will make suggestions to help us tend our garden. Tending Your Garden March 29 What is in the food we eat? Representatives from local farmers markets and community supported agriculture organizations will share their knowledge and answer our questions. Know Your Food? April 12 Discover Your Food Community! April 26 What is happening locally to enhance your eating experience? Cleveland area chefs, restaurants and food activist will join us to explain their efforts and the role we can play as consumers. Register at www.riversedgecleveland.com or call 216-688-1111x251 7:00pm-8:30pm Fee: $ 10 per session or $35 for all four sessions 3430 Rocky River Drive Cleveland, OH 44111 8 • ECOWATCH JOURNAL WWW. ECOWATCH.ORG

Earthwise

Megan Quinn Bachman

TO ‘FRACK’ OR NOT TO ‘FRACK’?

Ohio, the home of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, and site of the world’s largest oil provinces in the late 19th century, is again at the center of the action in domestic fossil fuel production as a controversial drilling technique, known as fracking, is draining Ohio’s remaining oil and gas reserves. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh has prohibited this extraction method and New York state has issued a moratorium on combining fracking with horizontal drilling while environmental and safety issues are studied.

With fracking (the formal name is hydraulic fracturing), water and chemicals are injected at high pressure to break up rock reservoirs so more oil and gas can be extracted—a practice which has drawn protests from environmentalists in Ohio and elsewhere who are concerned about groundwater contamination and other environmental threats.

But the question is: Are working oil wells in our fields and farms, however drilled, just the price we Ohioans must pay to satiate our fossil fuel addictions? With global oil production peaking and the number of new large oil finds dwindling, is increased domestic production in Ohio and other states through fracking a vital contribution to our energy security, or a fate to be fought?

Though Col. Edwin L. Drake got all the glory in Pennsylvania in 1859 for drilling the first commercial oil well in the U.S., producing wells in Ohio’s Washington County near Marietta came online soon thereafter.By 1896 Ohio reached its peak yearly production, 24 million barrels from about 6,000 producing oil wells, mostly from the rich Lima-Findley oil field. Natural

Went into commercial production in Ohio in 1884.Ohio’s oil and gas industry was all but dead when fracking, first used in the state in the early 1950s, dramatically increased the amount of recoverable oil and gas from our Clinton sandstone and Devonian shale. Today, roughly 64,000 wells pump out 5 million barrels of crude oil per year, according to state figures.But statewide natural gas production provides more than twice as much energy, with 88 billion cubic feet of natural gas being produced annually.

Though a 60-year-old technology that is used in 90 percent of all oil and gas wells drilled today, fracking is increasingly used to extract oil and gas deposited in deep underground shale using modern-day horizontal drilling, where wells are drilled at an angle to access more source rock. Most oil and gas exploration is taking place in the eastern part of the state, located in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations that have begun to yield huge amounts of natural gas, and large companies like Chevron and Chesapeake Energy, one of the largest gas producers in the nation, have started leasing land.

So what are the problems with fracking? Opponents worry that the chemicals used to frack will contaminate underground aquifers. They also cite excessive water use—since four to nine million gallons of water are injected each time a well is fracked—and wastewater pollution and air pollution from open air wastewater pits.To emphasize the dangers, opponents point to a case in Bainbridge Township in Northeast Ohio where a house exploded in 2007 when natural gas from a gas well 1,000 feet away migrated into the home due to over pressurization of the well’s surface casing, investigators determined.

But geologists at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Mineral Resources Management, Which oversees fossil fuel drilling and fracking, maintain that no groundwater contamination has taken place in any of the 80,000 fracked wells in Ohio, and that strict state regulations mandate cement casing within a well to isolate underground aquifers from the fracking taking place several thousand feet below them. Also required are proper wastewater disposal and site remediation when wells stops producing.

Are the potential threats from fracking in oil and natural gas producing states greater than the impact of potential shortages and spiking prices in Ohio and across the nation? What if Ohio could produce a lot more of its own oil and natural gas to help maintain stable prices for its own households, businesses and manufacturing plants, while the nation builds a wind, solar and geothermal infrastructure—a decades-long undertaking that will require lots of fossil fuel?

What if, with beefed up production, more crude oil could be shipped from our communities to the state’s four refineries to help substitute for lower output elsewhere as worldwide oil production heads into permanent decline? What if more locally-produced natural gas could be pumped directly into local utility pipelines to heat homes and businesses? Still, with Ohioans consuming nearly 50 times as much petroleum as the state produces each year and 8,000 times the natural gas, we could never provide for our own energy needs without huge cuts in consumption.

While the possibility of an underground gas explosion may indeed frighten us, as well as the prospect of plummeting worldwide oil production, an even more earth-shaking realization should be our dangerous dependence upon these ancient, underground and ultimately finite fossil fuels.

Read the full article at http://bluetoad.com/article/Earthwise+/628793/60037/article.html.

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