In today's Morning Call Weekly (September 18, 2010) I found an unbylined article called "Drilling to impact Lehigh River?" While this obviously is about the area where I live, the writer does provide me with some specific data that helps illustrate the magnitude of the challenge of Marcellus shale.
Natural gas is trapped in the shale, and is released by a process called hydraulic fragmentation--or "fracking", which somehow sounds more appropriate. This involves shooting massive amounts of water into the well, water which is laced with various chemicals. The companies refuse to reveal what chemicals they use, claiming these formulae are "proprietary."
According to the Morning Call Weekly writer, each well needs 3 to 6 million gallons of this polluted water to be "fracked." There already are thousands of such wells in the state; it seems logical --and at the same time crazy--to assume there soon will be thousands more.
The water that is shot into the ground can still possibly do a great deal of harm--that is, beyond being lost to any normal use. In parts of the state where natural gas drilling is already in full force, so are law suits from land owners and other parties who claim their wells and streams have been poisoned by fracking chemicals.
Even assuming no chemicals were involved, can we afford 3 to 6 million gallons of water per hole in the ground? I have heard that some 24 Pennsylvania counties are under a drought watch.
It sounds like a very good time to save the water resources we have, not to squander them.
Yes, we need energy. Yes, we need jobs. How much can we possibly afford to pay for them?