The recent column in the New York Times by Tom Friedman entitled “Get It Right on Gas” is of particular interest to me. I have spent a lifetime farming in West Virginia in the Marcellus area and enjoy the benefit of a good education, BS in Chemistry and Math, MS in Education and a Ph. D. in Inorganic Chemistry.
Your article shows the bias to be expected of an intelligent, media informed person, one who is kind, not tough minded. It also shows you have not visited the areas where shale drilling takes place to talk with people, nor examined the vast literature of complaint about the harm done in the field.
In the Marcellus area we are no strangers to extractive industry, we have had deep and strip coal, timber, and the longest history of oil extraction – anywhere. The rip and tear methods of resource extraction have a new parallel in the Marcellus. They will not make our states prosperous, but when played out will have injured thousands of people, depreciated property values and damaged our long time industries, timber, cattle, recreation and retirement. Lots of people come here for the quiet life.
You speak of “mom and pop” drillers. These are, in fact, ephemeral creations by larger entities which pop into existence and out of existence, like some subatomic particles do. The objective is to avoid liability. Government at the state level is most easily bent to the driller’s needs. The federal government can do real research, so must be kept out as much as possible. Local government is too close to what people want and has to be defeated. State government can be bought.
Economic evaluations don’t include the cost. It is externalized by accounting like a balance sheet with credits and no debits. It is inscribed in law for oil and gas by long practice, from a time when space was considered infinite with respect to the need for natural resources. Damage is externalized. That has been the practice for resource extraction in the past, and it continues.
The notion of a “transition fuel,” which you mention, serves the industry and the investors, not citizens. The problem is NOW. We need to act NOW on global warming.
You can not expect strangers to observe regulations, laws or “best practices,” (if they are worth anything at all) in the face of the stress of being so over-built as the shale drilling industry.
When it started the drive was to lease as much of the finite resource as possible. Then the drive was to get as favorable legislation as possible. And they got that. This appeared in the NYT recently:
“Mr. Headley said the drilling foreman on his property told him he had drilled all over the world but never in a place easier than Pennsylvania: “Ask for what you want and you’ll get it,” he quoted the driller.”
Now the drive is to export the gas, even though originally the argument was “to give the United States energy independence.” Are we not going to need that independence in the future?
The attack on alternative energy sources in Pennsylvania, by the shale drillers Governor Corbett, and elsewhere, is certainly not without the shale driller’s assent.
These are not kind people, their objective is not to help America. Their objective is to help themselves, and the arguments for shale drilling, the laws for it, the effort, the PR, the risk is not for America. When it is over the debris will be left behind, including the unplugged wells, which are never mentioned, and the drillers and investors will move on. But the brownfields won’t. Nor will the population move.
It has happened before.
Written by: S. Tom Bond, Jane Lew, Lewis County, WV