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The Natural Gas And Fracking Controversy

A natural gas boom is underway in America, but how safe is the extraction process known as fracking?

So vast is the wealth of natural gas locked into dense rock deep beneath Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Ohio that some geologists estimate it's enough to supply the entire East Coast for 50 years. (AP)

So vast is the wealth of natural gas locked into dense rock deep beneath Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Ohio that some geologists estimate it's enough to supply the entire East Coast for 50 years. (AP)

In a time of energy uncertainty and scarcity, nearly a quarter of American power now comes from natural gas.

And more and more of that gas is produced by hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

High-pressure facturing, deep underground. Fracking is a boon to production. And fracking is a hot button issue, with opponents charging frightening environmental damage.

We’ve come to the edge of fracking country today, to look at the latest science and at community response to a huge energy push.

This hour On Point: on the edge of the Marcellus Shale, we’re looking at “fracking.”

- Tom Ashbrook

Here are some behind-the-scenes photos from today’s second hour, courtesy of Mark Vogelzang, the station manager at WBFO Buffalo.

Tom Ashbrook of On Point at WBFO radio studios with guest Daniel Robison of WNED, Buffalo June 10, 2011

Tom Ashbrook of On Point at WBFO radio studios with guest Daniel Robison of WNED, Buffalo June 10, 2011

Tom Ashbrook of On Point at WBFO radio, Buffalo June 10, 2011

Tom Ashbrook of On Point at WBFO radio, Buffalo June 10, 2011

Tom Tom Ashbrook of On Point at WBFO radio studios at WNED, Buffalo June 10, 2011

Tom Tom Ashbrook of On Point at WBFO radio studios at WNED, Buffalo June 10, 2011

Guests:

Abrahm Lustgarten, environmental reporter for ProPublica.

Daniel Robison, reporter for WNED in Buffalo and Innovation Trail.

Dr. Rob Jackson, professor of environmental sciences at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. He’s author of a study that analyzed drinking water quality near natural gas wells.

More:

We’ve put together a cheat sheet on fracking for listeners to brush up on their drilling tech vocabulary. You can find it here.

Here’s a map of the continent’s natural gas and oil resources, as compiled by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Shale Gas and Oil Plays, North America (eia.gov)

Shale Gas and Oil Plays, North America (eia.gov)

Another map from the same agency shows gas deposits in the lower 48 states and parts of Canada.

Gas production in conventional fields, lower 48 States. (eia.gov)

Gas production in conventional fields, lower 48 States. (eia.gov)

This diagram shows how natural gas is used.

Uses of natural gas (eia.gov)

Uses of natural gas (eia.gov)

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