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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


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.


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)

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Derek

    Whatever gas we currently can only get by fracking isn’t going anywhere. Federal law should require it all be left in the earth till ways are developed to extract it without all the terrible negative aspects fracking currently has. It will be of more use in the future when we invent even more things to do with it and we are better able to deal with greenhouse gases, air pollution, gas leaks & explosions, and when we learn how to use it more efficiently. Less will be available from foreign sources in the future & exporting some of it then will earn more to. In the mean time use the gas that isn’t extracted by fracking if we must, but even better is to use technologies that don’t have so many negative aspects to meet our needs and desires when we can. There are plenty of them.

  • Obkb10

    America being America, there is already new technology that is safer and more efficient.  Probably federal law should require a balanced media but that isn’t going to happen either.  You can see by today’s line up it will be one sided.  Where is the picture of the little “Christmas tree” (the little valves that are left after the drilling rigs are gone) in less than a month.  You never see that shot. We should stop foreign aid and spend some money on energy development in the US.  But the media loves OPEC. 

  • Ken

    Thank you for having the program on this topic.  I listened with fascination to last week’s discussion of Germany’s proposed energy path.  I have been thinking about energy lately.  A few days ago I watched the controversial documentary “Gasland” on YouTube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3VIRF1jf-g

    I found “Gasland” to be quite interesting, however in the end I found it fairly easy to dismiss because it included so many unreal or questionable claims (such as animations that show fracking to cause massive cracks close to the surface, false claims about the endangeredness of pronghorn antelope in Wyoming, and the failure to question whether the flaming tap water phenomena shown early in the video existed prior to fracking). 

    To me, including false claims in a persuasive case is like an LA police officer in the mid ’90s tampering with evidence so as to produce an open and shut case.  It has–at least with many people–the opposite effect.  Some On Point listeners who have followed the more extreme claims related to global warming/climate change will no doubt understand what I am saying.

    So, when I anticipate listening to a program wherein the topics of energy and the environment intersect, I hope that the host will be well informed enough to be able to probe the factuality of certain key claims, and will not take the easier route of skipping over issues of veracity.  I enjoy listening to C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, where guests are never challenged, but that is a very different kind of program.

    I look forward to listening to this episode (via podcast).  Thank you for On Point. 

    Ken in North Dakota 

  • john in danvers

    Tom, please ask about how much gas is leaking directly out of these fracked wells to the environment.  Leaked gas should be a powerful actor in global warming, like methane.  That some people have spoiled water well seems to indicate leakage.  

    • Margaret McCasland

      “Natural gas” in pipelines IS methane. And it leaks at every stage, from extraction, through processing, compression, transmission and final destination. Sometimes it even blows up houses (San Bruno).   Many gas deposits also have butane and propane mixed in, but fossil gas is primarily methane. And unburned methane traps at least 2,000%* more heat in the atmosphere than CO2 does.   *21 times as much; you also hear numbers around 70 times or even 100+ times as much heat as CO2. The major differnce is the time frame.   But even the most conservation way of presenting the info (21 times, 2,000% more) is bad enough to quit calling “natural gas a green bridge.” It is a bridge to nowhere.

      • Anonymous

        @f086803fdd3851b6774d7f0c5c256282:disqus To see more on this subject, see:


        This reports on a study that shows a lot of leaking methane from fracking and requests a review by the National Academy of Science.

        • john in danvers

          Thank you both.  Margaret McCasland and Don_B1.

  • Bill

    I’ve recently read about boom towns in the west, particularly Texas, where they’ve discovered how to use hydraulic fracturing to recover oil.  Are there similar risks associated with oil extraction as there are with natural gas using this method of fracking? 

  • David Stein

    Lustgarten has worked tirelessly to convolute a number of distinct issues related to the environmental impacts of shale gas drilling.  He, along with Josh Fox, have been very successful in in confusing the public into believing that stray gas (whether naturally occurring or drilling related) is somehow connected to hydraulic fracturing.  

    For whatever reason hydraulic fracturing has become the boogieman du jour for anti-development activists.  “No Fracking Way” makes for a better bumper sticker than “I’m for stringent casing & cementing standards” – or “I support pre & post drilling water testing”.

    Flaming tapwater makes for great youtube videos, but it is not demonstrative of problems associated with hydraulic fracturing.

    However, by positioning stray methane as a hydraulic fracturing problem (rather than conceding that it is either naturally occurring or related to well drilling & construction) Lustgarten is able to feed the virulent opposition to they hydraulic fracturing process.

    My questions to Lustgarten would be:
    1.  “Why is it important to frame stray gas as a hydraulic fracturing problem, rather than a well construction problem?”

    2.  Does Lustgarten concede that flaming tapwater is not evidence of frack chemistry in water?  (Supported by Jackson’s study).

    Opponents of shale gas development frequently call for a cumulative impacts study.  Would such “cumulative impacts” include:

    1.  The potential offset of environmental impacts of our military operations in petroleum producing areas? (we are unlikely to fight wars in the Middle East for Marcellus Gas)

    2.  Coal Offsets.

    • Margaret McCasland

      Well construction matters. It is probably the most critical phase of gas extraction, conventional (pockets of gas in porous rock formations) or unconventional (tightly embedded in shale). The cement used is the same tricky gel that failed on Deepwater Horizon. Well cementing is not a process that is ‘not ready for prime time.’  This industry diagrams don’t show how complex the process it. The cement is forced down the well bore, and then they hope it comes back up evenly all around the outside. Not enough spacers, failure of the gel to set-up right–these are two of several chronic problems with oil and gas drilling, and two of many reasons Deepwater Horizon failed.

    • Anonymous

      @76ae74128d4005da0a471b896d42a48a:disqus I think you should define your terms: particularly “stray gas.” Then tell us how common that is across the type of drilling that is done, etc. I realize this may not be the best forum for that level of education, but then point to a site where such information can be understood by the average listener.

      Also, as more than adequately demonstrated by Deep Horizon, oil/gas companies WILL take as many shortcuts as allowed (and then some), unless given strict regulations. It is a shame that there are ALWAYS those who will take advantage to the detriment of others, but that is the lesson of all history.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      David,  The same industry that is promoting/using fracking, is NOT doing the safe drilling and/or safe casing, not capturing a significant amount of stray gasses, so you provide MORE evidence against the industry!

  • Bfitz0909

    This is a classic case where your ‘free market’ listeners will be appalled that some people think this industry will be regulated, and will laugh off the negative effects of frakking. After all, it’s not their groundwater, and people who need groundwater must be losers anyway – everybody knows that real Americans have their water delivered to their homes in bottles taken off trucks.

    We live in an era where the ‘free market’ position on pollution is that people should be able to pollute as much as they want, wherever they want, without any consequences whatsoever.

  • Bruce Guindon

    we must stop this insanity before we ruin our aquifer, and so GASLAND was just a hoax, made up, not believable and the oil companies are so safe so trustworthy and the champions of the environment. what planet are you from,perhaps you have missed the direction that development must take if we are to survive and it certainly is not petroleum. The oil companies are only interested in profit they prove over and over that the vast majority of people are only useful as long as they are buying their product other wise screw them   

  • Charley

    Dear Tom,

    This study represents the comprehensive failure of a governmentally endorsed wastewater treatment plant in PA intended to treat hydro fracture waste.

    Topic: Executive Summary and Complete Report – Contaminant Characterization of Effluent from Pennsylvania Brine Treatment- Josephine Facility Being Released into Blacklick Creek, Indiana County, Pennsylvania -Implications for Disposal of Oil and Gas Flowback Fluids from Brine Treatment PlantsThe full report can be accessed here: http://ge.tt/7KkwriaExecutive Summary; Contaminant Characterization of Effluent from Pennsylvania Brine Treatment Inc., Josephine Facility Being Released into Blacklick Creek, Indiana County, PennsylvaniaImplications for Disposal of Oil and Gas Flowback Fluids from Brine Treatment Plants Authors: Conrad D. Volz, DrPH, MPH, Kyle Ferrar, MPH, Drew Michanowicz, MPH, CPH, Charles Christen, DrPH, MEd, Shannon Kearney, MPH, CPH, Matt Kelso, BS and Samantha Malone, MPH, CPHAffiliation: Center for Healthy Environments and Communities (CHEC), Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Graduate School of Public Health, University of PittsburghRevised Report Date: March 25, 2011

  • Don Duggan-Haas

    In discussions about energy development, it’s essential to put things in context. Does gas drilling (in all its forms) endanger the environment? It’s clear that things can go wrong, and even when things go right, the use of the gas still contributes to climate change. But is it better or worse than what we’re doing now for our energy? That’s a trickier question — much of our electricity comes from coal which, according to most scientists, is not only a larger contributor to global warming per unit of energy produced, but also problematic in a host of other ways. That includes acid rain, mercury released to the atmosphere, and, of course, disasters like last year’s Upper Big Branch Mine explosion.

    While I’m a strong supporter of renewable energy development, I also know that the energy density of fossil fuels is hard to compete with economically. 
    In the case of the Marcellus Shale, many people see it either as economic savior or environmental catastrophe. This is really complex stuff, and challenges people engaged in education about the issue (including me) to largely part with the traditional educator mission of simplifying the complex. Instead of simplifying the complex, we need to complexify the seemingly simple. 

    As you might guess, that’s not simple.
    Don Duggan-Haas, Ph.D.
    Education Research Associate
    Museum of the Earth
    Ithaca, NY

    • Margaret McCasland

      How about if we science and environmental educators focus more on energy conservation so we don’t need as much fossil fuel from any source, during the build-out of safe renewables? We do need fossil fuels during the transition, but the ways Massey* gets coal are not justified in any terms–unsafe long wall mines such as Upper Big Branch, one of the major removers of mountain tops, and on and on. But the companies extracting shale gas don;t seem very “on top” of safety either. So let’s use less. Lots less. Open windows at night and run fans instead of turning on the AC. Set the AC higher, etc, etc (how we handle peak demand makes a big difference).

    • Anonymous

      @bf457efcde4624943a84038f6282df1a:disqus The study talked about in my previous post,http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/04/12/207875/shal-gas-bridge-fuel/

      indicates that the methane released directly from leaking wells may be enough to cancel the environmental gain (decrease in CO2 output) from burning natural gas over coal (oil is not widely used for electricity generation), which is almost 50% (if not canceled by the leakage).

  • Charley

    Sorry that the prior link for the Blacklick Creek Study is broken….

    Searching  ‘CHEC Wastewater Report Blacklick Creek’ will find either the summary or full report quickly.  The summary is a must-see eight pages of stunning failure.

  • Terry Tree Tree

    The Oil an Gas Executives, their Lobbyiests, the politicians that support Fracking, will prove that Fracking is safe, by they, and their families, who profit from it, drinking a quart of REAL Fracking Fluid per day!  Any caught faking it, in ANY way, will be agressively prosecuted for fraud, and ALL other crimes they can be charged with.  If they are not willing to do so, it indicates they are lyiing, and fracking is dangerous, and should be stopped IMMEDIATELY!! 

  • Margaret McCasland

    A combination of energy conservation (so we need less natural gas–AKA methane) and capturing “fugitive” methane could significantly–if not totally–replace the need for shale gas extraction.The numbers are variable, but estimated gas per year that could be taken from shale gas is in the range of  “2 years” of current US use (industry figure), but over extracted over 20-30+ years, so a small percentage per year. Thus reducing our needs per year, and capturing more of the gas currently being transmitted, could easily make up the difference shale gas would make in supply.And, as the Howarth et al study (Cornell, 2011) indicates, far too much methane is leaking at every step of the process. When unburned, methane is both a very potent greenhouse gas, and a valuable resource gone “into thin air.”Fixing leaks in pipelines, and also capturing leaking methane at all processing and compressor stations could just about replace what can be extracted from the Marcellus.Not to mention preventing explosions (such as San Bruno).

    • Anonymous

      @f086803fdd3851b6774d7f0c5c256282:disqus Just last week, GE announced that it expected sustainable energy (solar — PV and thermal, I believe — and wind power generation to be cheaper than fossil fuel within FIVE (5) years.
      There may be some desire to include a gas burning turbine at solar generating plants to enable more continuous power generation as that allows dual use of a significant part of the plant, but the inclusion of salt, or maybe other forms, for storage of energy as heat or rotational energy, will make that unnecessary in the near future.

  • Stefan Cooke

    It takes millions of gallons of water to frack a single gas well. Drilling companies say they can safely contain this poisoned wastewater in lined pits (treating it, if possible, would be too expensive). But what happens when a storm comes along and overflows that pit? How will the drilling company prevent the poisoned frack water from entering the water table?

  • Anonymous

    As a Duke University (Class of 1980) Geology graduate, and an exploration geologist in the natural gas industry, I am chagrined that I have been supporting the Nicholas School of the Environment with my Alumni Contributions.  I have spend considerable time digesting the study authored by Robert Jackson, Stephen Osborne and others and having dialog with those on the ground in the area of interest and many in the industry and academia with real, ground truth knowledge of the situation in northwest Pennsylvania.  Let me just summarize some of my conclusions about this study…
    ·       No baseline data characterizing area before drilling operations began
    ·       Inadequate acknowledgement of existence of natural methane in water wells before drilling operations began
    ·       Lack of acknowledgement of the probability of deep gas migration to near-surface naturally, which is a common and well-established occurrence in many areas
    ·       Apparent lack of involvement of Duke’s own geological staff to avoid numerous untenable and geological statements in the report
    ·       Biased (cherry-picked) sampling emphasizing known (by the PA DEP) problem wells (not related to hydraulic fracturing)
    ·       Politically motivated and irresponsible use of the work “hydraulic fracturing” in the title in order to score an emotional response with the environment activists and gullible public, even though if your read the study in many respects it exonerates hydraulic fracturing as the source.
    Now, due to the weight of Duke’s reputation, beguiled citizens are referring to Jackson’s study in town hall meetings across the country.  The media is even taking his conclusions to a different extreme.  Irresponsible science has consequences.  One will be that I never contribute as an Alumni to Duke University again.  They have become reckless, but influential source of mis-information and compromised rational discussion of an energy issue that is very important to our country. 

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Bob_Heim,  Are you willing to prove that fracking is safe by you and your family drinking a quart of fracking fluid per day?  I can drink a quart of milk per day.

    • Bfitz0909

      I think we’ve discovered our corporate shill. He even had talking points ready!

    • guest

      I agree w/Mr Heim. I am an engineer, and it’s appalling to watch how reporters toot themselves ‘experts’ without any real understanding. Journalism certainly has been losing it’s integrity for awhile now and inciting an angry mob seems to be a good way to solidify your career. You’re kidding yourselves if you think that prof is practicing responsible science. I challenge you instead to take some chemisty and physics classes, then study geology.
      BTW, dairy is bad for you, it’s been all over the news….

  • Scott B, Jamesown, NY

    I worked at a gas station and the laws and legal penalties they had for not cleaning up any fuel hitting the ground were serious.  If a cup of fuel made it into the sewer system there could be serious trouble, but the drilling companies can inject kerosene, diesel fuel, ethanol (to name the fuels) and 70+ other chemicals with impunity.  Farmers in NY state couldn’t even dump milk (MILK!) into the ground without the potential of the EPA coming down hard on them, and milk is water, fat, and proteins, all biodegradable and digestible.  When’s the last time someone downed a cold glass of kerosene or benzine, or wanted to?

    • Anonymous

      @8e1a3e5642d40f7a16533193869586fa:disqus Actually, diesel fuel is the ONE additive to fracking fluids that the EPA is allowed to regulate, due to the Cheney/Republican bill of 2005 which exempted the extraction of natural gas from EPA oversight.

      • Scott B, Jamesown, NY

        I know, but I didn’t want to list the dozens of dozen of others, like benzine, ethanol (and a host of other alcohols), taurine, and put people to sleep. 

    • http://profiles.google.com/shaduck007 samuel liu

      Scott B Andrews Construction.
      You seem to be quite brilliant to be a typical gas station worker

      • Scott B, Jamesown, NY

        Thanks, I think. LOL  I  be havin a lot of buk lernin’.

  • Terry Tree Tree

    For the price of drilling each well, a decent-size Wind Turbine and/or Solar Panel installation can be built.  Factor in the number of ‘dry holes’, low producers, and the high-producing wells that are gelled, or capped off, and you have a lot more renewables.  Invest the amount of various ‘subsidies’ to the oil, gas, coal industries for just the past 30 years, and we could have been ‘Energy Independent’ at least a decade ago! 

  • g, Buffalo, NY

    It would have been a much more relevant and important and timely topic to discuss Buffalo’s economic situation and what local people are doing to “Make Buffalo Great” again.

    Not saying that discussing hydro-fracking isn’t important, but having Tom here in Buffalo would have been great if he discussed things that are relevant to our community and possibly other Rust Belt cities.

    The emergence of the “Medical Corridor”, how all these buildings that were dilapidated for years in downtown Buffalo are now being restored, new restaurants and shops opening up, young people are coming here, opening businesses; our local farming community, CSA’s, urban farming, micro-breweries, how Elmwood St got developed and what that did for the city, our great parks and our great people.

    People here are the nicest in the country! We are a city of Great Neighbors.

    Buffalo has gotten such a bad rep for so many years because of the weather and poor economy – high taxes and not a lot of jobs – but I think it is changing now.

    Summer is a great time to be here in Buffalo. We have different festivals and happenings ever week. Free events, music, art, etc. Home prices are low and we were never hit with the housing market slump. There are a lot of great things about Buffalo and living here. Not to mention that we have TWO professional sports teams – Bills and Sabres, as well as minor league Bisons.

    Yes, long winters here can be rough. Yes, it is gloomy in the winter, but at least our homes don’t get flooded or burned by wild fires or destroyed by tornadoes and hurricanes.

    People are organizing events such as TedxBuffalo. Young people are sticking around after graduating college. There are jobs here. Some dream of making Buffalo the “Silicone Valley of the East”. I think it’s great. And it would have been great to hear Tom talk about it.

    Thank you

  • http://en-gb.facebook.com/onanov Donald Baxter

    Thanks for running that Exxon Mobil ad that’s been running on the online Rachel Maddow Show of all places.  The idea that fracking can be marketed as a safe, complication-free, solution to our energy problem is appalling!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1408098372 Mari McAvenia

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_GwRSV2bec  Would somebody please address the reasons for all these new “sandboils” and sinkholes opening up around previously fracked sites?

  • Lance R

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the documentary “Gasland”  which was nominated for an academy award. Quite an indictment of the Fracking people.

  • Charles A. Bowsher

    Why is America so suicidal when it comes to taking environmental risks? We can not drink, breathe or consume either, coal, oil or natural gas, yet we are williing to foul our water, our earth, our air to get it. Time to wake up.  Conservation and sustainable fuels are the logical intelligent choice.  Oil, coal, nuclear and gas are the the fools path.  Which will we choose, which will we choose….?

    As for the Duke guy talking now, he needs to wait several years before he will really see the damages this fracking has done.  By then it will be to late.

  • Lara

    Just because we can drill for natural gas, does not mean that we should.  Water versus natural air…Clearly water needs to be seen as a priority!  I understand that Pennsylvania and other states see natural gas as a way to grow their economy, but we need to consider what a few decades of fracking would do to our MOST valuable source…water.  People can live without natural gas, they can’t live without water. 

    • Anonymous

      @6cfe7d283bcb89f550a11ec0b331a322:disqus Even surface water clean up is hugely difficult and expensive (e.g., GE and Hudson River PCB contamination) but water aquifer contamination is effectively forever. And a lot of human lives depend on water from various aquifers.

      The lower Mississippi is not know as “Cancer Alley” for nothing, that “nothing” being the un- and under-treated effluent discharged by the cities and towns up-river. When water containing organics is treated with chlorine, cancer-causing molecules are generated which are hard to filter out. Ozone treatment avoids this.

  • Stan Scobie

    Hydraulic fracturing and well drilling, and well casing are all joined at the hip. To inappropriately segment them and act as if they can entirely be evaluated separately is scientific madness. The O&G industry likes to do this and then say there is no evidence “fracking” ever caused a problem. There is no fracking without drilling.

    It would be as if we could somehow really study the “effects” of an automobile windshield or exhaust system etc. entirely separately from the complete automobile. 

    The appropriate analysis is the “complete life cycle” approach considering all of these aspects together before trying to analyze them in isolation.

    The question to raise is this: the industry likes to say: these problems all have engineering/technical fixes; well, they have been doing this for 60 years or so, how much longer do they need to fix the problems?

    Stan Scobie, Binghamton, NY

  • Carol

    Quite aside from whether ground water is being polluted by the process, where is the water coming from that is being used in the process. The age of abundant water is over and we are still acting like it is a never-ending resource. We are burying our heads in the sands and there isn’t going to be any water, let alone clean water, to drink when we pull our heads up.

    • Lara

      So true Carol…they use water to polllute water.

    • Anonymous

      @552cb8517281210ba88d38ad4cb77e06:disqus And the large amounts of water used for this process is trivial compared to that which will be used to extract shale oil from the tar sands, as is currently being done in western Canada. There they have to heat the tar in the ground to get it to run, and then use water to “clean” it. But the heating and cleaning processes mean that a gallon of oil is used to extract something between a gallon and a gallon and a half of oil. Hugely CO2-generating process.

      • Margaret McCasland

        And then they need methane (AKA natural gas) to lubricate the pipelines cuz the tarry oil is so sticky. But it is also so corrosive it causes leaks (11+leaks in the FIRST year of the pipeline to the US). Then we get oil in the soil and water and unburned methane in the air. Adding injury to injury!

  • Reinhard Sokol

    Whether it’s exploding mountain tops in Appalachia or cracking rocks to release natural gas all over the country, they are all desperate attempts to satisfy the appetite of the monster, and that monster is all of us with our monster trucks, monster SUVs, oversized monster houses. Desperate attempts to keep an obscene pattern of culture on life support.

  • Gerald Fnord

     I think a lot of the commenters here are ignoring the following important bits of reasoning:
    1.) If we don’t use this gas now, future generations will not have access to it,
    2.) Caring about “the environment” and weird concepts like “clean water” and “air safe to breathe” are the concerns of only a few eco-nuts, and shouldn’t interfere with our manly national resolve to plunge repeatedly and forcefully into Mother Earth until every energy be spent, and
    3.) We will never get better at this—no possible technical improvement will ever make it possible to get this gas out safely.

    In light of these points, all the anti-fracking arguments made in the show and in the comments are completely destroyed; everyone should just go home, be quiet, and wait for the bounty of an untrammeled Market and absolute ownership of the Earth and its goods by private “persons” to trickle down over them, and through their taps.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1408098372 Mari McAvenia

      ” {We}shouldn’t interfere with our manly national resolve to plunge repeatedly
      and forcefully into Mother Earth until every energy be spent…”

      Very colorful prose! I’d add that fracking the earth for gas – which only profits a few- is like raping a whole village because you love your wife. Make any sense?  Nah. Just business as usual.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      I hope this is sarcasm. 

      • Ctwood2

        I agree with you Triple T…Gerlad Snord has to be attempting rather lame satire considering his three points are patently absurd:

        1) If a commodity is not used, it’s access will be reduced

        2) Clean water and safe air is only a concern of “eco-nuts” tell that to the majority of Republicans and Tea Partiers who are concerned with the obvious eco-issues that are facing the world.

        3)”… No possible technical improvement…” was the same arguments made by the industrial lords in the 19th century when the 12% to 15% employee death/amputee rate in coal mines, steel mills and industrial factories was the norm.

        Even this commentator’s foolish name is a ridiculous pun on the name of Congressman and President Gerald Ford, who supported some ecological efforts…and would be considered a liberal loon by his political party today.

    • Itsnewst0me

      I have family in Pensylvanis where many years ago the industry misled people into unknowingly signing away their underground property rights so they could not stop drilling EVER. Why do so in secret if there is nothing wrong with it? Go To Pa. and talk to the people who live thre so you can hear about the poisoned flammable water, ruined farmland, dead cattle and sick residents. Go out to other states so you can hear how scientists are now finding that fracking has caused devastating earthquakes.
      Look at lovely landscaps covered with multitudes of ugly drill sites so numerous it looks like a science ficton nightmare. Ask people how fracking has ruined their land, crops, livestock, health and lives. Do NOT believe the industry or politicians (who stand to make a LOT of money by supporting it).

  • Stan Scobie

    As far as the baseline of “naturally ocurring methane in water wells in NY/PA Marcellus region:

    There are absolutely zero scientific studies of methane in water wells in the absence of gas drilling in these states covering and sampling all areas of the state or even large regions.

    What evidence does exist is quite clear in pointing to a very small (less than one percent) of water wells have dangerous levels of methane.

    The industry likes to claim that methane in wayer wells is common. They dont release their data and they do not specify what the “common” levels are.

    Stanley R Scobie, Ph.D., Binghamton, NY

    • just me

      There is a lot of evidence of methane in water wells.  In fact we have even had water well drilling rigs catch fire drill a water well and there are still no natural gas wells in that area.  We have seen a lot of methane in water wells over the years particularly where there are sulfur water in the well.

  • Stan Scobie

    Diesel in frack fluids. This is absolutely used in frack fluids – congress requested such information and the large frackers all reported they had recently used such.

    Also, nearly all lists of frack fluid ingredients (such as that published by PADEP and NYDEC) list “mineral spirits and the like. These are functionally equivalent to diesel.

    • Scott B, Jamesown, NY

      I was lucky I got in that call, I blew a LOT of pre-paid cell minutes, but I think what I said got a fairly alarmed reaction out of Tom (I might be wrong), and hopefully other people had a similar reaction.

      One of the reasons they know that diesel (along with other fuels like kerosene and ethanol) are in the bashwashed fracking fluid is is  being dumped in into local waterways. It’s NOT just in the holding ponds. Additionally, during rains, the ponds will flood their containment and flow into the ground andwaterways.

      A lot of the fracking fluid ingredients the energy companies will list are basically just a breakdown of other fuels and chemicals that sound less scary than “diesel” and “benzine”.

      • Terry Tree Tree

        Scott B.   Thanks for that info.  ANYONE  that would consider putting diesel /and/or benzine in other people’s drinking water, should have to drink a gallon a day of it for ten years, before they can promote such a thing.  PROBLEM SOLVED!!!!

  • guest

    why are none of your guests engineers? why aren’t the drillers required to string their casing?

    • JimmyKl

      i agree the deck is stacked with non-practioners; little value here

  • Scott B, Jamesown, NY

    I’ll get behind fracking when I see a Haliburton exec drink a glass of of it.  The gas industry wants our gas and if they are told they are allowed to frack all they want on the condition that the chemicals in fracking fluid are non-toxic and not until then, just watch how fast they come up with a fix. 

  • Lara

    It appears that we will have to live with Fracking, at least in some regions, so Fracking needs to be thoroughly researched by an independent organization, other than those in the region.  There NEEDS to be at least some pre-liminary regulations that meet the needs of the public.  The study and data should be exhaustive and cover all aspects of fracking and then researched on an annual basis if not monthly basis, so that we can deal with ALL issues that arise.  My concern is that the communities and profiteers from this process are being short sighted and not considering the long term affects that may ultimately deem these communities as un-inhabitable. 

  • guest

    “Irresponsible science has consequences.”
    thank you Mr Heim 

  • Scott B, Jamesown, NY

    Dean Kamen (of Segway fame) makes a filter system that will turn anything you want to dump in it into surgical grade sterilized water. There’s no reason that this technology can’t be brought into treating this issue. It’s not THE fix, but it’s a start for the bashwashed fluids, etc.

    • Margaret McCasland

       6-16 wells per drilling pad? 3-4 fracks per well? Millions of gallons per well per frack? That’s a LOT of water. And does it remove radioactivity, such as is found in the Marcellus?

      • Scott B, Jamesown, NY

        I don’t see why the tech can’t be proportioned. Hydro started with waterwheels powering grindstones to saws and mills, and now you Hoover Dam.  That might not be exactly the same thing, but a systems are resigned up and down in scale all the time.  Computers go smaller, engines got bigger… 

        Radon disperses pretty easily.

  • Bobl1234

    If seeing is believing, I’ve seen more than enough film of flaming water faucets and other weird side effects to believe gas companies, their “snake oil” salespeople, and Ohio’s own (I mean, their) snake oil Governor when any of them try tell us that fracking is safe. And if their argument goes to job creation, don’t any of them remember the jokes made at Ohio’s expense when the Cuyahoga River caught fire?  (I do, as I lived in Cleveland then.)  And I wonder: over the past four decades, how many “clean” jobs have located outside of Ohio to avoid being tarred with that same old “dirty Ohio” brush? Fracking?  Get frackin’ serious.   

    • Gus More, Coral Gables, FL

      I suppost those ecologically disasterous corporations’ media statements could be translated as “We must distroy all life on earth, our jobs depend on it!” When it comes to fuel (including electricity generation) check out David Blume’s “Alcohol Can Be A Gas” – its permaculture, locally produced, and economically viable.

  • David C Montgomery

    It is surprising that no mention has been made of the documentary film “Gasland,” available as a DVD. It was nominated for an Academy Award this last round, and it contains a lot of visual evidence in several states.

    • Scott B, Jamesown, NY

      “Gasland” is very one-sided (not for the makers’ lack of trying to get energy comapny people to speak) and visual evidence doesn’t translate well to radio. Not to say that it’s wrong, I loved the movie; but it was nice to have a conversation about fracking without “Gasland” being referred to every other sentence. 

    • JimmyKl

      gasland was not a documentary, it was a hit-job ala michael moore; a waste of time

    • Worried for the country(MA)

      The ‘smoking gun’ in Gasland was the flaming water faucets in Colorado.  The film maker now admits that methane has been found in well water in the area as early as the 70s, long before fracking was invented.  He knew this but left it out of the ‘documentary’.

  • Anonymous

    It’s simply amazing that in the 21st Century we continue to dump toxic chemicals in MASS amounts throughout the US. It’s absurd that energy companies claim proprietary anonymity over the toxic chemicals they pump deep underground that inevitably leach into ground water and even deep artesian wells. 

    If it’s pressure from the pumped chemicals that cause the fracturing and gas release WHY THE HELL don’t they just use water…. What’s the need for chemicals that cause birth defects and cancer? Oh yeah…. it costs LESS to pump that stuff underground than it does to dispose of it……

  • Sue from New York

     upstate New York

    The gas  trade organization, Independent Oil and Gas Association is seducing New York state legislators to dump frack water on two upstate New York cities, North Tonawanda and Niagara Falls because they supposedly are of only two of twelve communities in country that have the water treatment plants to remove this garbage.

    Both communities are struggling and now the energy companies, the richest companies in the world that pay very little tax on their profits and are not required to clean up the contaminated messes they make
    under the loop hole in the federal clean air and water acts. So they dump their trade secrete chemicals into our water treatment plants and we the taxpaying residents of these communities must foot the bill for these corporate goons.

    The nearby city of Buffalo did a smart thing the residents pasted the law that forbids the dumping of frack water into their water treatment plant as well as gas drilling within its city limits. The only city in the country to do so. 

  • Anonymous

    If we only put in HALF this effort into renewable energy, we would be far better off.

    Renewable energy is the ONLY thing that will last as long as the Earth.  We seem to be trying to use up all the finite energy sources as quickly as we can!

    The sun is a fusion nuclear reactor — at a safe distance, and the waste problem is taken care of.  Wind, solar heat and PV, wave, tidal, biomass, geothermal — we are surrounded by sustainable, non-polluting, energy sources that do not have catastrophic failures.

    Why are we letting these people get rich while they ruin or shared Earth?


  • Nevyok

    BAN FRACKING COMPLETELY ! ….. Nev Griffiths ….. Albury Australia !

  • Lyne

    Why wasn’t the following discussed?
    Public Citizen’s Analysis of the Domenici-Barton Energy Policy Act of 2005OIL & GAS REGULATORY ROLLBACKSSection 322″Exempts from the Safe Drinking Water Act a coalbed methane drilling technique called “hydraulic fracturing,” a potential polluter of underground drinking water. One of the largest companies employing this technique is Halliburton, for which Vice President Richard Cheney acted as chief executive officer in the 1990s. This exemption would kill lawsuits by Western ranchers who say that drilling for methane gas pollutes groundwater by injecting contaminated fluids underground. Only 16 companies stand to significantly benefit from this exemption from clean water laws: Anadarko, BP, Burlington Resources, ChevronTexaco, ConocoPhillips, Devon Energy, Dominion Resources, EOG Resources, Evergreen Resources, Halliburton, Marathon Oil, Oxbow (Gunnison Energy), Tom Brown, Western Gas Resources, Williams Cos and XTO. These companies gave nearly $15 million to federal candidates—with more than three-quarters of that total going to Republicans. Moreover, the 16 companies spent more than $70 million lobbying Congress.

  • Just Me

    Are you kidding?
    Talk about drive by media!
    These reporters lacked faces and knowledge and perhaps Tom should get a better map so he knows where the Marcellus Shale is located. Dr. Jackson bring you next grant to NY we are working on funding to do base line water testing before the drilling starts.  That’s the only way you can do an accurate comparison.  (I think that’s basic science)
    Nothing “ON Point” about this show.  Well at least Tom can say he did a show on “Marcellus Shale”……………….
    If you want to hear balanced radio coverage of the subject listen to Susan Arbetter on “Capitol Pressroom” http://thecapitolpressroom.org/ She works hard at providing her listening audience with credible sources.

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  • http://solarhotusa.com Solar hot water

    Human is completely dependent on natural sources of energy as with advancements.We have attained new source of energy that is solar energy therefore it is recommended and  the best to install solar heating systems on houses and get rid from large sum of bills as well as stay safe because it is the safest source of energy… 

  • hatergirl

    fracking is horible 

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  • KerryOK

    I interviewed a fracking truck driver in Alberta, Canada. He said the process devastates the land and has rendered formerly pristine lakes so toxic that the native population can no longer fish there or drink the water. And we want to do that in the USA?  At least the French promptly and rightfully banned the process because they know that close to 40% of their drinking water is already polluted.

    We need to tell the people who run MSNBC and the Rachel Maddow Show that taking money from the likes of ExxonMobil with their sickening Kerl Sands (Artis Brown) and natural gas (Erik Oswald) ads for fracking are unacceptable, even if it means we will have to stop watching a show we really like. Being ethical requires congruence in behavior.

  • Pingback: On Point energy episodes | Energy Independence

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Jasmin Torres helps classmate Brianna Rameles with a worksheet at the Diloreto Magnet School in New Britain, Conn., Wednesday Feb. 22, 2012. (AP/Charles Krupa)

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In this Thursday, Sep. 11, 2014 photo, Middle Eastern leaders stand together during a family photo with of the Gulf Cooperation Council and regional partners at King Abdulaziz International Airport’s Royal Terminal in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. (AP/Brendan Smialowski, Pool)

President Obama says he will build a coalition of partners in the Middle East to combat ISIS. We’ll do a reality check on who’s really stepping up for what.

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