Energy. Environment. Economy.

Drill Bits: Temple University Digs In, Fracking Earthquakes, and Jobs, Jobs, and Less Jobs?

Scenes of rural residents in Northeast PA lighting their tap water on fire have become iconic, thanks to the documentary Gasland. But where did that gas come from? Critics say drilling. The industry, and some locals, say lighting tap water on fire has always been a pastime of adolescent mountain boys north of Scranton. Researchers from Temple University want to get to the bottom of it — the deep bottom that is. Temple environmental engineer Michel Boufadel says if it is drilling that creates kitchen-sink torches, one of two things is happening. Either methane pockets close to the surface are getting shaken up by the process of drilling, forcing the gas into water wells. Or, the gas that the drillers are trying to reach about a mile below the surface through fracking is leaking into water wells. Each would require a different solution. The $66,000 multidisciplinary project is funded by Philadelphia’s William Penn Foundation, a legacy of the chemical corporation Rohm and Haas. 

Speaking of fracking and chemicals, drilling for shale gas is new in the UK, and perhaps so is the reporting on it. Watch this BBC piece that aired back in June about gas drilling causing earthquakes. We love the BBC, masters of broadcast news. But listen carefully to the fracking explanation. The reporter says it consists of a mixture of “water, sand and lubricants.” Here in the U.S. most reporters would say “water, sand and chemicals.” Both are true, but have different implications for the viewer. What’s your vote — chemicals or lubricants? Also, the piece refers to Josh Fox’s Gasland as a “campaign” piece. What do you think? Is Fox a propagandist or muckraker?

And finally, we reported Wednesday on the industry report that shows gas drilling in Pennsylvania is exceeding all expectations and could account for 250,000 jobs by 2020. But the jobs creation debate continues to rankle. The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center quickly released their response to the study, calling the Penn State researchers’ projections exaggerated.


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