Fracking – Friend Or Foe? The Marcellus Shale Play In Focus

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A Google search of ‘Hydraulic Fracturing’ will produce various articles on the efficacy of using this method to extract natural gas from the earth in an attempt to sustain the energy security of the United States.

On February 8, 2011, the Senate introduced legislation designed to spur investment in the natural gas industry ahead of the Marcellus Shale boom. In focusing in on the new legislation, Senator Brooks McCabe said, "This really focuses on the economic development potential."

This potential is clear, from objective research, such as a recent study commissioned by the University of West Virginia, which revealed that the Marcellus Shale Play has the potential for significant economic development, "…our study estimates that the MSP accounted for the creation of 7,600 jobs and $2.35 billion in business volume…The potential exists for upwards of 20,000 jobs by 2015 if drilling grows at a 20 percent rate per year".

There is no doubt that we have a rich source of natural gas right under our feet – some say the Marcellus Shale Play could provide a clean alternative power source for up to 100 years -- but at what cost?

In other news, on the same day, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) submitted a draft study to the international science advisory board on the controversial methods used to extract gas from shale formations.

Currently the ‘cocktail of chemicals’ required to extract natural gas from shale rock has environmental groups distressed at the potential negative impact on the quality of drinking water and public health.

In fact, the city of Buffalo recently banned hydraulic fracturing, convinced that the drilling method does more harm to the environment than good. Noxious substances that are known to be present in the wake of the fracking process include benzene, glycol-ethers, toluene, 2-(2-methoxyethoxy) ethanol, and nonylphenols, all of which are toxic to humans at high levels.