National Geographic News
Anti-fracking supporters bring water to residents of Carter Road after Cabot Oil and Gas stopped supplying water to residents whose wells were contaminated as a result of gas drilling activities.

Protesters converged on Dimock, Pennsylvania, in 2011 over the effects of fracking on residents' water. Now an increasing number of communities are seeking to ban fracking outright, sparking court battles.

Photograph by Nina Berman/NOOR/Redux

Joe Eaton

For National Geographic

Published August 22, 2013

As President Obama visits upstate New York and northeastern Pennsylvania this week to discuss his education agenda, a separate issue looms large in the background: fracking, a practice that has transformed Pennsylvania's economy and divided New York, where a moratorium is in place.

Protesters on both sides of the issue are expected to greet the President. And while his trip highlights many unresolved issues related to America's new wealth of natural gas and oil, a growing number of communities are taking matters into their own hands. (Vote: "How Has Fracking Changed Our Future?")

From New York to New Mexico, more than 100 municipalities have passed fracking bans or temporary moratoriums, according to FracTracker, a nonprofit organization that compiles data on the oil and gas industry. The bans often put communities in direct conflict with states over the right to regulate the oil and gas industry. (See related story: "Health Questions Key to New York Fracking Decision, but Answers Scarce.")

A Far-Reaching Debate

At first glance, New Mexico's Mora County seems an unlikely battleground in the fight over fracking, which involves injecting wells with millions of gallons of water and chemicals to release trapped oil and gas.

Located in a rural northern part of the state, the county has fewer than 5,000 citizens, vast tracts of open land, and an unemployment rate nearly twice the national average. Still, despite its need for jobs and economic development, Mora County in May became perhaps the first county in the United States to ban fracking on its land. (See related quiz: "What You Don't Know About Natural Gas.")

John Olivas, chairman of the Mora County Commission, said the ban stems from fear that fracking might harm water wells, which have flowed despite several recent summers of severe drought. "When you talk about an industry affecting our water, that is really all we have," Olivas said.

Many states across the country are in the midst of an energy boom propelled in large part by advanced drilling technologies, which allow companies to access oil and gas that could not be reached in the past. As drillers move into new frontiers, communities concerned over the health, safety, and environmental impact of fracking are passing strict regulations, moratoria, and outright bans, which often wind up in court. It's a trend experts expect will escalate. (See related story: "Natural Gas Nation: EIA Sees U.S. Future Shaped by Fracking.")

"I think we will see more municipalities and communities trying to ban fracking," said Sorrell Negro, a land use attorney in Connecticut who wrote an influential 2012 paper on the topic. In the past, drilling took place mainly on rural land, Negro said, but new technologies and recent shale discoveries have brought drilling into more densely populated areas.

"You are having places like the city of Dallas that have to decide if they are going to allow it in the city boundaries," Negro said. "These issues just have not come up before."

The trend of community bans has the oil and gas industry on edge. "This is an industry that operates on certainty," said Reid Porter, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute. "When you are looking at the planning necessary to make these investments in communities, it's necessary to know what the regulations are."

Industry representatives say drilling takes years of planning and millions of dollars of investment before the trucks arrive. If a local government has authority to ban drilling or enact regulations that make it too costly or cumbersome, drillers say it puts that investment at risk.

"The ability [of municipal governments] to change policy quickly would not elicit any sort of confidence," said Steve Forde, vice president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a trade association that represents energy companies targeting natural gas deposits in the 48,000-square-mile shale formation underneath New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, and West Virginia. The Marcellus shale contains by far the largest known deposits of natural gas in the United States, and has turned the states where it is located into test cases for local control over fracking. (See related blog post: "In Virginia, a Tug of War Persists Over a National Forest Atop Shale Gas Reserves.")

What's unclear is how far energy companies are willing to go to protect their interests. Industry giants ExxonMobil and BP declined to comment on the issue, referring calls to industry trade associations. Shaun Goho, a lecturer and environmental law expert at Harvard Law School, said he expects industry will continue to push states to limit municipal regulation of fracking. "They want the states to handle it as much as possible," Goho said, "not local governments, and not the federal government."

Legal Uncertainty

State laws vary on the authority of local governments to regulate oil and gas development. In 2012, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed statewide standards for oil and gas zoning, preempting the rights of municipalities to ban drilling or regulate where wells are sited. A handful of towns challenged the law and won in lower courts. The issue is currently before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. (See related series: "The Great Shale Gas Rush.")

Since 2008, New York has enforced a statewide fracking moratorium while it prepares state regulations. In the meantime, several municipalities have passed bans and moratoria. In May, a mid-level New York appeals court ruled in favor of Dryden and Middlefield, two small upstate New York towns that banned fracking, affirming lower court decisions. Norse Energy, which has since filed for bankruptcy, had sued Dryden over its fracking ban.

Tom West, an Albany attorney who represents Norse Energy in the case, asked the state's high court to review the ruling. West said communities that ban drilling after energy companies buy leases will likely face further legal challenges. "Municipalities will have to think long and hard about that," West said, adding that he would recommend both that landowners and companies sue to protect the value of their mineral rights.

Deborah Goldberg, an attorney with Earthjustice, a nonprofit public interest environmental law firm that represents Dryden, said the case tests the rights of communities in the state to determine their future. "They are asking for the right to develop a well anywhere," Goldberg said of Norse Energy. "If they want to go in next to a school, they go in next to a school. If they want to go in next to a hospital, they go in next to a hospital, regardless of what the zoning says."

Battles over fracking are also brewing far from the Marcellus Shale, in western states including Colorado. In December, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association filed a lawsuit that seeks to overturn a fracking ban passed by voters in Longmont, a city of 85,000 northeast of Boulder. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper's administration joined the lawsuit on the side of the drillers. In May, the Fort Collins City Council overturned its fracking ban, reportedly over concern over possible industry legal action, according to the Boulder Journal.

Stan Dempsey, president of the Colorado Petroleum Association, said in most cases Colorado fracking bans are little more than symbolic gestures in communities that have little or no energy development. In Longmont, for example, Dempsey said there was only one drilling operator. Nonetheless, Dempsey said, the industry spent $500,000 to influence the vote in Longmont and will continue to take cases to court.

"All of these communities are going to be sued for taking someone's mineral interests from them," Dempsey said. "I think it's a bit hypocritical for communities saying 'not in my backyard,' but we want the energy in our tanks and we want natural gas to heat our homes. I think so much of the opposition  [to hydraulic fracturing] is really about opposing the development of fossil fuels. They don't want any more fossil fuel development, period."

As new technologies allow energy companies to target shale they were unable to drill in the past, experts say the legal challenges over fracking might be only beginning. The next battlefield may be in California, where drillers are eyeing the massive Monterey shale. The 1,750-square-mile formation in central and southern California is believe to contain double the oil of the Bakken shale, which made North Dakota into the second largest producer of oil behind Texas. (See related story: "Monterey Shale Shakes up California's Energy Future")

Because of the unique geology of the Monterey shale, it is unclear whether hydraulic fracturing would be an effective tool for oil production. After several recent legislative bills to halt fracking in California failed, activists started petition drives to block drilling in several cities and counties. If the activism leads to bans, industry watchers expect they will be tested in state courts.

This story is part of a special series that explores energy issues. For more, visit The Great Energy Challenge.

55 comments
Philip Thomas
Philip Thomas

is nothing sacred from greed?  profit-driven short -term development must not foul the nest for everyone else!!!!!

Starla Olson
Starla Olson

How does it figure that you can sue to protect your mineral rights only to have a corporation sue you for protecting yours because it doesn't allow them to pollute them..?  O.o

It's like a merry-go-round of stupid...

Swiftright Right
Swiftright Right

Because we wouldn't want to cause investors to face "risk" just to save people's only supply of water.


What makes me mad about this whole debacle is that it didn't have to be this way. In PA gas companies refused to use safe proven fracking fluids in preference to fluids which were poisonous. Not only does it poison well but then you have a problem with what to do with the residue. The solution they used was again a poor one. Instead treating it they opted to dump it in sand levied ponds. Predictably (and against the Natgas predictions) the sand levee failed the very 1st time we had heavy rains.

m s
m s

I can only imagine the lack of brain cells it takes to actually be on the side of the big oil companies protesting for more fracking?! Seriously? These companies already get major funding from the taxes we pay, something they don't need because of their billions a year profits, and yet are allowed to continue to not only give children respiratory illnesses en masse but also allowed to destroy both once freely available water sources and standard water sources used by the people. We need new solutions not more of the same from these companies or we'll start seeing people dying off by the thousands from measles not just dolphins from the gulf.

Anthony Barbuto
Anthony Barbuto

Fracking is not safe. Americans are saying the energy crisis is over and USA will be energy independent in a few years and perhaps an energy exporter again. IF you want to learn about the dangers of Fracking see the documentary...."Gasland",,...and  " Gasland 2". Although, I am told, fracking is using less hazardous chemicals, I would not bet on EVERYONE using what is safest,...but they will use what is cheapest.

With Nevada sinking ( due to using underground water, and not replenishing the supply), and the glaciers melting due to global warming,...making the supply of river water very speculative in the near future...potable water supply in the USA is declining,... rapidly.

WE CANNOT AFFORD to pollute ANY potable water from Fracking or anything else....

So, Fracking for gas and oil is not the answer to our energy needs. Just because we have discovered huge energy deposits, does not mean we can harvest them if we polute our water supply....ALSO, we used most of our peak oil in the USA in 100 years. We now have 330,000,000 people in the USA ,...and growing. Our demands on energy will only increase,...not diminish. With India and China developing economically, they will reach the USA in energy consumption, soon . With 1 BILLION people each, thats SIX TIMES the population of the USA !....IF we used all the peak oil in 100 years, how long do you think it will take to use the oil in the USA with SEVEN TIMES the amount of people using it at the same rate?!

The answer is to reduce the amount of oil we use for energy and use it for the pharmaceuticals and other chemicals( plastics, fertilizers, etc.),,,,that we are so dependent upon.

The way to go is SOLAR........Each DAY, there is enough solar energy falling on the earth to power all of humanity's energy needs fo ONE YEAR..!!!...Of course, we cannot build solar panels to cover the entire earth. But we could build solar receivers in a few states like Arizona, New Mexico, etc....where there is a lot of waste land...to receive FREE microwave energy from collectors in space.

That is the answer....solar collectors in space, beaming down energy as microwave and converting it to electricity. This can be channeled into the USAs grid.....and preventing the use of coal and oil and nuclear power plants, to generate electricity.

The problem with SOLAR is that the oil companies and coal companies, cannot control SOLAR, so they have not pushed Congress to work on ...GOING SOLAR....The same case can be said for Methanol made from methane . Methanol has been used by drag racers since the 1950s. It is cheaper than gas. It can be made from garbage, or any decaying organic material ( swamp gas is an example)..Oil wells often burn it off as waste gas!

Again, methanol has not been utilized because the BIG COMPANIES cannot control Methane/methanol like they can buy up land for oil or coal or build a nuclear plant.

IF you think nuclear will work...FORGET IT.....Just look at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl then the tragedy in Japan after the tsunami( see the documentary done by PBS that showed the cowardice of the Nuclear energy company. The Japanese gov't had to send in the fire dept to save the reactor).

Obama ,with his pockets filled with cash from big business is pushing his own energy agenda( such as carbon credits...to make more junk for phony investments, like we had for mortgage futures). I think we should look at SOLAR and METHANOL as "free" sources of energy.......not in the hands of BiG BUSINESS.

To see how easy Solar can be read Dr Oneils book "High Frontier" written in the 1970s, describing how collectors can be built in space to beam down "FREE" solar energy. Also read " Energy Victory" by Dr Zubin, describing Methane/methanol...

Justin Maul
Justin Maul

Just an update on the Fort Collins Colorado fracking ban being overturned:  Petitions to put the prospect of fracking in city limits on the November ballot have been submitted by the Group Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins, and were accepted by the city council. Around twice the amount of petition signatures that were required to get the initiative on the ballot were submitted. So the battle is far from over in Fort Collins at least.

Justin Maul
Justin Maul

Just an update on the Fort Collins Colorado fracking ban being overturned:  Petitions to put the prospect of fracking in city limits on the November ballot have been submitted by the Group Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins, and were accepted by the city council. Around twice the amount of petition signatures that were required to get the initiative on the ballot were submitted. So the battle is far from over in Fort Collins at least.

Daniel Ferra
Daniel Ferra

What happens if the Southwest drought does not end soon ?


Will we keep using 3 to 6 million gallons of Clean Water per Fracked well, to extract natural gas ?

This petition will ask the California Regulators and Law makers to allocate Renewable Portfolio Standards to Ca. home owners, the RPS is the allocation method that is used to set aside a certain percentage of electrical generation for Renewable Energy in the the State. 

The State of California has mandated that 33% of its Energy come from Renewable Energy by 2020.

The state currently produces about 71% of the electricity it consumes, while it imports 8% from the Pacific Northwest and 21% from the Southwest.

This is how we generate our electricity in 2011, natural gas was burned to make 45.3% of electrical power generated in-state . Nuclear power from Diablo Canyon in San Luis Obispo County accounted for 9.15%, large hydropower 18.3%, Renewable 16.6% and coal 1.6%. 

There is 9% missing from San Onofre and with the current South Western drought, how long before the 18.3% hydro will be effected ?

Another generator of power that jumps out is natural gas, 45.3%, that is a lot of Fracked Wells poisoning our ground water, 3 to 6 million gallons of water are used per well. If Fracking is safe why did Vice Pres Cheney lobby and win Executive, Congressional, and Judicial exemptions from:

Clean Water Act

Safe Drinking Water

Act Clean Air Act

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act

Emergency Planning Community Right to Know Act

National Environmental Policy Act

"Americans should not have to accept unsafe drinking water just because natural gas is cheaper than Coal. the Industry has used its political power to escape accountability, leaving the American people unprotected, and no Industry can claim to be part of the solution if it supports exemptions from the basic Laws designed to ensure that we have Clean Water and Clean Air" Natural Resources Defense Council

We have to change how we generate our electricity, with are current drought conditions and using our pure water for Fracking, there has to be a better way to generate electricity, and there is, a proven stimulating policy. 

The Feed in Tariff is a policy mechanism designed to accelerate investment in Renewable Energy, the California FiT allows eligible customers generators to enter into 10- 15- 20- year contracts with their utility company to sell the electricity produced by renewable energy, and guarantees that anyone who generates electricity from R E source, whether Homeowner, small business, or large utility, is able to sell that electricity. It is mandated by the State to produce 33% R E by 2020.

FIT policies can be implemented to support all renewable technologies including:
Wind
Photovoltaics (PV)
Solar thermal
Geothermal
Biogas
Biomass
Fuel cells
Tidal and wave power. 

There is currently 3 utilities using a Commercial Feed in Tariff in 3 Counties in California, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, and Sacramento, are paying their businesses 17 cents per kilowatt hour for the Renewable Energy they produce, under the Feed in Tariff. We can get our Law makers and Regulators to implement a Residential Feed in Tariff, to help us weather Global Warming, protect our communities from grid failures, and generate a fair revenue stream for the Homeowner, but we have to over come some obstacles.

The State has mandated that we get 33% of our electricity from Renewable Energy (RPS), seems like we should be sharing this 33% pie, utilities, third party leasing companies, and the large energy companies who mostly build out in the fragile desert eco-systems, all fight over that 33% pie, and what about the Law abiding, Tax paying, Homeowning, Voting Citizens, why are they left out of the Renewable pie sharing ?

Here are some of the reasons and a look as to why it is better to own your own Renewable Energy System.

Third party leasing is fine on the surface and is making a contribution in reducing our fossil fuel consumption, but third party leasers, the Big Boy solar companies that build in the Fragile Desert Eco-Systems, and the Utilities all fight over Renewable Portfolio Standards Pie allowance.

All Three leagues have a piece of the pie, but there is 4 to 8 teams in each league that want a piece of that carve out money pie, causing huge infighting, and as of right now the homeowner is left out of the ballgame, with no chance of eating the all american pie, why? because we are not represented at the Renewable Portfolio Standard dining hall, with a chair at the pie sharing table. 

"The benefits of owning a renewable energy system far outweigh the benefits of a lease or a power purchase agreement (PPA).

"The owner of a renewable energy system is also sheltered from rising electricity costs, which have historically increased on average of 3-5% each year.

By choosing a lease or a PPA option homeowners are essentially substituting their utility companies with third-party leasing companies. Additionally, homeowners will likely be required to purchase their systems, renew their leases, or have the systems removed from their roof and revert to paying utility rates once their leases have ended." Charlie Angione.

"There’s absolutely no such thing as a $0 down solar lease or PPA and here’s why. A requirement of both of these financing programs is that you agree upfront to give the leasing or PPA company your 30% federal tax credit which is worth thousands of dollars as well as any other financial incentives.

At $5.57 per Watt. a 6 kW solar system would yield a federal tax credit of $10,026!

With a $0 down loan instead of a lease, you’ll get to keep the 30% federal tax credit as well as all other applicable financial incentives for yourself and you’ll own your solar system instead of renting it, for a much greater return on investment.

And if you do decide to lease instead of own, good luck ever selling your home with a lease attached to it. What homebuyer will want to purchase your home and assume your remaining lease payments on a used solar system on your roof, when they can buy and own a brand new system for thousands less." Ray Boggs 

We also need to change a current law, California law does not allow Homeowners to oversize their Renewable Energy systems.

We need a National Feed in Tariff, for Renewable Energy, with laws that level the playing field, this petition starts with homeowners in California. 

Japan, Germany, and our state of Hawaii, will pay residents between 13 - 37 cents per kilowatt hour, here in California they will pay a commercial FiT in a few counties at 17 cents per kilowatt hour, No Residential FiT and they wont let us oversize our Residential Renewable Energy systems.

Campaign to allow Californian residents to sell electricity obtained by renewable energy for a fair pro-business market price. Will you read, sign, and share this petition?

http://signon.org/sign/let-california-home-owners

Joanne Corey
Joanne Corey

State and federal governments have given fossil fuel companies massive tax breaks and subsidies, exemptions from important environmental laws, and a lax regulatory system with small penalties in the unlikely situation that the tiny number of inspectors actually catch them violating the rules. It's no wonder that local governments are taking action to protect themselves, their property values, and their residents, using their home rule powers. Unconventional drilling facilities are, by definition, industrial. If my land is zoned agricultural or residential, I can't build a factory or hotel on it. I should not be able to build a wellpad or a compressor station or chemical or waste storage tanks just becuase fossil fuels are involved rather than other kinds of business. I owe it to my neighbors and my community to preserve their rights to live on their land in peace and quiet.

Tom Mariner
Tom Mariner

This is easy -- any community that bans or delays Fracking should have that right -- but have a draconian tax on all the petroleum products sold in their borders. If they won't help in energy independence for our country, they ought to help pay for our imported fossil fuels. (I mean $5 per gallon gas additional tax and like increases for home heating products.)

Obviously equally draconian financial and civil penalties on gas and oil company execs if damage does occur. You lie, you go to jail, whether you knew you were lying or not.

Privacyis JobOne
Privacyis JobOne

What burns us all, is that the energy companies really don't give a frak about the natural gas; it's cheap, there is little profit in it, and it's not widely used - when compared to the oil they can get from the same process.  They routinely burn off the gas they don't want, can't use, and won't pay to transport or store, just putting burned hydrocarbons into the atmosphere.  While they are really after the $100 a barrel oil they can get.

It does not take years of planning and prep to get an oil rig going.  They have the surveys, they order or make the equipment on the fly to be as cheap as possible to fit the pad where it will be installed.  Rigs do not have standard builds or models, they are all custom, which is done on purpose to make it impossible for state governments to be able to inspect them or monitor them remotely.

Every NG rig should be a standard platform, with slight variations for location or state requirement.  The extraction of NG/Oil from fraking should be taxed to the same extent that cigarettes are taxed, the damage done to our environment and our lives is extensive.  Without the tax to fun monitoring, cleanup, and disaster prevention, there will be no funds to do it.

The governments role is clear, the government is the watch dog over corporations to protect the people.  The government should never be in partnership with industry.  Government makes and enforces the laws, business works within those parameters.

We don't want to be the middle east of oil, we don't want to be China or Russia; we want to be the US, where government and the law is of, for, and by the people.

Privacyis JobOne
Privacyis JobOne

It's not the gas that the energy companies want, it's the oil...

Privacyis JobOne
Privacyis JobOne

It's not the gas that the energy companies want, it's the oil...

reva madison
reva madison

I sort of jumped for joy when I first heard about fracking, as it is known, for oil production.  But, in the long run, and after events and pollution reports, I too believe it is ill conceived.  We always can go back to the "shoulda - coulda"   and say the government (and the big oil and power  companies) should have taken some of those big profits, as far back as the 60s, and put it into scientific investigations of solar, wind, and other renewable fuel production.   Given the fact of their huge failure to do so, we are in dire trouble with oil supplies, without the fracking.  Sadly, to frack or not to frack, was the question, and it appears to have been answered.  Without it, --well we dont know the trouble we are going to see, as far as the price of oil goes.  But, I do believe those cities, counties, states, and indeed independent land owners and citizens, who are harmed with this method, cannot be denied their day in court.  Let us face it.  Water is a much more important liquid that oil.  Without it, we die.

Carol Manka
Carol Manka

Studies have verified that fracking and the associated waste disposal have caused earthquakes and contaminated wells.  What right does any company have to degrade and endanger the lives of residents and workers?

Bill Skywatcher
Bill Skywatcher

A note to the fracists. There is ample evidence that fracing carries environmental risk. So my question to you is, can you put it back to the way it was before? If not, you have no business meddling in it in the first place. Human health trumps economy.

David Kilgore
David Kilgore

water is more important than natural gas - the EPA is paid off - several states, including Colorado, have linked fracking to water contamination.

Stephen Harris
Stephen Harris

Please refer to the science and facts first by starting with the correct spelling of Fracing - the word comes from sand frac, water frac and so on and the word mavens of the NYT, AP and even WSJ "decided" it was easier to spell it using a "k" because it looked better after I called the WSJ.  I responded that maybe I should simply call their owner, Murdock because it looks better to me.  As to the science, the industry has fraced over two million wells and in spite of juvenile and hysterical documentaries and insipid politicians, the EPA has recently stated it found NO case where ground water contamination has occurred form the fracing operations in over 60 years.  I suspect that some early newbies to the industry may not have shielded and lined their flow-back pits properly aggravating the farmers and that caused some of the agitation.  But the real "villain" in this story are the folks like McKibben and his PAC and even the discredited NASA scientist Hanson, not to mention the queen bee of utmost hypocrisy - Al Gore.  Just as the race baiters need black injustices to finance their money machines, the chicken little doomsayers need a "cause" to raise funds and inflate their supercilious egos.  Oil and gas are the lifeblood of our civilizations and for schools to teach oil is a poison for the past 30 years is about the quickest way I can think of to destroy any country.  Every war last century had blood and oil in it - every one, and nothing has changed this century.  Artificially and for no good cause other than hyping egos particularly to the masses of uninformed young people, the most vulnerable to propaganda, is tantamount to treason as intentionally creating supply shortages in the US causes shortages elsewhere around the planet.  It is a predictable outcome - energy shortages almost always leads to wars. Instead of celebrating the new abilities the industry has finally achieved after 150 years of working at it, allowing for a huge increase in domestic energy (security), the entrenched activists and so-called environmental groups spew their toxic disregard for science and what is in the best interest of the society with their over-the top alarmists screeds.  If the facts get in the way - then scare the pants off of people...works most of the time.  Oh, and banning fracing with reserves like what is known in CA, is the height of stupidity and groundless emotion.  One final observation as to "global warming" ("remember "global cooling" scars in the 1970's?) - one really good volcanic eruption may change the climate of this planet for thousands of years and even a little burp here and there from Mother Nature, puts more CO2 emissions in the atmosphere than 10,000 years of human habitation (and CO2 expelling) in 30 minutes.  The last time CO2 levels were at the "catastrophe" point as the extreme anti-fossil fuel (what an oxymoron) was around 1,000 AD and guess what followed for 940 years?  A mini-ice age period that lasted until the 1940's.

Swiftright Right
Swiftright Right

@Tom Mariner Given what happened with Wallstreet I have ZERO faith that our gov would ever punish a single gasco or employee.  

Well, I take that back. They would probably find a 3 man operation in backwoodtucket and prosecute their janitor holding him/her for every screw up made by the entire industry and then go on CNN trumpeting "mission accomplished".

BTW me you and every one else already DO pay for our imported fuel. And it would be kind of hard to hold someone responsible like that since PA is EXPORTING record amounts of fossil fuels to China and other nations. By your logic I should be getting money from the state based on the incredible profits being made selling cheap gas from state lands to China.

John Cerullo
John Cerullo

The US Congress, spurred by dick cheney, aka, Satan, passed a law exempting the gas companies from virtually all of the penalties associated with poisoning the water supply.   Without that, there would be no fracking.

Anthony Barbuto
Anthony Barbuto

@Eg Fazen Fracking is not the answer...see the documentary Gas land and Gasland2...we need to use Solar and MEthane.

Anthony Barbuto
Anthony Barbuto

@Privacyis JobOne The answer is solar collectors in space, beaming down "free" solar to put electricity in the grid. This was all calculated in the 1970s...see Dr Oneils book "high Frontier" and read " Energy Victory" by Dr Zubin.

Anthony Barbuto
Anthony Barbuto

@reva madison We are running out of potable water. Nevada is sinking as Las Vegas uses water left over from the Ice age. This water is not being replenished and the ground is sinking. We need to go solar and go methanol. Read Dr Zubins "energy Victory" and Dr Oneils "high frontier"

Swiftright Right
Swiftright Right

@Carol Manka The earth quakes are a non issue and distract away from the real problem with is the permanent destruction of potable water supplies in a day and age where clean water is becoming increasingly scarce. 

Also they DO have the right based on US law, we already lost that fight. What we need to do now is either 1) force them to use more expensive but ecologically sound fracking techniques or 2) Change the law to either deprive them of the right to destroy our communities or make it so god expensive that they walk away.

John Cerullo
John Cerullo

@Carol Manka  Probably more important in the long run picture is the fact that breaking up the shale is going to magnify the effects of any earthquakes that do come, whether caused by fracking or not.  See, the beauty of fracking is that it can cause death and devastation for generations, perhaps centuries after we're all dead.

rick valanti
rick valanti

@Carol Manka The "right" to make money at all costs to humanity. These idiots must not have children or grandchildren. Or... they believe that if they have enough money they can survive without air or water.

Anthony Barbuto
Anthony Barbuto

@David Kilgore answer is to go solar and go methanol...methanol can be made from methane gas which is generated from all organic waste. every town has a source of methanol...the town dump...

Anthony Barbuto
Anthony Barbuto

@Stephen Harris ....with 2 billion people in China and India(1 bil ea),.... once they are consuming at the rate the USA is...any oil we have will be used up a lot faster than you can ever imagine. Nuclear is not safe ( see what happened after the Japan tsunami...it was a documentary on PBS). You say there have been no cases of contamination.??..what was "Gasland" documentary all about,... SCI FI?.....WE cannot use billions of gallons of water to frack out oil and gas, we are running out of water ( thats why the billionaires are buying up water rights out West...follow the money). The answer is go solar and go methanol....read " energy victory" and " high frontier"...

Nat M.
Nat M.

TL:DR Angry, racist oil industry guy hates punctuation and laments that California will never be as beautiful as the Alberta tar sands.

John Cerullo
John Cerullo

@Stephen Harris FracKing is one of the most monstrous evils of our time.  It will kill now, and for generations - perhaps centuries to come. 

Global Warming is an established fact of science, and the CO2 explosion is also very real.  Your statements about Mother Nature are false.
 

In addition, there are many greenhouse gases worse than CO2, and by a lot.  One of them is methane, which is the primary component of natural gas, and which is released in massive amounts by fracKing.

Steve Russin
Steve Russin

@Stephen Harris National Geographic should be paying you for the service you've provided to its less informed readers who simply spout off over some junk science they've seen in some propaganda movie. They are destroying/have destroyed our country with thier stupidity and fervor. What they did to the steel industry and coal mining communities in Western Pennsylvania is unforgivable. The misery they have caused was more damaging than any attack at the hands of a foreign enemy could have ever been - and now, as a little hope comes into the area in the form of jobs and a means to build a life, they battle to squash it out. If they could only realize the pain they have caused.

reva madison
reva madison

@Stephen Harris    The process of fracking (however it is spelle) has been around for many years. The process of heating raw oil, right out of the ground, and breaking it down to separate type fluids, all the way from aircraft fuel, down to heavy duty lube oils, was called fracking, when I was a kid, living in the oil fields.  It sure snowed me to hear it was a process to pump water into the earth, to get oil out.  

Steve Lewis
Steve Lewis

@Stephen Harris  Ok, I do see, understand, and for the most part agree with most of what you have said. This is not a rebuttal or attack upon you or your views, but my question is this: with all of the negatives of not producing and using fossil fuels (wars, economic failure, etc.), why is there so much resistance to developing renewable alternatives to a resource that is (arguably) finite and potentially limited?

Anthony Barbuto
Anthony Barbuto

@John Cerullo methane can be captured and made into Methanol, a liquid fuel used since the 1950s by drag racers. Read " energy victory".

Nat M.
Nat M.

Nothing like flammable tap water to help "build a life".

Stephen Harris
Stephen Harris

@Steve Lewis @Stephen Harris I do not believe there is any "resistance" - look at ExxonMobil's efforts with algae (big advances reported this morning), and notice that the leading supplier, and one that is giving "grant" terms to schools and municipalities to install solar, is Chevron! The problem is the amount of energy needed to sustain this planet.  It is hard to grasp, but if you look at the heat btu content of a hydrocarbon molecule - nothing can compare (electricity is about 1/10th, hydrogen is about 1/15th and so on) except nuclear energy. It would take 17 Kansas size states of windmills to power this country for a day, and about 12 similar states completely covered with solar to do the same. Dr. Reese at Rice Institute documents this well, but you will not see these inconvenient facts by the movement de jour nutcakes arousing people with fright tactics.  If you trust the U. S. government, which I still do (for the most part) look into EIA's various studies, along with the USGS and other similar agencies involved with geology and earth sciences, and you get a picture of the enormous amount of energy it takes to sustain civilization, as we know it.  Myself, as a third generation oilman, I believe that one day nuclear fusion will generate more energy than it consumes and along with oceanic turbines, we will develop other forms of power generation, that are infinite. Even today, we should not waste oil, with its 6,000 primary products, particularly plastics, by using it for transportation fuel.  Like rubber, oil is one of the top strategic commodities on earth, but not necessarily for what we think it for. Refiners make their real money with petrochemicals not by turning out a "loss-leader" like gasoline that when the market dictates raising the price of a gallon, they are met with social upheavals!  Who wants that?  Buy a refrigerator today for the same price you paid, effectively, thirty years ago?  So my answer is that oil and gas companies will morph into solar companies overnight if the economics were there, but they are not.  Using government subsidies to promote certain technologies is not what built this country and such tactics by the pols is borderline criminal...but gets votes.

Steve Russin
Steve Russin

@Nat M. Lots of people have natural gas leaking into their water wells and it has nothing to do with fracing. What you saw or heard of in the propaganda film you are refering to is a lie. It is just one little peice of a whole world of lies that you are living in. When these lies start tumbling down around you and the truth starts flooding through all you will be left with is humility.

Sara H.
Sara H.

@Stephen Harris @Steve Lewis  

I'll tell you a story Stephen, 

you know, it's not just the money, it's what it buys.

That oil money pays off politicians, who get fat with their campaign contributions and stay infighting in Congress. They, in turn, buy off their stupid people with "Jobs."

See that's the thing about humans, a lot of us are stupid, and will sacrifice long term natural beauty and for shorter term (you know, 30 years or so) job work.

 The solar panels? Yeah installing them provides work, but afterwards? They just sit there. Nobody has to watch them, nobody has to work on them, aside from an occasional repair, they pretty much run themselves. So there's no work in them. 

The real work, in green power, is in the manufacturing of them. Economies of scale bring things like solar down to the "shingle your roof with it, and line the highways with it" price.

But again, people are stupid. There's entire economies built around oil. The drillers, the engineers, the pipe people, the rig people, the geologists, the shipping people, the truckers, the container shipping companies, the politicians, the execs, the compliance people, the inspectors, the contractors and the subcontractors, the manufacturers and suppliers...

It goes on and on. It's like why we continue to fund that ridiculous Joint-Strike fighter plane; because there's too many people in too many states and too many countries with too much financial interest tied into it to kill it, even though it is a bad design, horrible plane, way over budget, doesn't even do what it's supposed to do....

But it's become an industry in itself, so they don't kill it.

It's the same with oil.  Something better has to be grown from scratch, without oil funding, and the massive resources that are spent on oil. 

That's the real reason why it's taking so long to go green, that and what I said before.

It's not an accounting, or science or engineering problem, it's a cultural problem, and too many people who's jobs and money depend on oil.

It's a greed and fear problem. Fear of any change and the discomfort that comes with that.



 

Sara H.
Sara H.

  @Stephen Harris@Steve Lewis 

That is junk science Stephen. I grew up in an oil money family. My father discovered an oil field, my grandfather was an oil exec, and my stepmother was an oil company president. I've seen it all my life. 

There's plenty of renewable energy available. the biggest one is tidal power. We can dot the shorelines with tidal power generators. Fill our deserts of Nevada with solar, and sell it out of states. The biggest loss of our power consumption comes from always-on energy use. Not storing power. Air compression for power storage, water fill tanks, etc, better battery science, smart grids etc, all have the ability to solve this problem now.

The reason the oil and gas industry doesn't fund it is because there's no money in it for them.

The money they fund on algae and such nonsense is just PR expense. it's a drop in the bucket compared to what they make on oil. So to them it's worth the price to get their ad in National Geographic and say "hey look, we spend some trinket money on a science fiction green project! See how environmentally we care?" Meanwhile they are just drill, drill, drill, pump, drill.

It corrupts people. They are stuck on the old ways, they don't know how to make money any way else. It's cultural for many oil people. They've spent so much research and dollars, and thought and years and time just developing drilling technologies and things like fraking , that they simply don't know how to think in other ways. And they make so much money that they don't care, they fill their lives with stuff, and nice carpets, and custom marble countertops, and Infiniti cars.. I've seen this in my own family for years.

You either don't know what you are talking about Stephen, or you are a paid PR flack. The there's plenty of ocean for hydro power. The tides will be there as long as the moon is. The Deserts in Nevada could easily power California, especially if power was stored when not used by compression or whatever. The accounting and science is already there.

The problem is not a science or accounting problem, it's a cultural problem. And an entrenched industry, often in oil families, that don't know how, or don't want to because they are too scared, to do things differently.

My family is a bunch of timid rich people, who are terrified to do things differently. And there are thousands of oil people like them. They don't want to have to do work, because maintaining the status quo means their lives stay soft and undisturbed.

Change means they have to think outside of their box, and they don't want to do that. They like their box; it's soft, and fur lined, and has marble counter-tops, and Tag Heuer watches... Why would they want to think outside of that?

They're addicted to it. Addicted to softness. They don't have any guts to be real entrepreneurs.




George Roberts
George Roberts

@Stephen Harris @Steve Lewis  "Even today, we should not waste oil, with its 6,000 primary products, particularly plastics, by using it for transportation fuel."

Exactly. This is where free-market pricing needs some help. The prices for petroleum products are artificially low, because generations yet to be born do not get to bid on them now. A primary function of the free market is to promote efficiency, the best use of product by making them too expensive for inefficient uses. But we are now burning petroleum products and 100 years from now people may not be able to afford them for chemical feedstocks. This is not how the free market is supposed to work. An answer is a point of extraction or import carbon fee, and a fee rebate. This takes in the reality of the limited stock of fossil fuels without picking winners or losers, let the market decide.


"Using government subsidies to promote certain technologies is not what built this country..."

Railroad subsidies for the western expansion were massive government subsidies that produced a system that contributed almost, or maybe not almost, more than anything else to building this country. There are others, including nuclear-fission energy production and nuclear-fusion energy production.

rick valanti
rick valanti

@Stephen Harris @Steve Lewis  Somebody  may just be working for the enemy...with love. Amazing how someone can sell the general public because they sound intellectual or claim they are using facts. Reminds me of the BP commercials, how EVERYTHING is all cleaned up and they spent  $20 Billion doing so.. go visit the area and talk to the residents. Anyone that believes an oil company such as BP or Mobil needs their head examined.

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