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Fracking: Fact or fiction?

"Fracking: Fact or fiction?" Continued...

Issue: "Effective Compassion," June 16, 2012

When a Texas judge concluded that residents and an environmental consultant had falsified a video showing how their methane-tainted water could be ignited, the EPA withdrew its order. John Tinterra, former executive director of the Railroad Commission, says the episode shows the tension between state regulators-who have broad power, local expertise, and inspectors in the field-and federal regulators, who don't have the broad regulatory framework or the depth of expertise to regulate all the oil and gas activities taking place throughout the country.

Texans are used to seeing oil pump jacks and gas wells in both urban and residential areas. They are tolerant of, if not totally comfortable with, an industry that has made Texas one of the wealthiest states in the nation. But much of the untapped gas shale reserve in the United States is buried deep beneath New York, Pennsylvania, and North Dakota, states without a comparable connection to oil and gas. Even with the potential for economic growth oil and gas development would bring to these states, it will be a challenge to overcome the "not in my backyard" resistance the industry will face.

As recently as five or six years ago, many experts thought the nation had only a seven or eight year rolling supply of natural gas. Hydraulic fracturing combined with horizontal drilling changed all that.

Randy King is convinced this wasn't accidental: "Now we think we have about 1,000 trillion cubic feet in recoverable reserves, so instead of an eight-year, we've got a 30- to 40-year supply. And honestly, God knew all that! We just didn't know it. Now it's become obvious that we're blessed with it, and all because those shales, which were never booked as crude reserves, are now productive because of horizontal drilling and fracturing, and the game has changed."

-Michael Cochrane is an industrial and systems engineer

Michael Cochrane
Michael Cochrane

Michael is a retired Defense Department engineer and former Army officer who is an adjunct professor of engineering management at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. He is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute's mid-career course. Follow Michael on Twitter @MFCochrane.

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