It may take quite awhile, but the development of shale gas will eventually fail. There are three main reasons. I am not one of them. It’s debate-able how many “knowns” there are when it comes to shale gas, but here are three fer-doggone-sures that you can add to your list:
REASON #1. Unconventional shale gas development will fail because the corporate industry that is hell-bent on developing it insists on being boldly public with their actions.
It’s important to realize that things would be a lot different for shale gas developers if they stopped trying to save face. Oil and gas companies already know that they have bad reputations, and they proactively try to counteract that fact by being public with their version of “philanthropy.” They’d be wiser to just find a rock to hide under while they do their deeds.
Instead, they scream, “We are good corportate neighbors” from every rooftop available. A gas company will give a few hundred grand to a town being fracked so that the town can enhance their public water supply. Then, the gas company makes sure this is on the front page of the local paper. Then, they make sure it gets on the front page again a month or so later. Such insistence, “Look what we good do!!!” is the flip-side of “No, wait, we’re not really that bad!” They might as well print the latter. Humans aren’t so stupid as to believe that companies have compassionate hearts for the townsfolk.
What I wonder is: How many humans realize that the only reason why companies enhance town water supplies is so that those companies can then purchase that water, nice and cheap, so they can deliver it to the folks whose water they’ve contaminated?
REASON #2. Unconventional shale gas development will fail because industry and government each rely on readily debunked talking points.
Some of these were (inadvertently, I’m sure) debunked by PA Gov. Corbett’s very recent Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission report. Talking points include, “Over a million wells drilled!” “Never a case of contamination!” and “Fracking’s been around for over 50 years!” Each of which even the laziest dog can find fault fairly easily.
For example: Add up these three numbers for 2008, 2009, and 2010: 234+ 795 + 1,446. Is that more than a million? I didn’t think so. This is how many Marcellus wells have been drilled, along with another 109 wells in the couple years prior, according to the Gov’s commission report (on page 34). The contamination question you can clear-up simply by reading this article, which outlines one case of contamination.
The “been around 50+ years” blurb is a notable joke, and industry relies on the public not realizing there’s a difference between conventional and unconventional fracking. Either way, the first unconventional shale gas wells in PA are about 5years old. As the Gov’s commission report states, “along came production from the Marcellus Shale starting in 2008” (page 14).
REASON #3. Unconventional shale gas development will fail because the industry refuses to learn.
This one’s pretty simple, and requires no reading. Just look and listen. Do you hear about mounting or dwindling problems with shale gas development? Are you hearing about more or less cases of bubbling creeks, rivers, wells, and ponds? Are more or fewer headlines talking about negative effects of shale gas development?
It stands to reason that, if the industry is only a few years along in its learning curve, then there are going to be some problems. And, sure enough, we see the same problems over and over. The rough benchmark of whether the industry is getting better or worse at its practices would be to look at how many violations have been issued by the PA DEP in recent years. There are more violations than there are wells… especially when you consider that the DEP is stretched for resources to write violations and that it works at the behest of a pro-gas governor. The FracTracker site provides a great analysis of this.