Hiking-Growing Up With Oil
If you read the signs in people’s yards, the process of hydrofracking is an unmitigated evil and must not be permitted in our state. How many people who put up a sign have carefully considered all aspects of the problem? We are very dependent upon energy to maintain our standard of living. Are we willing to live without our automobiles or to turn off our lights and air conditioners or in this northern climate to shiver through winter without any source of heat?
All these comforts that have become necessities in a civilized society require some source of energy. What sources are available to us at this time? For all practical purposes energy can come from one of two places: the sun or the splitting of atoms. Windmills can deliver the sun’s energy indirectly, yet while riding my bike I see signs objecting to the erection of windmills in anyone’s back yard. Electricity can be generated with solar panels but how many of us are willing or able to invest money in solar energy? Right now these two sources show promise, but provide only a miniscule amount of the energy we require.
Atomic reactors bring the threat of Chernobyl disasters and create the unsolved problem of radioactive wastes.
Coal, petroleum and natural gas provide most of the energy we use and will continue to for the foreseeable future. When you stop to think of it these three sources also came from the sun through photosynthesis, but this happened many millions of years ago and when we burn them carbon dioxide spews out into the atmosphere resulting in global warming. Of these three sources coal is undoubtedly the worst. Not only does it produce higher amounts of CO2 than oil or gas but mining it pollutes streams and often results in the removal of the entire tops of mountains. Drive down Route 81 in Pennsylvania if you want to see the ravages of coal mining that took place years ago. This kind of devastation is still going on.
Much of our oil comes from abroad and we live with the political consequences of dependency upon nations not always friendly to us. And think of the harm caused when a tanker hits a reef or an oil platform suffers a leak or an explosion.
I grew up in the oil fields of western Pennsylvania and am familiar with the pollution of streams caused by careless extraction of oil. In those days fracking had not yet been discovered. Instead production of oil was enhanced by exploding nitroglycerine deep underground. I remember the disaster that resulted when a truck carrying nitroglycerine hit a bump in the road. All that was left was a deep hole in the highway and a few pieces of shrapnel. The bark was blown off trees for a mile around.
Then about fifty years ago someone discovered hydro fracturing. Yes, it has been around for that long! We called it Five Spotting. Five wells would be drilled in the same pattern as the five spot on a die. Fracking fluid was injected in the outer four wells to “chase” the oil to the well in the center. We thought it a blessing that we no longer had to worry about nitroglycerine going off at the wrong time. Now those oil fields have become less productive and the streams and forests have recovered and drilling for oil and gas is practiced in ways that are much gentler on the environment.
What I am getting at is this: until we are able and willing to harness the sun’s energy through wind and solar power, we are going to either have to drastically curtail our use of energy or choose from those three sources, coal, oil or natural gas. Fracking has its problems but natural gas is the least of three evils.