Washington Semester - GEB II
Each spring, I spend a week in Tioga County, Pennsylvania on a fishing trip with the men in my dad’s family. Our small cabin sits on peaceful, serene pine creek, a subsidiary of the Susquehanna River. For decades we have visited the cabin to vacation, and escape reality in the beautiful Pennsylvania wilderness. At night, we gather around the fire and often times witness a friendly discussion of today’s issues turned confrontational amongst the uncles. An important issue political issue made its way into discussions on several occasions: the drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale. Tioga County was one of the first counties in Pennsylvania to experience Marcellus Shale drilling activity. It ranks second by number of Marcellus wells in PA, with a total of 388 drilling wells between 2008 and 2010 (including 266 in 2010) (DEP). Once disgusted by the inherent wrongs of drilling on bountiful land, I have become open to the potential benefits that natural gas provides through shale, domestically and internationally. Natural gas is a critical element to many chemical production processes, and has many environmental benefits over coal as a fuel for electricity generation. But to produce natural gas from shale has some questionable economic, environmental, and health and safety risks. The practice of shale drilling has been in place for decades, but there is always speculation and attempts to regulate the industry. Drilling for shale makes use of hydraulic fracturing, which has quickly become the most controversial drilling technique in history. ‘Fracking’ fluids contain small amounts of toxic chemicals, and there have been allegations in Pennsylvania, where fracking has been reported to contaminate groundwater. “The federal rules have loopholes and the state rules are too weak, says Amy mall, a senior policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council. ” “There are risks to groundwater and there are risks to air.” It is true that Pennsylvania’s state government hasn’t organized an effective plan to accommodate all parties involved and transparency remains an issue. Therefore, rapid development of this resource remains uncertain, but it is a growing area interest on an international scale.
The United States ranks number one in the World in Natural Gas Production, and has out producing Russia, who ranks second. This leap in U.S. natural gas production is caused by American ingenuity across the country, applying cost effective drilling technology to natural gas locked in shale formations (Institute for Energy Research). For years, States across the country have increased production of natural gas to meet demand. Today, our production has lead to a large supply that has exceeded demand. What is being done with all of this produced gas? The alarming truth is that United States produces so much of this cheap gas that storage capacity is rapidly dwindling. As we continue to sit on cheap natural gas supplies, the U.S. faces natural gas prices at ten year lows. These prices will remain low due to limited alternatives for natural gas consumption or production in the short run.
Critical Economic Times
The United States is facing a weak economy and slowed growth, as debt remains a continuing problem, unemployment is, and will continue to remain high, and national GDP is failing to meet expectations, as it was 2.2% in the first quarter of 2012 (EIA). For years, Washington has claimed the importance of reducing our dependence on foreign oil. As we've seen gas prices rise as the recent unrest in Africa and the Middle East unfolds, it's clear that our reliance on foreign sources of energy, especially from politically volatile parts of the world, is bad for our economy and our national security. Our policy makers know this, and have since the 1970s. So what is being done about it? Economic gains that are being...
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