December 10, 2009, NPR On Point with Tom Ashbrook: Gas, Shale, and ‘Hydrofracking’

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Gas, Shale, and ‘Hydrofracking’
A drilling rig used to bore thousands of feet into the earth to extract natural gas from the Marcellus shale deep underground is seen on the hill above the pond on John Dunn's farm in Houston, Pa. Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008.

A drilling rig used to bore thousands of feet into the earth to extract natural gas from the Marcellus shale deep underground is seen on a farm in Houston, Penn., in October 2008...

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It’s not the Copenhagen dream of carbon-free energy.

But its promoters say it could be a far-cleaner-than-coal bridge to that future: a vast ocean of natural gas, deep underground, trapped in shale — in this country.

America could be the Saudi Arabia of natural gas, they say. New technology — hydraulic fracturing — makes it possible, accessible. But it also means shooting a river of chemicals up and down through our water table. The water we drink.

This hour, On Point: American energy, and the rewards and costs of getting at the gas trapped in shale.

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests:

Joining us from Houston, Texas, is Kenneth Medlock, professor of economics at Rice University and fellow in energy and resource economics at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. Formerly he was consultant at El Paso Energy Corporation, where he was responsible for analysis of North American natural gas, petroleum, and power markets.

From Austin, Texas, we’re joined by Amy Mall, senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Land Programs. Lately she’s focused on protecting sensitive western lands from oil and gas operations, and on advancing public policies to require more environmentally friendly oil and gas operations where the industry does drill.

From Youngsville, N.Y., we’re joined by Ramsay Adams, executive director of Catskill Mountainkeeper.

And from Hancock, N.Y., we’re joined by Lisa Wujnovich, organic farmer and poet. She’s lived on her farm in Hancock for nearly 25 years. She and her husband will not sell the gas rights to their land, but they’ve watched many in the town of Hancock sign over their rights.  Read one of her poems, “Gas Drilling–It’s Like This” (pdf).

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