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Posted by on Jan 25, 2010 in Politics, Science & Technology | 54 comments

Whatever Happened to Drill Here, Drill Now?

GasDrilling.jpgMaybe we just dreamed the whole thing? Or perhaps I’ve only now awakened from some sort of alternate reality, Twilight Zone style fantasy. Does anyone else remember the election of 2008 when it seemed like every candidate and their mothers had a plan to address the nation’s energy woes and promote domestic security by making us more independent in terms of energy production? Everyone was staking out a position. McCain had the Lexington Project. Obama had a plan. Hillary had a plan. I’m pretty sure Dennis Kucinich wanted to wrap giant copper wires around the Sears Tower.

What happened? Once the economy crumbled, the election ended and we all decided to fight over health care, it seems like all of those pressing concerns faded away like last week’s fish wrap in the rain. Well, there’s one group of citizens who don’t seem to have forgotten, and they are holding a rally today in Albany, New York, telling the government that they want it to stop dragging feet and start drilling wells.

ALBANY, NY – Landowner Coalitions from New York’s Southern Tier will hold a rally and news conference in Albany in support of the safe exploration for natural gas and to debunk the myths associated with it.

Busloads of landowners, business leaders and scientists will appeal to Albany lawmakers to focus on the facts about natural gas exploration in the Marcellus Shale, specifically the safe process of hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking” – releases gas locked in shale by injecting pressurized fluid into the formation to shatter the rock. This process, which occurs deep underground and far from groundwater and surface water, has been performed safely in New York for decades. It will produce efficient, abundant and environmentally clean fuel, increase New York’s energy independence and bring thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to New York.

This process has been slowed to a crawl in New York, while other states like next door neighbor Pennsylvania have been using this same hydraulic fracturing process to tap into natural gas resources. This has been going on for a couple of years now, even though a report commissioned for the area seeking development concluded that the state’s aggressive groundwater protection laws and environmental protection measures met or exceeded anything the EPA would do, and the development of these resources would bring billions of dollars and thousands of long term jobs to the area. And just when it looked like the finish line was in sight, New York Congressman Maurice Hinchey has introduced the FRAC Act, which would drag the EPA into the process, pushing it back years further.

Hinchey’s likely opponent in the 2010 Congressional race, George Phillips, immediately came out on the side of the landowners.

New York residents are in need of precisely this sort of advantage, yet it continues to be delayed by government interference, such as the proposed FRAC Act, introduced in Congress by Maurice Hinchey. Development of domestic energy supplies is not only an issue affecting jobs and economic prosperity, but of national security as well. Albany needs to listen to these concerned citizens and look at the facts, rather than the myths surrounding hydraulic fracturing. I am determined to keep the federal government out of this process, which would unnecessarily delay progress for years. Maurice Hinchey’s bill is a job-killer for the region and is only standing in the way of economic recovery and job creation.

What have we really done since the last election ended to improve our domestic production and decrease our dependence on foreign energy suppliers? Not much that I’ve seen. If you run on this as an important part of your platform, you should actually do something about it once you’re in office. Unemployment continues to dog us. Wouldn’t it be good to put some more people to work here in the United States producing energy?

(Disclosure: The author is a volunteer on the Phillips for Congress campaign.)

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  • Silhouette

    The oil situation is a tempting diversion but right now the citizens must focus on the SCOTUS ruling.

  • DLS

    It makes too much sense, Jazz, to think of an overdue release and development of our domestic resources (in the lower 48 as well as in Alaska), which would have been a productive and valuable addition to serious stimulus measures (with the longer term in mind, as with good infrastructure and natural-resource-related ideas in general).

    The Dems were always opposed to something sensible and overdue like this, and are short-term thinkers (outdoing Wall Street, arguably, looking routinely at re-election and the next set of elections, it seems — a biennial mentality, nothing longer-term). And we all know about the waste and the playing at silly causes like “climate change” eco-socialism instead of logical and sensible undertakings.

  • DLS


    “Social Security will be more valuable later if we leave it alone now [during Bush years, and no Change since Dems run everything].”

  • While I disagree with Sil (issue X does not mean that we can or must ignore issue Y), I was kind of hoping the country collectively remembered that trip they took as a kid to Santa Barbara, when for decades after the spill there, going swimming in the ocean meant spending days using that gritty orange mechanics’ soap to scrub the crude off your body. I’m all about domestic energy production — but can we please choose energy sources that aren’t so distructive?

    • roro, as soon as an inland, horizontal hydraulic fracturing natural gas well spills out and somehow pollutes the coast and begins sticking oil to sea birds, I’ll be all over it.

      • I’m not exactly sure what you mean by this comment, Jazz.

        • roro, your comment seemed geared towards oil spills from a tanker on an ocean beach. The article in question is talking about hydrofracking drilling for natural gas in the inland shale shelf. So I guess I’m not exactly sure what you meant by your comment either. And to ProfElwood, yes, we still need to be working on every renewable energy source possible, but that doesn’t mean we stop taking advantage of the cleaner domestic energy sources we can tap while we do that.

          • ProfElwood

            And to ProfElwood, yes, we still need to be working on every renewable energy source possible, but that doesn’t mean we stop taking advantage of the cleaner domestic energy sources we can tap while we do that.

            My problem is that there isn’t any long-term strategy being proposed here. The long term survival of banks is vital, but energy isn’t? By all means, get it going, but there needs to be some pressure to see the big picture, and our children’s future.

          • I was going for an answer to “What happened to Drill Here, Drill Now?”. The Santa Barbara spill wasn’t a tanker, it was a drilling platform 6 miles off the coast, for which the government gave the company permission to cut corners on safety measures. It’s still definitely up for debate how safe fracking is, and it depends strongly on what fracturing fluid they’re using — not at all clear from the article. The drill baby drill folks will also tell you that a platform drill in the ocean is perfectly safe.

  • ProfElwood

    Whatever Happened to Drill Here, Drill Now?

    Whatever happened to building up renewable energy systems while non-renewable resources are available?

  • Jim_Satterfield

    Wow. I’m agreeing with Jazz on something. With the right safeguards in place there really isn’t a good reason for moving forward with projects like this. It’s certainly much better than what happens with extracting coal for “clean coal”.

  • Silhouette

    Try swimming in the Gulf of Mexico roro…yyyyyyuk!Or try to fish their too. It’s a dead body of water as far as fisheries goes thanks to oil and [petro] chemical runoff down the Mississippi from fertilizers and pesticides promoted for BigAg in the Heartland courtesy of our buddies at BigOil.Oh and how timely too. A barge just impaled a tanker down in Texas adding more filth to the slime that used to be a thriving ocean. OK, diversion over, now back to SCOTUS.

    Jazz, history has shown you need to be “all over it” BEFORE it happens. We get tired of highsight remedies. Foresight dictates we turn away from these flawed sources and begin to harness clean and renewable energy. Like 40 years ago was the start date for that..

  • Silhouette

    Oh I know the difference in the source of oil spill, I was comparing the results which tend to be the same.

    Don’t worry, I’m sure the oil companies [who will benefit the most via SCOTUS, imagine the rub having to pay whatever arbitrary price they want at the pump knowing that money will go to keep them in power?] can predict with great accuracy how and when earthquakes will strike along whatever one or numbers of endless fault zones in the regions they plan to frack in. I mean look how well they predicted that quake in Haiti? I’m sure a shaker like that won’t rupture extraction equipment nor cause any spillage or leaks. We’re so silly the way we…

  • Don Quijote

    Plan for Hydro-Fracture Drilling for Unconventional Natural Gas in Upstate New York

    REPORTER: For over a decade, gas companies have been intensively tapping unconventional plays in western states like Colorado. Drill rigs have brought a lot of wealth, but at the same time they’ve dredged up a host of environmental problems – contaminating water supplies and drying up aquifers.

    The culprit is a practice called hydraulic fracturing. It’s never been done much in New York. But it’s the only way to get gas out of the Marcellus Shale. Basically the driller blasts the bottom of the well shaft with water, sand, and chemicals, under very high pressure in order to free up the gas. Hydrofracking demands a huge amount of water of water – up to six million gallons per well.

    KAPPELL: How are you gonna dispose of that water?

    REPORTER: Bill Kappell works for the U.S. Geological Survey. He says there are serious questions that have to be answered,

    KAPPELL: It’s going to be a learning process. How are you going to treat that water so you can properly dispose of it without despoiling the water resources of New York State?

    REPORTER: The US Department of Energy considers the waste water that is produced in gas drilling some of the most toxic of all industrial byproducts. Kappell is particularly concerned about the chemicals used – he doesn’t even know what they are.

    KAPPELL: Nothing. They’re proprietary; they’re particular to the company. They don’t have to divulge it.

    REPORTER: But in sworn testimony before Congress last fall, environmental health analyst Dr. Theo Colburn – an opponent of drilling – said she was able to obtain a list of one fracking chemicals to be used in Colorado drilling. She says there were 171 substances on the list, and that 92 percent of them had health effects ranging from sinus irritation to reproductive organ damage.

    All this has just landed on the desk of Bradley Field, the Director of Mineral Resources and a career employee at the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. It’s his job to consider new applications for drilling permits.

    Are all those land owners willing to pay for the water tables that they will damage? Will they be willing to pay for all the medical bills that will be caused by that their environmental damage?

    Or is this another case of “We’ll take the profits and leave you suckers with the Bills”?

  • JSpencer

    Sil is right on the money. If the SCOTUS ruling is allowed to stand, then big oil will end up writing their own ticket (even more than they already do) so THAT is the horse that needs to be put before the cart.

    • dduck12

      THAT is the horse that needs to be put before the cart.”

      You guys are so Dostoevsky. It should the electricity from the Natural Gas plant, transitioning to the future Nuclear generation plant, into the hybrid car.

  • DLS

    “Santa Barbara”

    There’s nothing like it today, and this is misuse of the past. At least it’s not as bad as the misuse of Three Mile Island (and Chernobyl) against nuclear power.

    • Might want to do a bit a research on that one, love. “There’s nothing like it today” is just fundamentally untrue. Heck, there was a big oil platform that spilled a huge amount of oil in Newfoundland just a few years ago, messed up a couple dozen square miles, killed a few hundred thousand birds, if memory serves. Now Newfoundland isn’t known for its beach-goers, but that just means it was less visible to vacationing Americans. Most oil spills are from tankers, but situations very much like Santa Barbara happen every few years to greater or lesser degrees.

      • dduck12

        The update on the Valdez spill says that there are 25,000 gallons buried under a top lawyer of clean looking sand.

        • Not shocking — seems like a drop in the bucket compared to the size of the original spill. Let’s see if my math is “on” today. 25,000 gallons, 42 gallons/barrel, so about 600 barrels of oil. The original spill was what? 250,000 barrels? So we’re talking a few tenths of a percent. The scale of that spill kind of blows the mind…

      • DLS

        “There’s nothing like it today’ is just fundamentally untrue.”

        This is not the 1960s, and we wouldn’t have the same risks now with today’s oil platforms — obviously.  (Or at least, that should be so)

        • “Obvioulsy”, you say. Except for the 44,000 gallons spilled in Newfoundland in 2004 from a platform, which is just the one that comes to mind first. Perhaps that was the 1960s as well? Again, do your research.

          A very quick google search also shows that a huge deisel platform sank in Brazil in 2001, spilling 316,000 gallons. An exploratory well in Mexico failed in 1979, releasing over 100 million gallons. 80 million gallons spilled from a platform in Iran in 1983. 88 million gallons in Uzbekistan in 1992. 340,000 gallons due to a ruptured pipeline in Brazil in 2000. Roughly 7 million gallons due to Hurricane Katrina, from various sources.
          None of these incidents include tanker spills, which account for far more destruction.

          • DLS

            “Again, do your research.”

            Is this still the 1960s?  Can you count the years?

            Are the risks now the same as then?  Is the equipment the same?


            “None of these incidents include tanker spills, which account for far more destruction.”

            Right, be they wrecks or terrorist attacks (not to mention use of tankers someday as weapons against harbors or coastal areas).

            The risks are less now than before, and obviously we cannot end our use of oil.  We also should not be pathologically refusing to develop our existing resources.

          • “Is this still the 1960s? Can you count the years?”

            You said “nothing like that exists now”. I called BS on that poor assumption. I gave you multiple examples post 1960s, including one incident less than 6 years ago. You’re talking in circles. Just concede the point. [grumble grumble] [booger eater]

          • DLS

            There’s no need to “resort” to odd behavior or diet choices.

            “I gave you multiple examples post 1960s, including one incident less than 6 years ago.”

            These don’t involve the same equipment or the same risks as in the 1960s.  Improvements and changes don’t mean there is zero risk.  There is no such thing with any energy source we have at hand.

  • DLS

    ” If the SCOTUS ruling is allowed to stand”

    Leftist “antics” (I’ll be very merciful here) about this ruling (that the unconstitutional infringement of speech is unconstitutional) seem to still be the rule on lefty talk radio today, to their discredit, and to yours here on this site and elsewhere who also stoop to them.

    All that’s missing is to blame corporations exclusively for the “global warming” “catastrophe.”

  • DLS

    “Whatever happened to building up renewable energy systems while non-renewable resources are available?”

    It’s not “the” solution to transportation or electricity-production energy sources, in and of itself. (If it were a huge answer already, it would already have been employed and widespread.) R&D is appropriate (I still am amused by biobutanol for automobiles, could be made from switchgrass, and don’t forget Hemp for Victory), but there are no panaceas, and the needs for land to supply our needs would take a lot of land, competing with food production (meaning the far lefties will call us “greedy”).

    • ProfElwood

      … R&D is appropriate … and the needs for land to supply our needs would take a lot of land,…

      Biodiesel from algae looks promising, because it could supply liquid fuel needs without requiring any near as much area and needs only the sunlight, not the soil. Electricity is easier to replace because the technology is far better developed, but a lot smaller problem.

      • DLS

        “Biodiesel from algae looks promising, because it could supply liquid fuel needs without requiring any near as much area and needs only the sunlight, not the soil.”

        Biodiesel seems to be already progressing.

        Note that liquid fuels can be obtained from coal, and this would be a great shorter-term use of the substance.  If we met our transport needs with fuels from coal, I do wonder how much it would speed up estimated depletion of our coal reserves, though.

      • ksb43

        It’s amazing to me how little attention CNG (compressed natural gas) gets in the whole scheme of things.

        It’s cheap, plentiful, and the technology is readily available. But for some reason it’s easier for most people to imagine plugging in a car than changing out CNG cylinders.

        • ProfElwood

          It’s amazing to me how little attention CNG (compressed natural gas) gets in the whole scheme of things.

          Ironically, the answer to that lies in my screen name. The town of Elwood was founded on top of huge natural gas bubble. Several industries sprang up around it so that they could tap into that endless supply for manufacturing goods. The town street lights burned day and night because it was easier than having to turn them on and off. Then, within a few years, that endless gas supply ran out, most of the industry died out, and the town never really recovered.

          That’s why I’m saying that we should use the current energy supply to switch over to renewable energy while it’s still relatively painless.

          • ksb43

            Ah, you must be in Elwood, Indiana, then. I was there years ago to Joe RIce’s glass factory (formerly St. Clair). I think there are a lot of Midwesterners on this site.If so, then you must be aware of Ball State’s geothermal project. For anyone who doesn’t know, they are trying to convert every building on campus to geothermal energy, over the next 20 years or so. It’s the biggest project of its kind worldwide, I believe.

          • ProfElwood

            If so, then you must be aware of Ball State’s geothermal project.

            It made a big splash in the news when they announced it, but it’s been pretty quiet since then, basically being done on a building by building basis.

            And yes, I’m typing this from Elwood, Indiana. Our “famous” glass festival is a long way off.

  • DLS

    “Santa Barbara”

    Just wait until wind towers are sought for offshore locations as well as sites on land near parklands, as well as near wealthier residential sites. Cape Wind and the Cape Cod elitist-NIMBYs will be as strong there, against wind, as they would be against liquefied natural gas plants in California (hello, Mexico).

    • Well, wind towers are ugly and kill a few birds flying by, but they don’t ruin groundwater, and they don’t leak giant gobs of tar all over the place, and their energy doesn’t turn into greenhouse gases once expended for our use, and refining the energy from wind towers doesn’t cause cancer, and…well you get the picture. The Bay Area is full of what you would call elitist-NIMBYs (good lord, there’s an overabundance of that “elitist” word around here lately), and we’ve got tons of wind turbines lining the hills. So I think you’re way off the mark here.

      • DLS

        “I think you’re way off the mark here.”

        Again, not so.  I now there are NIMBYs there; that’s not even an issue of (legitimate) contention. (I grew up there, and know the area and the politics well, probably better than some there now.)
         I wonder how much electricity and even water might be imported from elsewhere, eventually, not to mention LNG imports taken from Mexico because the facilities can’t be approved in California.

        But in any case, with wind, while Altamont and Patterson Passes are one thing (or in the Tehachapis or near the Banning Pass), off the coast (where huge resources are) is something else.  I don’t consider wind farms to be visual pollutants but others don’t feel that way.  A vast number of towers would be needed to yield anything respectable.  What would it cost to install the towers offshore, off Cape Mendocino, too?

        • re: wind power. Yes, it takes a lot of towers, and it’s a bad idea to put them in densely populated areas, but there’s a lot of very sparsely populated land in this huge country of ours. You were off the mark to think that wind turbines will cause similar popular outrage as oil rigs. All cities have huge amounts of electricity and water come from outside, so I really don’t know what your point is there.

          • DLS

            “there’s a lot of very sparsely populated land in this huge country of ours”

            It has to be near the places where the demand is, to reduce transmission losses (and construction costs).  It needs to be in a place where there is often good wind.  The amound of area that is needed to make a respectable fraction of power we need is huge.


            It does nothing when the wind isn’t blowing, of course.

            “wind turbines will cause similar popular outrage as oil rigs”

            Opposition to rigs is probably overestimated.  Many of us aren’t against wind farms, but there are many who are.

            “All cities have huge amounts of electricity and water come from outside, so I really don’t know what your point is there.”

            California gets its needs met not only from outside its cities, but outside the state.  How much power is obtained right now from Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, for example?  Why can’t liquefied natural gas plants be built easily, quickly, and relatively cheaply in California rather than in Mexico because of hindrances?

            (Though it’s a phrase used by free-traders, what comes to mind here, too, is a typical NIMBY lefty elitist defending having other states be producers while California is a consumer: “Comparative advantage [sniff]”)

          • I don’t have any arguments with any of that, except perhaps this bit: “Opposition to rigs is probably overestimated.” I don’t know what the general opposition level is, but it’s probably less than it should be, given how much damage it does.

          • DLS

            “I don’t know what the general opposition level [to new oil rigs offshore] is, but it’s probably less than it should be, given how much damage it does.”

            It’s more than an acceptable risk.  Visual pollution seems to be the strongest charge against the rigs.  (There is also the navigation hazard, but this is exaggerated.)  I hope that the opposition to it would not be hyped (I fear it would be) or be like anti-nuclear in being irrational and often dishonest or even psychotic.

      • ksb43

        A very large wind turbine farm is going up in Benton County, Indiana. According to the locals, the noise from the turbines is much like the mistral. It’s a low humming that kind of makes people crazy over time.Having said that, more and more turbines are going up there because it’s very sparsely populated, and a fantastic deal for the farmers that sublet their land. If I recall properly, the farmers get $10,000 per year per turbine, plus a percentage of the electricity they generate.Standing beside one of these 400ft behemoths is humbling. And I didn’t notice the sound for the short time I was there.

        • Yeah, I bet they’re annoying after a while. If I had the choice, I’d probably choose the dull hum of a wind turbine over the constant carcinogenic stink thrown into the air by your average oil refinery or coal processing plant. But that’s just me. 🙂

          And the turbines are really cool. My husband just got a job with a start-up wind power company and is looking forward to his first climb to the top of one of them.

          • ksb43

            I have a good friend whose husband has a stimulus-funded job with a company that sells the parts for these enormous turbines. The frustrating thing is that there’s simply not the money out there for a lot of these parts and our manufacturing base can’t seem to get its act together to supply the needed parts, which can be very esoteric.

            So, it’s an economic problem and a manufacturing problem, at least on his end.

  • rudi
    Here’s a list of links/articles from the Binghamton local newspaper. The drilling technology is new, with questions about effects to water shed.

  • The real shortage in the coming years is going to be water not energy and is in some parts of the country and the world already. Living things can live without oil and gas – they can’t live without water. When energy companies tell me they can do something without harm I have no reason to believe them especially when they try to cover up and hide exactly what they are doing.

    • dduck12

      The real shortage in the coming years is going to be water”

      BIG TIME. Thanks

    • ksb43

      Oh, this is so true.

      And witness the huge numbers of people moving away from colder climates, where there is plentiful water, to the South and Southwest regions of the US, where it’s clear the ecosystem is already extremely stressed.

  • GeorgeSorwell

    Shouldn’t the disclosure that Jazz volunteers for the Republican candidate be at the top of the post?

  • JSpencer

    Plenty of water around here. 🙂 I reckon we aim to keep it that way too. – (middle of the mitten)As for oil, I’m sure that now the SCOTUS is out of the closet they’ll get to work on any pesky regulations that keep big oil from doing what they want. And in the meantime big oil can see to it that any candidates who seem too green can simply be dealt with via ungodly amounts of negative propaganda money.

  • anomymous88

    We have spent over $2.2 billion dollars on algae research for the last 35 years and nothing to show for it. Algae has been researched to death at universities for the last 50 years in the US. The problem is as long as the algae researchers can say we are 3-5 years away, its too expensive and they need more research they get the grant money.

    The question you need to be asking is ” Does the US really want to get off of foreign oil or do we want to continue to fund the algae researchers at the universities.”

    We need monies going into algae oil production and stop wasting money on research. Algae researchers are incapable of commercializing anything!


    • dduck12

      Ah, a voice of reason. The alternative energy genie isn’t wearing any clothes. We need to do a Frenchy and embrace Nuclear after transitioning from the usual suspects (oil, coal and natural gas). Of course if possible, NG should be emphasized. It is cleaner, can be piped, and it is HERE.

  • DLS

    “It’s amazing to me how little attention CNG (compressed natural gas) gets in the whole scheme of things.”

    While we’re using natural gas not only for space heating but also for electricity production in some circumstances (and it’s cleaner than coal or oil for this purpose as well as for transportation), CNG cars for people isn’t an instant “sell.” Here are typical answers to typical questions.

  • DLS

    “CNG (compressed natural gas)”

    I don’t know if we’ll ever see widespread use of it for transportation, but there is also liquefied natural gas (LNG), a way to transport (and import and export) gas as well as store it.

    For vehicles, don’t neglect good, old propane.

  • DLS

    Anyone who wants to read more on propane could look here (see below).

    No doubt something on natural gas and the “natural gas economy” could be found.

    (Environmentalists deplore natural gas because methane is now evil, but natural gas is clean burning.)

    BP (for obvious reasons) has done PR work on the “Natural Gas Economy” for years, for example.

    And don’t forget obtaining natural gas from biomass — or Old King Coal.


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