Wednesday, June 06, 2012

A Frackfull View And Sense of Place

I hear and read a lot about fracking, but the impact is hard to visualize.

Unfortunately, by the time I cut across southwestern Pennsylvania on my most recent cross-country drive it was nightfall.  I had been curious to see the effect of fracking on rolling countryside because Durham, North Carolina, where I live, is also underlain in part by a Triassic basin.

There are many aspects to sense of place here including geology and quality air and water.  But a sense-of-place asset that Durham also leverages to draw tourism and the talent necessary for other forms of economic development is the community’s incredible natural setting among the forests, lakes, rivers and hills and dales of North Carolina.

Fortunately, thanks to Marcellus Air, hundreds of aerial views document the impact of hydraulic fracturing on the visual aspects of sense-of-place including the thousands of mini-chemical plants required.

A scroll down through the photos on the links below is informative. 

First series of aerial images

Second series of aerial images

Third series of aerial images

(Look for others, as well as updates, in the legend to the left)

It isn’t hard to understand how excited the gas industry is to deploy this natural resource or the effectiveness of their campaign contributions on permissive legislative decisions.

I also believe the people behind the technology are sincere.  The problem isn’t the theory but, as with any technology, it is with the execution which often goes to the lowest bidder.

Is it worth the risk?  Is the development based on the long-discredited linear depletion model?

It doesn’t seem based on the much more sustainable closed loop (industrial ecology) model that fully accounts for all costs in the computation of cost-benefit including the incorporation of environmental externalities.

For me, the issue isn’t just whether we are going to be “fur or agin” fracking.  The question is one of values and whether the business model ensures values such as quality of water, air and sense of place.

If it doesn’t, then it much to expensive to risk at any level of benefit.

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