To “Frack” or not…

Marcellus Shale well in Greene County, PA. (photo by Tom Mroz, DOE)

When you flip a switch, do you care where your electricity comes from? Most of us do not care… as long as the lights stay on and the beer remains chilled. Delivering electricity to our homes is a magical process employing “tubes and wires” and things that are beyond our comprehension.

Until we learn to care and educate ourselves it will be challenging to move beyond 19th century fuels and traditional power generation.

In Maryland we generate most of our electricity from coal (~ 5,000 MW). Currently there are two nuclear power plants at Calvert Cliffs in Southern MD which supply almost 29% of what the state generates. Renewables account for only about 6.6% of electric generation in Maryland. According to the Maryland Department of Energy:

Of the 81 electric generating plants in Maryland, 31 have been operating for less than 30 years, 11 have been operating between 30-40 years, 21 have been operating 40-50 years, and 18 have been operating for more than 50 years.

So, we have aging power generation facilities and (for better of worse) the potential for a natural gas boom in Western Maryland. Just last Fall the MD Public Service Commission sought proposals for new natural gas generating facilities.

So, which source of energy do you prefer?

  • Coal
  • Nuclear
  • Natural Gas
  • Or, any of the above as long as they are NOT in my backyard!

In my opinion, we will frack…

The reasons are many, but mostly because it is cheap energy for a public that just wants their lights to come on when they flip the switch… without thinking about it. Pay attention to what is happening in Pennsylvania.  It has been the wild, wild west of fracking. In a recent House subcommittee hearing, the Director of the Pennsylvania EPA admitted that they were not yet really monitoring fracking in their state.

We are fortunate that we live in Maryland. Last June (2011) Governor O’Malley signed “The Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative” which established a commission of scientists, industry and environmental specialists to establish best practices for gas drilling BEFORE any drilling permits are issued. The commission has two years to complete their work.

In July, Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler initiated a “Landowner Education Campaign on Natural Gas Drilling Contracts” to help protect landowners in Western Maryland.

Video: “The fracking frontline: a tale of two Pennsylvanias” (source, The Guardian)

Now it is up to you to do your part and pay attention!

Get involved in your local planning and zoning. Let your state and local representatives know what is important to protect in your community. The video “The fracking frontline: a tale of two Pennsylvanias” is a cautionary example of what can happen…