A new report by the United States Geological Survey has found that reserves of recoverable natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation fall dramatically short of previous estimates, raising questions about the energy industry's influence over government.
The findings are likely to rebalance the equation on recoverable gas versus cost, the availability of water, and other environmental issues. The USGS estimates that there is 84 trillion cubic feet of natural gas available for extraction, conflicting sharply with the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) figure of 410 trillion cubic feet.
The EIA’s methods will likely come under scrutiny, and some members of Congress are investigating its ties to the energy industry, according to reports.
The Marcellus Shale is a geological formation that spans the Appalachian Basin; it has attracted significant interest in energy development. Oil and gas companies use a controversial mining technique called hydrofracking to extract the gas.
The process is known to cause serious groundwater contamination, and is a potential threat to municipal drinking water supplies. Several states, including New York, have either banned on placed restrictions upon the process.
Here’s how hydrofracking works: a borehole is dug deep into the ground to inject a proprietary chemical mix that breaks up and opens channels in rock formations; gas is then expelled from the rock and collected. Fracking firms have no been not required to disclose what chemicals are used in the process, and some have admitted to pumping diesel fuel into the ground during the Bush administration’s era of regulatory neglect.
Energy industry trade groups claim that their members dig wells safely and below the water table. They have vigorously contested claims that the practice is unsafe.
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