In its latest issue, Time magazine explores “The Gas Dilemma.” The comprehensive cover piece focuses on how important natural gas is to America’s energy needs, but notes the many dangers and unresolved issues surrounding the fracking process.
Reporter Brian Walsh writes, “Make no mistake: in a post-Fukushima world, the U.S. will use this gas. It's important to cast the environmental controversies surrounding shale drilling against the backdrop of the fossil fuel that, if all goes well, gas should help displace: coal….Natural gas's benefit over coal when it comes to climate change is less clear-cut, but it's there, and gas can also coexist with renewable energy, providing inexpensive backup for wind and solar.”
However, Walsh notes that the process will need to meet the public’s environmental concerns. “Those expectations will almost certainly include tougher regulations. In the U.S., that can be done, starting at the federal level, by giving the EPA the power to do a life-cycle analysis of hydraulic fracturing, looking at the cumulative impact of wide-scale drilling on water supplies. Representative Maurice Hinchey of New York and Senator Robert Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania have submitted commonsense pieces of legislation that would require industry to disclose the identities of chemicals used in fracking jobs. The bulk of the oversight may still be done by states, but governors will need to take care that drilling doesn't outpace regulators, as happened in Pennsylvania.”
As our regular readers know, ProPublica’s Abrahm Lustgarten started reporting on the environmental impact of natural gas drilling back in July 2008. During the course of his investigations, he’s written more than 100 reports that covered many of the issues raised in this Time magazine piece, which notes our coverage. And Abrahm's been recognized by the George Polk Awards, Society of Professional Journalists, the Goldsmith Prize and others for his outstanding coverage.
The issue of fracking is now a national issue that merits serious debate. We hope readers will inform themselves and join the discussion.