My, oh, my, doesn’t time fly! Seems like only yesterday that landmen began moving in on the homeowners of Fort Worth to talk about the wonders of natural gas, the glory of the Barnett Shale, and the bliss that comes from getting free mailbox money monthly if you good folks would just sign away your mineral rights on the dotted line right there. An “X” will do.
But it wasn’t yesterday. It was more than 10 years ago.
Static was thinking about that recently. What’s the result of Fort Worth’s having been the testing ground for urban gas drilling? Are there positives? Are there negatives?
Well, let’s see. The mailbox money dried up. Most of us with an acre or less are getting checks just a couple of times a year, and even then they’re for less than $100. And then those local jobs, well, they’ve mostly dried up, too. Add to that the thousands of miles of aging pipelines the city is sitting on and the fact that most of them are still not mapped in a way that an emergency response team could locate them immediately in a pinch, and things start to look glum. Then we’ve got 3,000 wells in the city that are not producing much gas but are still leaking carcinogens, causing asthma and a host of other illnesses, and Static’s head begins to spin. Oh, and did we mention the still-pockmarked roads and the hundreds of adversely impacted water wells and the land farms filled with poisonous sludge that’s blown into the air every time the wind whips up?
But maybe something good came from the natural gas rush.
Static turned to the one person who might see a rosy picture. Executive director of the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council, an outfit paid for by energy companies, Ed Ireland has a very different take on things. “The economic impact on the region has been tremendous and continues to be, even though drilling activity is low,” he told Static. “The oil and gas industry in North Texas continues to be a major employer in the region and generates a lot of economic activity that translates into income for a lot of people. So that’s positive.
“Then,” Ireland continued, “the Barnett Shale is the birthplace of the shale energy revolution. The techniques to extract oil and gas from shale were perfected in the Barnett Shale, and those techniques are now used worldwide, with a tremendous impact on both U.S. and worldwide oil and natural gas supplies.”
Static was starting to feel a little better. “And as a result of the increase of oil and gas from the Barnett Shale and other shale plays,” Ireland added, “the price of oil and gas has been reduced. The high output of crude oil in the U.S. has pushed down the price of oil worldwide.”
Alrighty then. Things are good. Hooray!
But now let’s turn to Sharon Wilson, the anti-gas drilling BlueDaze blogger and the Texas representative of the Oil and Gas Accountability Project.
“What are the positives from gas drilling in Fort Worth?” she said. “We’ve got worse air, cruddy pipes, leaking wells. We’ve made our kids sick and poisoned water wells. Those are not real positives, are they? To be honest, we’ve been the guinea pigs in a horrible experiment. We’ve lost a lot of ground pursuing the old fossil fuels instead of going forward with clean, renewable energy that would not hurt our climate and might give our children half a chance for a future rather than giving them asthma.”
But, hey. A hundred smackers every six months buys me a few cases of beer, so let’s call it a wash.