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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fracking : Galactica Cuss Or Gas Production Technique

Besides books with their corners cut off, one of the artifacts of the transcendentally excellent remake of Battlestar Galactica is the word "frack" that turned the air blue in the pilot's ready room. Cursing without cursing is a finely developed art on television series. Underneath counties in North Texas, centered roughly at Fort Worth is the Barnett Shale, a hydrocarbon rich stratified rock that was a source of some of the Texas oil that won World War II. The oil is mostly gone, burned up in Sherman tanks, freight convoys through the battle of the Atlantic and early drag racing. The oil boys always knew there was lots of natural gas in the rock, but the technology and expense blocked development of the resource. No Longer. Gas prices are not at a historical high, but they are way up on the shoulder and the process called Fracking provides the technology. It's no secret that there are concerns about the process of pumping water and other chemicals at high pressure into slant wells to break or "frack(ture)" the resource laden stone.

The Environmental Protection Agency is starting investigations into the effect that fracking has on the aquifer. Burning water from the faucet makes an impressive show for the evening news, but it's those undisclosed chemicals added to the fracking water that cause concern. Therein lies the future fight. The gas & oil business has little patience for meddling feds. The Texas State regulators are slathering, peeing poodles for the Ahl Bidness, and are as likely to investigate the possible poisoning of rural families by fracking as I am to start laying solid gold eggs. The reach of Texas politics doesn't quite control the EPA (yet) so the EPA will slowly get up to some actual research. This finding will be one of the most important ever made by any federal agency. Trillions of dollars are in play by some very wealthy individuals and corporations. Affordable, if CO2 producing, energy versus clean water make the decision an existential decision for all of us. Fracking may meet a century of energy needs from the East coast to the Rockies. There may even be natural gas under thousands of feet of lava here in Washington State.

The oil companies will be pouring however much money is needed to win the next presidential election, along with his (Her) right to name the EPA's next administrator. It'll be a great time to own a TV station.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

On Cleaning Up After Idiots

I have mentioned on this blog that I spent a decade as a volunteer fireman, and a byproduct of that I interacted with people who died in gruesome circumstances. I was driving home this morning and passed one of those spontaneous roadside memorial shrines that teens and family assemble near the site of a fatal accident. There are flowers, stuffed animals, candles, mylar balloons and poems written on plywood, propped against trees or fenceposts. It is a sad sight, and romanticizes the death of a young person who seems to be imagined as an angelic visage rising to meet Jesus. This fantasy version of death everything is clean and airbrushed. It is my experience that heads are caved in and faces smashed. Everyone who dies from violent trauma craps their pants. Bowels are loosened and bladders set free to empty. That goes for quarterbacks and prom queens along with overweight pimply nerd who that football star and beauty barely think of as human. Nothing is pretty or dreamy or romantic. Our fire department rarely came across people needing rescue after car wrecks. We were the body recovery and small parts clean up team. The EMTs took care of the survivors, if any.

When I see those memorials I can only think that there are public servants somewhere that had to collect the remains and wash the blood off the roadway. If the family is lucky or can afford the expense of mortuary reconstruction there can be an open casket ceremony, and the fantasy is reinforced. Popular culture is awash with "Teen Angel" songs and romantic movies involving returning ghostly eternally teenaged shades come to work magic on us mere mortals. Who wouldn't want to join that cadre of immortal youth. Sadly soon after the firemen have washed the blood and guts off their hands and thrown up at the station, the candles at the memorial burn out, the flowers wilt and the balloons go flat. The victims of the tragedy are mentioned less and less often, and the county road crew picks up the remains of the memorial and that's that.

Those roadside shrines depress the hell out of me.