As the United States undergoes a boom in the production of gas from shale, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has come under fire from environmentalists and others for its potential to pollute the air and contaminate drinking water. But the events in Youngstown — and a string of other, mostly small tremors in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, British Columbia and other shale-gas-producing areas — raise the disquieting notion that the technique could lead, directly or indirectly, to a damaging earthquake.
“There are plenty of faults,” said Leonardo Seeber, a seismologist with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “Conservatively, one should assume that no matter where you drill, the basement is going to have faults that could rupture.”
That's right, on top of people's water being poisoned and even lighting on fire as a result of the natural gas production process known as fracturing ("fracking"), we also have the potential for earthquakes. And, it turns out, the economics might not even be so hot ("When the true structural costs of shale gas are fully incorporated, he says, including the costs of leasing, restimulating wells where production was flagging, and general operation and administrative overhead, operators need $8 to $9 per thousand cubic feet (mcf) to break even"). So why are we doing this exactly?