Tight Oil and Tighter Water
Is the Energy Boom a Mirage?, an OpEd in the NY Times on oil and natural gas production that could be just down the street:
THE United States is experiencing a boom in oil and natural gas production — one that many people, including Mitt Romney, see as a game-changing, tectonic shift in our energy picture. But while the boom is real, the benefits are less than meet the eye.
The United States produces 1.6 million more barrels of oil each day now than it did in 2008. That’s a significant increase in a world that consumes around 89 million barrels per day, with the United States accounting for about a quarter of that amount. In addition, America’s net petroleum imports have fallen from 60 percent of total consumption in 2005 to 42 percent today. This is partly because of new discoveries and the reclamation of “tight oil” using hydraulic fracturing technology that shoots pressurized liquids into compact, underground rock formations — the same technology driving the natural gas boom.
But what does this oil boom really mean? Will it deliver lower oil prices and enhance energy security, which is what most Americans want and many may expect?
We should not be overly optimistic.
And another Times article, For Farms in the West, Oil Wells Are Thirsty Rivals
A new race for water is rippling through the drought-scorched heartland, pitting farmers against oil and gas interests, driven by new drilling techniques that use powerful streams of water, sand and chemicals to crack the ground and release stores of oil and gas.
A single such well can require five million gallons of water, and energy companies are flocking to water auctions, farm ponds, irrigation ditches and municipal fire hydrants to get what they need.
That thirst is helping to drive an explosion of oil production here, but it is also complicating the long and emotional struggle over who drinks and who does not in the arid and fast-growing West. Farmers and environmental activists say they are worried that deep-pocketed energy companies will have purchase on increasingly scarce water supplies as they drill deep new wells that use the technique of hydraulic fracturing.
And this summer’s record-breaking drought, which dried up wells and ruined crops, has only amplified those concerns.