Fracking and Michigan's water supply

Updated: Thursday, May 15, 2014
Fracking and Michigan
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - New rules approved in Lansing a few weeks ago are designed to soothe the concerns of people worried about the effects that fracking for oil and gas will have on our environment.

Tonight, in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says it's nice to have more information about what is being done in our state and elsewhere, but it doesn't make the effect on the environment any less scary.

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In fact...the new rules don't do a whole lot more than confirm what critics already thought was happening.

Just to get it out of the way, and most of you already know this: fracking is short for "hydraulic fracturing." It's the process of extracting oil and gas from miles deep in the earth by injecting a high-pressure mix of water and chemicals to fracture the rock and free it up.

It sounds ho-hum, but it's a pretty ruthless undertaking.

It takes unbelievable amounts of fresh water to get the job done. Water that can never be used again for human consumption.

Here's an example: a well drilled in Kalkaska County a year-and-a-half ago used 21 million gallons of it. When it comes time to extend the well, they'll use even more.

21 million gallons! One well.

And while Pennsylvania has pretty much been the poster state for the fracking industry, Michigan is now in the cross hairs.

And why not? We're a peninsula. We've got water!

In Barry County three years ago, oil companies signed leases for 81 wells.

Within a year that number had doubled.

There are a number of them scheduled to go in Ionia County.

According to the Detroit Free Press, there are tens of thousands of property owners across the state who have signed leases.

And for every well drilled, millions upon millions of gallons of fresh water used, contaminated, and pumped underground for safe keeping.

One fracking critic, Joe Curry, a water driller from Holly, told the Free Press that the fracking process risks contaminating underground water sources, creates air pollution from the chemicals used,  and converts almost incomprehensible amounts of fresh water into toxic waste.

How much water? Well, from January of 2011 to August of 2012--a 20-month stretch--the United States lost 66 billion gallons of water to frack 35,000 wells.

That's enough to provide all the water needed annually for 40 to 80 cities with populations of 50-thousand people.

Much of it in already water-stressed areas--and none of it ever to be used by a human being again.

And we're just getting started.

Guess who uses more water: Farmers? Or frackers? And we're just getting started.

I know we need to assert oil independence. We can't forever rely on oil from politically unstable regions of the world.

I know we have to get to work and take our vacations and wait for deliveries by planes, trucks, and automobiles.

I also know that the oil and gas industry would love to keep things just the way they are. They're making tons of money. And they have tons of clout in every legislative chamber in the country.

But we have simply got to step up our research in how to extract more usable power from reusable sources like the sun, and wind, and waves, and heat from the core of the earth.

If we don't, there will come a time when the lines from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner will take on a whole new meaning: "Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink."

In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on October 31, 2014 17:47 GMT

CONSUMER SENTIMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumers expect better economic growth and rising incomes in the coming months, pushing a measure of confidence to a seven-year high in October.

The University of Michigan says that its index of consumer sentiment rose to 86.9 from 84.6 in September. That's the highest since July 2007, five months before the Great Recession began. Still, the index regularly topped 90 before the downturn.

Richard Curtin, the survey's chief economist, says that almost six in ten of the respondents said the economy has improved recently, the highest proportion in more than 10 years.

The measure is the second this week to show consumer confidence has reached the highest level since the recession. Greater confidence and more hiring could lead to faster spending and healthier economic growth.

CONSUMER SPENDING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumer spending fell in September, the first decline since January, as shoppers took a breather after a big spending spree in August. Income growth posted the slowest gain this year.

The Commerce Department says consumer spending dropped 0.2 percent in September. Income edged up 0.2 percent in September, the smallest monthly gain since a flat reading last December.

The spending decline followed a big 0.5 percent increase in August. In September demand fell for durable goods such as autos and for nondurable goods, a drop that partially reflected falling prices for gasoline.

Spending is closely watched because it accounts for 70 percent of economic activity. Economists believe September will be a temporary pause as continued hiring gains pushing up spending and the overall economy in coming months.

GASOLINE PRICES

NEW YORK (AP) -- The average price of gasoline in the U.S. hit $3 a gallon Friday, and should soon drop below the benchmark for the first time since December 2010.

The price at the pump fell 33 cents in October, thanks mainly to plunging oil prices, according to AAA.

Many exuberant drivers have taken to social media to post pictures of gas station signs with prices of $2.99 or lower. Drivers in South Carolina and Tennessee are paying the lowest prices, with an average of $2.75 a gallon.

Drivers in New York are paying the most in the continental U.S., at an average of $3.37. That's still 22 cents cheaper than a year ago.

Gasoline is cheaper than milk again. In September the national average price of milk was $3.73 per gallon.

EARNS-BIG OIL

NEW YORK (AP) -- Falling oil prices hardly seem to be bothering the two biggest U.S. oil companies, but things could get tougher in the coming months.

Exxon and Chevron leaned on strong performances from their refining operations to increase profits in the third quarter despite plummeting global oil prices.

The global price of oil fell 18 percent from the beginning of the quarter to the end, and it cost both companies. Revenue slipped at Exxon by 4 percent and at Chevron by 8 percent.

But low oil and natural gas prices make for low raw material costs -- and higher profit -- for refining and chemical operations, which turn oil and gas into fuels and chemicals. Profit at Exxon's refining and chemicals operations rose 38 percent compared with a year earlier, and Chevron's profit from its so-called downstream operations more than tripled.

Those results helped Exxon's overall earning rise 3 percent in the quarter to $8.07 billion. Chevron's earnings rose 13 percent to $5.59 billion.

NISSAN-AIR BAG RECALL

DETROIT (AP) -- Nissan says it's recalling more than 1,800 Infiniti SUVs in the U.S. for an air bag problem that could send shrapnel into the passenger compartment.

The recall covers the QX56 SUVs from 2013 and the QX80s from 2014. The company says inflators made by Takata Corp. were built with an incorrect outer baffle part. That can cause pressure to build up, and the inflators can rupture if driver's side air bags are deployed.

Nissan has no reports of injuries from the problem. It was discovered after General Motors recalled 33,000 Cruze compact cars for the same problem in June. The Infiniti recall is part of a larger global recall of 260,000 Nissans announced last week.

Takata says the recall is separate from another one affecting 8 million vehicles in the U.S.

EUROPE-ECONOMY

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Inflation has crept higher in the 18 countries that use the euro but the rise to 0.4 percent in the year to October is unlikely to offer much relief to the European Central Bank as it tries to boost a weak economy.

The official figure released Friday was up from 0.3 percent the month before.

The European Central Bank is under pressure to give the eurozone another dose of stimulus measures in coming months because inflation is so low and growth so weak. There are fears the eurozone could even fall into outright deflation, a crippling downward price spiral.

Core inflation, a key measure because it excludes volatile food and energy prices, fell to 0.7 percent from 0.8 percent.

The bank's goal is to keep inflation just below 2 percent.

BRITAIN-RBS

LONDON (AP) -- Royal Bank of Scotland, which is majority-owned by the U.K. government, has set aside 400 million pounds ($639 million) to cover potential fines arising from international investigations into alleged manipulation of foreign currency trading.

The total represents over half the 780 million pounds the bank earmarked for "conduct and litigation costs" in third-quarter earnings released Friday.

The results show the bank, which was bailed out by the government during the 2008 financial crisis, swung back to profit during the July-September period. Its net income of 896 million pounds follows an 828 million-pound loss last year.

CEO Ross McEwan says the bank knows it has "a long list of conduct and litigation issues to deal with and much, much more to do to restore our customers' trust in us."

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