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 November 25, 2014 18:10 GMT

ECONOMY-GDP

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. economy grew at a solid 3.9 percent annual rate in the July-September period, even faster than first reported, giving the country its strongest back-to-back quarters of growth in more than a decade.

The Commerce Department says the third quarter growth rate climbed from an initial estimate of 3.5 percent because of greater spending by consumers and businesses. The figure followed a 4.6 percent surge in the spring, which resulted in the biggest consecutive quarters of growth since 2003.

Analysts believe growth could slow to around 2.5 percent in the current quarter but then accelerate again in 2015. They expect growth of around 3 percent, representing a sustained acceleration in activity six years after the Great Recession.

EUROPE-ECONOMY

PARIS (AP) -- A major international organization is calling on Europe to relax its fiscal rules and for governments to spend more money, saying Europe's sluggishness is dragging down the global economy.

Tuesday's report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a gathering of the world's richest countries, says Europe has consistently underperformed economically and risks remaining economically stagnant unless demand picks up. The report also calls for major reforms in Japan, saying its debt is unsustainable.

EU requirements that members keep budget deficits below 3 percent of GDP are coming under increasing pressure as the bloc's economy fails to pick up.

Germany, a fierce defender of the budget rules, was taken to task in the report, which called on the government to invest more in childcare and infrastructure.

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A fresh survey finds U.S. consumer confidence down in November following a big gain in the previous month.

The Conference Board says its consumer confidence index fell to 88.7 in November, down from a seven-year high of 94.5 in October.

Conference Board economist Lynn Franco says that the decline primarily reflects reduced optimism in the short-term outlook, as consumers expressed less confidence in current business conditions and the present state of the job market.

But she adds that expectations about future income remain virtually unchanged. With gas prices falling, this should help boost holiday sales.

NEW YORK FED-HOUSEHOLD DEBT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Americans are slowly but steadily borrowing more money, bringing to an end a five-year effort to cut household debt that has slowed consumer spending and the economy.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York says total household debt increased $78 billion in the July-September quarter to $11.7 trillion, led by rising mortgage and auto loans. That is the fourth increase in household debt in the past five quarters.

Total debt is still below the peak of nearly $12.7 trillion reached in the third quarter of 2008. But it has risen 5 percent since bottoming out in the second quarter of last year.

The sustained increase is a sign that Americans are more confident and willing to spend more, trends that could fuel faster economic growth.

HOME PRICES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. home prices rose in September at the slowest pace in more than two years, reflecting modest sales gains and a rising number of available homes.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 4.9 percent in September from 12 months earlier. But that's down from 5.6 percent in August and the smallest gain since October 2012.

Home price gains have slowed this year after rapid, double-digit increases in the previous two years. Investors helped drive the strong gains by bidding up prices but have started to cut back on their purchases.

The Case-Shiller index covers roughly half of U.S. homes. The index measures prices compared with those in January 2000 and creates a three-month moving average. The September figures are the latest available.

BANK EARNINGS

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. bank earnings rose 7.3 percent in the July-September quarter from a year earlier, as banks reduced their expenses and continued to lend out more money, which help drive up revenue.

The data issued Thursday by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. showed a robust picture as the banking industry continues to recover from the financial crisis that struck six years ago.

Banks and other financial institutions insured by the FDIC earned $38.7 billion in the third quarter, up from $36.1 billion a year ago. The percentage of unprofitable banks fell to 6.4 percent of institutions, versus 8.7 percent a year ago.

The agency said the number of "problem banks" fell to 329 during the quarter, the lowest since the first quarter of 2009. Only two insured banks failed last quarter.

HOLIDAY SHOPPING-THANKSGIVING

NEW YORK (AP) -- Thanksgiving could be the best day to shop all year.

An analysis of sales data and store circulars contradicts conventional wisdom that Black Friday is when shoppers can get the most and biggest sales of the year.

Turns out, shoppers will find more discounted items in stores that are open on Thanksgiving. An analysis of promotions for The Associated Press by researcher MarketTrack, for example, shows a total of 86 laptops and tablets deeply discounted as door buster deals at Best Buy, Wal-Mart and others on the holiday compared with just nine on Black Friday.

And on the Web, discounts will be deeper on the holiday. Adobe, which tracks data on 4,500 retail web sites, finds online prices on Thanksgiving are expected to be about 24 percent cheaper compared with 23 percent on Black Friday and 20 percent on Cyber Monday.

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