Natural Gas Gold Rush

Small Towns Across the Country Have Been Swept up in the Boom—Is Wisconsin Next?

by Taylor Kilgore, age 17

    A recent boom in natural gas is causing a new controversy. Natural gas wells are springing up all around the country due to the high interest in natural gas. In 2000, the U.S. had 342,000 natural gas wells. By 2010, this number swelled to 510,000.
    The process of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” shoots water, sand, and chemicals into an underground layer of shale, a sedimentary rock. The mixture cracks the shale, allowing natural gas to flow up the well.
    Despite a dramatic increase in this type of mining, fracking is still the subject of much debate. With fracking comes an increase in jobs, but also higher rents and massive changes to the landscape. Natural gas industry workers average an hourly wage of $28.48, six dollars more than what other similar industries pay, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
    Workers have been fracking landscapes all across the country. Fracturing has found a home in places such as Ohio and Pennsylvania. In Texas, Michigan, West Virginia, Utah, Montana, Arkansas, new areas are being explored. About a trillion cubic feet of gas was produced from shale in 2006, while in 2012, it expanded to 7.19 trillion cubic feet, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
The Frac sand industry is expanding in Wisconsin. We will explore this subject in coming editions of Simpson Street Free Press.
    Some experts worry that the chemicals used in fracking can be dangerous. In particular, there are questions about threats to the water supply. Scientists say that concrete well casings can crack and leak chemicals. There is about a 1% chance of fracking extending beyond 1,150 feet of a recommended fracturing zone. Nearby towns fear chemical leakage.
    Despite the controversy, natural-gas industries continue to grow rapidly. This growth has sparked lower gas prices at the pump for natural gas vehicles. In turn, this reduction of cost entices consumers to buy natural-gas vehicles.

 [Sources: USA Today; Associated Press; Wall Street Journal]