Monday, May 9, 2011
Acadian to Marcellus on Science Mondays
It was 390,000,000 years ago and mountains were forming around where the Hudson River flows today. This was before dinosaurs at a time when the first vascular plants were considering life on land and with any major disruption there was erosion. As the Acadian Mountains rose, they began to erode.
As the runoff hit the sea it floated and as the heavier stuff sank, the lighter load floated farther away from shore. But it too eventually sank joining with some dead aquatic plants on the way to an ocean floor devoid of oxygen, and thus the carbon content. Those dead plants did not decay properly. The muck became shale with a high carbon content.
Pressure and heat caused the carbon to be transformed into methane and a the slate above and below the shale kept in place. Eventually it would become buried deep below ground except for a few outcroppings including one close to Marcellus, NY.
It would be folded into the Appalachian Mountains.
And then a nation developed that needed energy to live their life style and the geologists saw so much natural gas potential that the Marcellus Shale is now one of the top rocks in the news.
I told my students about all of this, then explained the politics, the environmental concerns, and the daily news that broke.
The problem is the drilling has exploded with very little regulation and close watch. We know things can go terribly wrong. We don't know if things can be done safely.
It is in my state and while I would love for it to go away, the truth is it is here and unless we all decide to live in a much different way I have a hard time saying drill in another backyard. But can we please keep a closer eye on this and determine its true risk before we rush ahead any more? Can we clean up the mess we have made? Can we help those who have been hurt?
I would hope so.