Thursday, July 14, 2011

NPR's 'This American Life' on fracking: Act 1 and 2

A friend called last night. "Quick, turn on NPR. They're doing fracking."

That quickly, she was gone. Not near a radio, I went to National Public Radio's website, then linked to the award-winning "This American Life" and found Episode 440: GAME CHANGER.

Here's how the site describes what a listener will hear:

Host Ira Glass tells the stories of two professors, each making a calculation that no one had made before. One gets acclaim. One ends up out of a job. The first, Terry Engelder, a geologist at Penn State, was estimating the amount of natural gas that's recoverable from the Marcellus shale, a giant rock formation that's under Pennsylvania and several other Eastern states. The second, Conrad "Dan" Volz, at the University of Pittsburgh, estimated how much toxic crap—chemicals and pollution from gas exploration—might be getting into water supplies. (6 1/2 minutes)
Producer Sarah Koenig continues the story Terry Engelder and Dan Volz, their rival calculations about natural gas in Pennsylvania, and how each was treated by his university. She explains how Pennsylvania's universities, politicians and industry have united to develop natural gas. Other states have been more cautious. (26 1/2 minutes)
Act Two. Ground War.
Sarah takes us to Mt. Pleasant, PA, where a gas exploration company called Range Resources has leased 95% of the township's land. This led to a standoff between Mt. Pleasant and Range, starting with zoning disputes and ending in a full scale PR war—a war in which the town was seriously outgunned. (23 1/2 minutes)

Don't be put off by the length of the podcast . It's something you can save on your computer, pause when you need to and start up again when you have time. That's how I intended to approach it.  But I found it so compelling that, once it started, there was no possibility of stopping.

Like our friend said: Quick, turn on NPR.  They're doing fracking.

After you do, use the comment box below to let us know what you think. 

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