Wednesday, June 8, 2011

USA TODAY - Fracking holds the key to energy future

Little more than a decade ago, the United States was running so low on natural gas that companies were making plans to cover the shortfall with imports of liquefied natural gas. Today, though, the marine terminals built to dock huge LNG ships in Texas, Louisiana and Maryland are being converted to ship gas out, not just bring it in.

This remarkable reversal of fortune is the result of a dramatic boom in a drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," which uses high-pressure water mixed with chemicals and sand to crack open shale formations. This technique has brought a surprising amount of new gas production from states as disparate as Texas, North Dakota and Pennsylvania — enough combined with conventional supplies to last perhaps 100 years at current consumption rates.

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