Tuesday, July 30, 2013


The first thing to understand about fracking is that it is the latest cause of the silly people in Hollywood most of whom know nothing about fracking.  Hollywood gave an Oscar to “Gasland” a movie starring Matt Damon that purports to show how fracking destroys our drinking water while rewarding the oil companies.  Another documentary “Fracknation” offered a rebuttal and less emotional response to “Gasland” but was generally ignored.  The Director of “Gasland” Josh Fox refused to discuss “Fracknation” or the fact that environmental officials concluded that the pollution shown in “Gasland” had nothing to do with fracking.  Nevertheless the hue and cry against fracking continues but it doesn’t seem to rest on facts as much as a belief that it destructive to the surface environment. 
Fracking is a short term used for “hydraulic fracturing”.  This is a process where water mixed with sand and various chemicals are injected into a gas or oil producing geological formation under high pressure to fracture the rock to release the gas / oil trapped there.  This process has rejuvenated old oil wells and is helping to release America from its dependence on foreign oil.  However, most of the fracking is used to release natural gas, a resource the US has in abundance so it really has little impact of oil imports.  On close inspection it seems the opponents of fracking are mostly focused on the environmental issues not caused by fracking but caused by ancillary issues. 
The fracking process does bring additional industrial activity into communities.  In some cases this requires clearing land, building roads, preparing new well sites, casing the well, etc.  The process itself requires water and materials to be trucked into the site and the toxic waste to be trucked away.  These are the things the opponents to fracking focus on but it should be noted that these well sites are not in the middle of urban areas, they are not located on some pristine beachfront or a local neighborhood, but generally are located in remote locations.  Many times the well sites are pre-existing and are being rejuvenated through fracking.  The position of the environmentalists that fracking is turning our communities into “sacrifice zones” is overstated and even misleading, especially the claims that fracking is polluting our drinking water.   The irony is that the anti-fracking lobby doesn’t seem to have any real scientific basis but rests entirely on anecdotal data.  The oil and gas producing strata lie thousands of feet below the water table and fracking has no impact.
Actually the Department of Energy released a federal study on fracking in 2013.  This report states they found no evidence that chemicals from the drilling process moved up to contaminate drinking water aquifers  This test lasted a year and the researchers found that the chemical laced fluids used in fracking stayed thousands of feet below the shallower areas  that supply drinking water.. This study lasted a year and the study is ongoing, but these preliminary results are the first independent look at whether the toxic chemicals used in fracking pose a threat to people during normal drilling operations.  The DOE does not view these early results as a final answer but they do bear out claims made by the companies using this process.
This test used drilling fluids tagged with unique markers were injected into the strata more than 8000 feet below the surface.  A common depth for oil and gas wells.  These tagged fluids were not detected in the monitoring zone which was at 5000 feet below the surface and well below the aquifer used for drinking water.  The researchers also tracked the maximum extent of the fractures made from the process and these were at least 6000 feet below the surface.  This means the potentially hazardous fluids stayed a mile or more away from drinking water supply which usually are no deeper than 500 feet.
The debate over fracking has received a great deal of attention from state and federal authorities mostly driven by environmentalists who have focused on the chemicals used in the process.  But the experts have concluded that if there is any danger from fracking it is more likely to be from poor well construction or other human failures.  Nevertheless there are other issues which still must be explored such as; chemical spills, waste water disposal, or escaping gas.  Still the independent researchers at Duke University concluded that most of the problems associated with fracking have been related to well construction not the chemicals used in the process.
It is important to note that these results are preliminary and the tests were conducted in one area in Pennsylvania but geological structures vary widely across the country.  More tests must be conducted but these early results tend to show that the process itself does not pollute the drinking water.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Sin or No Sin

Do you think about sin?  Probably not – I think very few people do.  In fact many people might be hard pressed to even define sin even in a biblical context.  Essentially within the Judeo-Christian context sin is simply the act of violating God’s will or anything that violates the relationship between an individual and God.  But what is God’s will and what – precisely is the relationship between a person and God?  These are rather vague terms when you examine them, yet the Bible is very specific in what constitutes a sin. 613 commandments.  But all of these sins are in reference to God and those who believe in the Judeo-Christian God.  What about Atheists and those who don’t believe in God – can they sin?  What about the Seven Deadly Sins?  Are they sins of the soul or of the body?  What about the Ten Commandments, these were given to Moses directly from God and are honored by the world’s three great religions do these apply to atheists?  Is the denial of God a sin in itself?

The first commandment “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me” seems clear enough but does that apply to humankind or just to Jews, Christians, and Muslims?  A great many people in the world don’t fall into those categories and do not recognize this as God’s commandment.  Are they all sinners and condemned by a God they do not recognize?  This first of God’s commandments seems to assume that everyone believes in some god, but that they must honor the God described in the Bible and Koran first and above all other gods.  So perhaps it can be concluded that atheism is itself a sin and a violation of God’s commandment.  So the answer must be yes – Atheists can sin.

The second commandment is more interesting because it is rarely expressed in its entirety.  According the King James Bible the second amendment states”
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  Thos shalt not  bow down thyself to them, nor serve them for I the Lord they God am  jealous God, visiting the inequity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me. And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments
Normally what you see is just the first phrase and not the entire commandment.  Both Islam and Judaism follow this commandment scrupulously but do Christians?  Is the ubiquitous Cross a graven image?  What of the icons, statues, and various images that abound in Christian Churches?  What about the Catholic Saints – are they gods and graven images?  Of course the claim is that these are not graven images or gods to be prayed to but simply symbols celebrating God and their faith in God – a fine line. But these commandments are from God and violating them would be a sin – if you believe in God and His commandments.  But what if you don’t?  What about the Seven Deadly Sins?
These may have their roots in the Bible and have evolved from that but they were first articulated in the fourth century by John Cassian.(  How these are defined has evolved over the years so they may be rooted in religion but today they are more sins of the body than sins against God.   But the question remains – what is sin and can sin be defined outside of a religious reference?  Can a person sin if he does not believe in the existence of God?
Of course there is probably no real answer to any of these questions, but it is my opinion that all sins are sins against God’s mandate and those who do not believe in God can not only sin but their disbelief is their first sin and that sin is pride.