This past weekend my wife and I visited some friends in a small farm town in northeastern Pennsylvania.
To me, the region has a great deal going for it. It consists of thousands of acres of beautiful woods and fields and friendly people.
Of course like any very remote region there are some drawbacks. It takes a while to get to stores and restaurants and forget about cell service or cable. But there is at least satellite service for Internet and television.
But what's really interesting is what you can't see. It's about a mile below the surface of the earth and large energy companies across the country are VERY interested in what's there.
Methane, AKA natural gas. An efficient, clean source of energy which just so happens to exist in great quantities far below the surface in this part of the country. But because drilling and extraction techniques have improved so much, it is now accessible.
Why is this particularly important? Well, if you, like our friends, live on a big piece of property that is in the pathway of one of the many natural gas wells and pipelines that are going in, you will very likely be contacted by one of the aforementioned gas companies who will be looking to negotiate a mineral lease.
That's the good news.
The bad news--maybe--is that one of the techniques used in the drilling operation is called 'fracing'. This consists of pumping vast quantities of water into the well to release the methane.
There are some who insist this process is contaminating residential wells. There are others who say the methane in this part of the country was always in the well water but it's only now that people are noticing it. It's no worse than it's ever been, they say.
So the jury is still out.
One thing's for sure. As we slowly run out of oil and search for new supplies of energy--coal, oil and natural gas--there are going to be consequences. Some may be inconsequential--but others may not.
One other thing. The gas companies are throwing around a LOT of money betting that it will pay off.
It always seems to come down to that, doesn't it? Money.