Free Unicorns for Everyone (Why you should drill everywhere)

Trust us, this and a bag of money can be yours if you just lease your land!

I just returned from a presentation by our new neighbors, Mountaineer Keystone. They were kind enough to come out to Hiram and offer a presentation with a time for questions and answers.

The evening began with a presentation from OOGEEP on the benefits of hydraulic fracturing in our neighborhood. Would you believe that fracking is 100% benefit without any downsides? That is what we were informed by the educational arm of the industry – an organization that “is not” funded by any particular drilling company… just the whole industry. In an audacious move, the representative informed us that she “was not here to tell you to lease your land or not” but she did want us to know that this method of drilling is:

  1. completely safe
  2. would hire tons of people in our community (hopefully even our poor kids who have no future otherwise)
  3. solve our energy needs (“‘alternative’ fuels are no alternative”)
  4. present you with bags of money
  5. never contaminate your water (but if it did, they would take care of it!)

While the presentation was basically an insult, it was somewhat informational.

OOGEEP concluded the presentation and then employees from MK stepped up to tell us who they are and what they do with the company. It does seem that this company has some better goals within the structure of this industry:

  1. They want to recycle 100% of their water (They could recycle this water perhaps 10 times before it could no longer be in use, but that would still reduce their consumption by 90%, which when each well uses around 5,000,000 gallons of water, is a big difference).
  2. They lay down two protective layers of matting to keep the production water from spilling on the ground.
  3. They also lay down two protective layers of matting around each production tank.
  4. They seek to hire local folks to work.
  5. Their wells have four layers of concrete/casings.

Prior to this evening, I had heard that this company was portraying themselves as “The Good Guys” in the industry, and it appears that they do have some admirable goals and experience to support their aspirations.

However, throughout the entire evening, there was something that left me feeling worse about the prospective development than when we began.

I had a conversation with one of the owners of the company who is also their chief geologist. We spoke before the meeting began and he told me a little about the casings but more about the geology involved. He informed me about the potential for oil in this region and was very knowledgeable about the great resource that our aquifers present to this region.

I am not a geologist. This man is. So when he tells me about the formations and the ability to pressurize this rock and to release the abundance of oil and gas within, I listen and I can respect the knowledge that this man possesses and I do not.

Then, he proceeded to tell me that he was the only person to debate Josh Fox (the director of GasLand) and how he clearly won the debate. Now, he said, Fox won’t debate anyone about hydraulic fracturing.

This man then told me that, “It’s just like how Al Gore won’t go and debate anyone about climate change.”


Then, he told me about how he and his wife were paid to fly to China to present in a panel to the public and government about natural gas development. Apparently, he was then asked by the Land Minister and Energy Minister, “What is the greatest impediment to development in our country?” He replied, “The Chinese Government.” If they were to open up development to foreign companies (I.e. US companies), they could transform the energy position of China overnight.

It wasn’t until I was walking home from the meeting that I began to process through these things. I was reminded of the Enron situation and the documentary about how that whole situation emerged, “The Smartest Guys in the Room.”

Those folks thought – they knew – that they were the smartest guys and could do no wrong.

Call me old-fashioned, but I admire and respect people who have a decent sense of humility – to understand what they know and to have some idea of what they don’t.

I would expect a geologist to know what is going on 10,000 feet below the ground.

However, I do not expect him to know more than the 97% of scientists who study the atmosphere and climate. I do not expect him to know more about the economy and politics than the leaders of a country (China, after all, has a greater economic growth rate than does the US at this time).

When one of the owners of the company and the chief geologist believes he can do no wrong,

When the industry representative believes that hydraulic fracturing has never messed with the water of anyone,

When the industry employees believe that hydraulic fracturing has never messed with water of anyone,

And yet, when THEY ALL ACKNOWLEDGED THAT WATER WAS CONTAMINATED IN DIMOCK, PENNSYLVANIA at the end of the meeting… but insisted that it was a “casing” issue and not a “hydraulic fracturing” issue,

I am worried.

Caution can lead to a healthy approach to and rate of development. Hubris can lead to failure and calamity and contamination, just ask BP.

I suppose that I will be “glad” that it’s “The Good Guys” who are drilling rather than the bad guys, but after listening to the absolute confidence expressed by the owner, employees, and representatives, I am concerned.

I am more concerned than when I began, because I would be more willing to trust an industry that is willing to confess its faults and the possibility of error rather than one who can only deny every possibility of error and believe that they are in control of everything.

We have a long record of people discovering that they didn’t know it all, and unfortunately, this knowledge has a nasty habit of bringing down others with them.

I hope that prudence will enter into the production.

And I hope that local control and democracy will return so that we can have the choice to turn away folks and industries such as these who insist that “absolutely nothing can go wrong.”




Detachment and Outrage

I have been following the story involving a leaked video of U.S. Marines urinating on the corpses of three Taliban fighters. And I have been listening to the outrage pour out from Pentagon that they will identify the men involved and “bring them to justice.”

This is all familiar to me.

I’m reminded of the leaked photos that emerged from Abu Ghraib in the Iraq war. The pyramid. The woman pointing at the man wearing only a black cloth sack on his head. The mockery of the dead man who seemed to have an erection.

Again, outrage emerged from our country and the Pentagon.

“How could these men and women in uniform so desecrate the image and reputation of the United States of America? How could they treat these men in this way?”

The woman in the picture was found guilty and sentenced to a term of up to five and a half years.

And yet, all of this seems sanctimonious and pious and detached.

The outrage comes from those of us who watch tv from the couch, read the paper at the kitchen table, or listen to the news in our car. It comes from those who, whether for or against the war, reside in the country that is at war in Afghanistan and now concluding the war in Iraq. It comes from those who are removed from the situation and know only of war through a medium.

And yet, we are outraged.

“How could these soldiers of the finest military in the world desecrate a fallen enemy?” 

“Don’t they have any respect?” 

And I wonder, How detached are we?

That we would send our neighbors, siblings, and children off to fight in combat with real ammunition, with real danger, where real live people shoot at each other and bomb each other and kill each other – that we would send off our troops into war and expect that after all that they have seen and heard and done, that they would retain the ability to offer the cordial and “normal” courtesy to the deceased enemies?

How detached are we?

That we would send a soul to kill another, and expect that this individual would be able to remember that amidst all of this combat and violence, the enemy is still a person.

We treat the enemies as if they are targets, war as if it is safe and “smart”, and soldiers as if they are impermeable to the horrors they experience and we have the audacity to suggest that these men and women are desecrating the image and reputation of our country?

What does it say of a country that expects war and “normalcy” to coexist?

What does it say of a country that expects killing and “decency” to go hand in hand?

I think that the true horror to be found in this story is that we could honestly be disturbed or disappointed or surprised that war could cause a soldier to try and cope with the fullness of life and death in this sort of way.

We seem to have little reservation or regard to sending our troops off in battle to kill the enemies, but God forbid that one of them be inappropriate about it all!

If anything, these images should be a disruptive reminder to us of the outcomes and byproducts of war and violence to our soldiers.

That we could insist they engage in a method that produces these sort of dehumanizing behaviors should be enough for us to insist that we not place them in these situations any longer.

That we would expect them to kill and respect the sanctity of life is enough to suggest that our culture has so interwoven violence that we are no longer shocked when it is done – only when it is done “incorrectly.” 

That is where we should direct our outrage.


One Church, Two Churches; Red Church, Blue Churches

Well there have been two GOP primary debates thus far.

I must confess, that I have not brought myself to actually watch either of the televised debates. I am pacing myself…

Yet, in reading over news articles the days after, I have been somewhat amazed by the occurrences.

While the media has focused primarily on the issue of Governor Perry’s thoughts towards Social Security, there has been little attention on some of smaller issues that have generated applause or condemnation of the audiences (Peter Catapano has a good piece here on one).

What I have been astonished at, thus far, is that the audiences have seemed to cheer the death penalty (as a form of American “justice”), cheered the desperate fate of a hypothetical sick man without insurance, and booed a policy allowing children of illegal immigrants to attend higher education.

So much for caring for those in prison, the sick, and the (children of) foreigners. All we need now is for some crowd’s applause of the rising percentage of our population living in poverty and I think that takes care of Jesus’s particular message in Matthew 25.31-48.

Perhaps it is the view of the candidates and the audience that the religious commands/principles are to be carried out by the religious communities rather than the government. But this is difficult to comprehend when the same candidates are largely for restricting choice for women and limiting marriage to only the heterosexual. The defenses I have heard so far for these two issues have not been political, they were religious.

Instead, it seems to me that the views of the candidates and the audiences reflect a religious perception that has been compromised by political ideology, domesticated, and limited to the issues the political party will embrace.

So now, not only can we have a political divide, we can also have a religious divide.

The GOP can be supported by the religious communities in the red states that focus on the issues of life and marriage. The DNC can be supported by the religious communities in the blue states that focus on the issues of poverty and social justice. And the two can come together for a few short hours on World Communion Sunday; the GOP churches can offer whole wheat communion wafers and organic grape juice while the DNC churches can offer deep-fried dough and grape faygo (see, we can get along!). We will have communed together by embracing one another’s practice, and then we can go our separate ways again.

Something tells me, however, that this – blue churches and red churches – is not what the world needs nor what God has in mind.

Let us work for and hope that the Church is able to push back against the politicization and reclaim the gospel – all of it.

New Site

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on this site.

We’ve made the move up to Hiram, and although we are missing our beloved community in Athens, we are greatly enjoying being in Ohio. Since my last post, I switched up the format and bought a new domain:

Hope you enjoy.