When is the last time you filled up your tank with a gallon of gas that was less than $2? For me, today. As oil prices have plummeted with gas prices falling suit, many people are attributing all the extra oil to fracking. But what is the cost, financially and environmentally speaking, of oil drilled in this manner?
A new book by Lisa Westberg Peters, “Fractured Land: The Price of Inheriting Oil,” takes a look at these very issues. Interestingly, Peter is a self-proclaimed environmentalist who inherited land in North Dakota that is part of the state’s “fracking” oil boom. She acknowledges her discomfort with fracking technology, but attempted to keep an open mind during her educational journey to learn more.
When Peters father passes away and she is going through his things, she comes across all the documents related to his oil/fracking royalties that she will eventual inherit. The book follows her as she learns more about her family’s oil history, her research about fracking, which she is theoretically opposed to, and the family’s trip to North Dakota, where they have oil contracts, and spread her father’s ashes. The prose flows nicely as she weaves in and out between her family history and the information she learns about fracking.
From an energy perspective, despite being from the Midwest and current residing in Minnesota, she is opposed to the use of biofuels. She writes, “We don’t have petrochemicals in Minnesota, so we grow corn for ethanol. Homegrown alternative energy! I should be enthused about ethanol, but the production plants are water and energy hogs.”
Peters does address the chemicals and water used in fracking, albeit briefly and I feel she could have done a better job of addressing her environmental concerns over some of the issues brought on by fracking (potential for contaminated water, excessive water use that is much worse than other forms of alternative energy, mining of the frac sand, etc.).
Ultimately she chooses to keep her mineral rights when they come to her but she decides to donate a portion of them back to North Dakota to aid those who are struggling with high rents or the natural areas threatened by oil development. She concludes that while she will benefit financially from oil drilling, it brings her little joy.
Click here to purchase the book.