Penn State Reads: ‘The Boom’

October 13, 2015 at 11:23 am Leave a comment

Without condemning or praising the process of hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, author Russell Gold urged the Penn State community to stay engaged with the subject and ask tough questions of lawmakers to ensure it continues in a responsible manner. In the big picture, he says it can be part of a sustainable future that includes natural gas, renewables, and other resources to continue to meet the ever-growing energy demand of consumers. Gold, senior energy reporter for the Wall Street Journal and author of The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World, spoke to an audience at the HUB last night as part of Penn State Reads 2015-16:

It’s really easy to see shale and fracking in this very polarized way, where everything is either good or bad, and that’s not really what’s going on. … There’s a balance here—there’s good and there’s bad, there’s risk and there’s reward. There’s an ugly beauty to fracking and if we’re not engaging with it and paying attention to it and asking good questions—if all we’re doing is arguing with each other—then we’re not getting around to asking questions, and these are the critical questions, because no matter how much we’re arguing about this, we’re still drilling lots of wells and there’s still an impact. So we absolutely need more information.

Gold said he hoped his book was part of the first draft of history on fracking, and he challenged students in the Penn State community to be part of writing the second draft, because “the future is still being written.” Fracking-related topics still facing lawmakers include how to deal with waste byproducts of fracking, including chemicals seeping into groundwater, leaks in wells, having an adequate water supply for the process itself, potential consequences such as respiratory problems, and earthquakes caused in areas with a high concentration of wells.

Launched in 2013, Penn State Reads encourages incoming students to read a designated book each year and participate in activities related to the topic, including an essay contest. Among the topics students are encouraged to explore in this year’s contest are how personal stories, anecdotes, and vignettes about a subject influence their thinking about broad social issues, and whether there are any ethical implications of incorporating such stories into those thoughts.

In the book, Gold tells of his personal connection to fracking through his parents, whose land in rural Forksville, Pa., was sought by a an oil company seeking to drill a well on the property to go after shale deposits. Exploring that question, and how he should answer, he says was part of the reason he wrote the book. Gold, who has covered the energy industry for the WSJ since 2003, says he was also at a point in his career where he wanted to challenge himself and see if he could write a book:

It was really a combination of those two things: as a personal desire to grow and challenge myself, but also the recognition that this was a big issue that was facing many people across the United States, and if I had a particular way that I could help them understand those questions, I wanted to be able to try to share that.

B.J. Reyes, associate editor



Entry filed under: University Park. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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