Blessing and a curse
by Chip Latcham
Aug 29, 2014 | 1509 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As Labor Day nears, some people may think of those working in the Eagle Ford Shale, many of whom are not able to enjoy a holiday weekend.

In the last few days, two major articles have caught our eye – again describing the pros and cons of this economic boom in our neighborhood.

A front-page story in Wednesday’s Corpus Christi Caller-Times noted that lawmakers were updated that the Texas oil and gas industry is “strong and getting stronger.”

One expert said the boom may last 25 more years. He pointed out the job growth is slowing (“hiring appears to be flattening out, at least for the time being”), but he mentioned that in 20 years, “this will be seen as part of the golden age.”

However, the San Antonio Express-News lead story in Sunday’s edition turned the spotlight on “flares in the Eagle Ford wasting natural gas.”

Part of a four-part series, it started: “Since the Eagle Ford Shale boom began in 2009, flares burning across the countryside have fouled the air with pollution, caused claims of illness and wasted millions of dollars’ worth of natural gas.”

Having witnessed these giant balls of flame lighting the countryside at night, we’ve wondered about the effects on nearby residents – although the cattle don’t seem to mind. Apparently some humans are not happy about the situation, though.

“The amount of gas is horrible,” said a nun who lives in South Texas and speaks for those who believe they’ve been harmed by rising levels of pollution. “I would use the word disastrous.”

She pointed out that the flares are emitting plumes of black smoke that indicate the flames are releasing air pollutants, adding, “It’s an environmental tragedy. There are lots of people who bought nice, quiet country places who now find that same quiet environment destroyed.”

What a shame that almost all of the natural gas cannot be contained and shipped via pipelines to the refineries. Even if the United States doesn’t convert the majority of its vehicles to run on CNG or LNG soon, one would think global economics would drive the energy industry someday to supply that fuel to Europe and other markets.

Until that time, the light of prosperity will shine brightly in the night sky atop thin shafts burning what the oil companies consider a worthless byproduct.

Unless natural gas prices rise, the big rigs will likely stay to our north. When they do come this way, we hope they bring with them royalty checks, good wage jobs, increased tax bases and other benefits, but not the visual, noise and air pollution that has tormented others.
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