July 8, 2011

Game Changer

A professor in Pennsylvania makes a calculation, to discover that his state is sitting atop a massive reserve of natural gas—enough to revolutionize how America gets its energy. But another professor in Pennsylvania does a different calculation and reaches a troubling conclusion: that getting natural gas out of the ground poses a risk to public health. Two men, two calculations, and two very different consequences.

Copyright (c), Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2011, all rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.


Host Ira Glass tells the stories of two professors, each making a calculation that no one had made before. One gets acclaim. One ends up out of a job. The first, Terry Engelder, a geologist at Penn State, was estimating the amount of natural gas that's recoverable from the Marcellus shale, a giant rock formation that's under Pennsylvania and several other Eastern states. The second, Conrad "Dan" Volz, at the University of Pittsburgh, estimated how much toxic crap—chemicals and pollution from gas exploration—might be getting into water supplies. (6 1/2 minutes)

Ground War

Sarah takes us to Mt. Pleasant, PA, where a gas exploration company called Range Resources has leased 95% of the township's land. This led to a standoff between Mt. Pleasant and Range, starting with zoning disputes and ending in a full scale PR war—a war in which the town was seriously outgunned. (23 1/2 minutes)