Fracking may become a greener process

    President Barack Obama outlined a national energy policy this week that includes tapping domestic natural gas reserves. The president assigned his Nobel Prize-winning Secretary of Energy to come up with a safer way to drill.

    In his speech, Obama said Secretary Steven Chu is the best man for the job.

    “And this is the kind of thing he likes to do on the weekend. He actually goes into his garage and tinkers around and tries to figure out how to extract natural gas,” said the president to laughs.

    But hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is no joke to those who oppose it. The controversial process uses high-pressured water, chemicals and sand to break up underground rock that holds the deeply buried gas.

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    The chemicals, and the resulting wastewater from the process, have people worried.

    Penn State professor Terry Engelder, who said Obama is responding to political pressures, also said the government has a good track record of solving problems for industry. Engelder said it was a Department of Energy-funded program that first came up with hydraulic fracturing as a way to tap shale gas.

    “And through a half a century of experimenting that included nuclear blasts under ground, the conclusion was that hydraulic fracturing was the key,” he said. “And then the evolution of industry is toward using water with green additives.”

    By “green” Engelder means a solution that’s less toxic to the environment and public health.

    He says the mechanics of drilling will likely stay the same.

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