There were 33 members in attendance at our meeting held at the Takiff Center in Glencoe.  We had two guests this week – David Birkenstein brought his wife, Mary Birkenstein, and the speaker’s wife, Jane Dowding.
President Bob Baker reminded the Club of two of our charitable projects – collecting nonperishable food to distribute to the families in need that are part of the Good News Partners community.  Financial contributions are also welcomed, which will enable the committee can purchase additional food.  We are also supporting Operation Warm, which purchases new coats for needy children.  You can give your monetary donations for the food drive to Barb Tubekis or Kristen Leahy and Rich Lalley for the coat drive.
Happy Buck$ -  Peter Skalski on the successful sale of Phototronics to two current employees who will continue to operate the store under the same name.  Wes Baumann for the successful New Trier referendum.
Members celebrating the Rotary anniversaries included:  John Ford – 32 years, Jeanne Beckmann – 27 years and Lee Padgitt – 21 years.
David Birkenstein introduced our speaker for the day, his friend and Northwestern University professor of civil and environmental engineering, Chuck Dowding.  Chuck’s topic was our natural gas reserves and the impact of fracturing to release the gas and oil found in the shale rock two miles below the surface of the earth.  Up until 2008 it was thought that natural gas production was in decline but with the discovery of vast reserves of gas in the shale rock it is now believed that we have at least a 100 year supply of this valuable commodity.  While hydraulic fracking has been around since the 1800s it is the advancement of drilling technology the permits drilling to 10,000 feet down and then have the drill make a 90º turn and continue drilling horizontally for two miles.  Large amounts of water, sand and chemicals can then be introduced under pressure into the shale to create fractures that will then enable both gas and oil to be released.  The amount of water required is about 2 – 6 million gallons for each wellhead.  Two million gallons of water spread over a square mile is the equivalent of 1/10” of rainfall.
It takes about one month to do the drilling and fracking.  It also requires several acres of land to stage each wellhead a fair amount of land, several acres for each wellhead. Once the drilling and fracking have been completed and the wellhead has been set up most of the land can be returned to its former use.  Environmentalists have a number of concerns, such as the amount of water required for the fracking process and the possibility of leaks. Also there is the problem of handling the flowback, the liquid that returns to the surface, which may contain much prehistoric salt, chemicals and radon.  There are also groups fighting the installation of the pipelines required to get the gas to processing plants.  The 200 18-wheelers that truck in the water also can do a lot of damage to the local roads.  The gas and oil companies have usually arranged that the taxes they pay on the gas and oil they recover are very low or non-existent for the first year or two, but that is the period when the wells yield the most product.
Gas is by far a more efficient form of energy then oil or coal.  We are currently heating many of our homes and cook with gas as well as use gas to produce much of our electricity.  The U.S. is moving toward using natural gas in transportation, especially in the commercial realm.   Natural gas is comparatively clean form of energy but it does produce CO2; it also produces methane, but methane will eventually degrade over time.  We will need new infrastructure if we are to use gas on a larger scale, e.g., in our cars.  Another drawback is that cheap gas will undercut the move to renewable energy sources.
While fracking has great potential to make the U.S. energy independent it is fraught with many economic and political land mines.  We are grateful for the informative and thought-provoking presentation from Dr. Dowding.