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Photo by Jenna Smith

International Journalist Discusses Shale Gas Extraction

Madison Koenig
February 28, 2013

On Monday, February 25, members of the Ohio University community gathered in Porter Hall for a discussion of shale gas led by Dimiter Kenarov. The discussion was a joint effort organized by the Ohio University's Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, and the Honors Tutorial College.

Kenarov is an international freelance journalist based in Istanbul, Turkey. His English-language work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Esquire, Outside, The Nation, Boston Review, The International Herald Tribune, The Virginia Quarterly Review, and The Believer, and he has covered issues from mining in Romania to serial killers in Macedonia. With the support of the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, he is currently researching shale gas extraction, which is also known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking. 

During Kenarov's presentation, titled "Shale Gas from Poland to Pennsylvania: Global Business, Local Costs," he noted that although the response to fracking varied across Europe, many people in Poland are in support of shale gas extraction. Kenarov attributes this to marketing campaigns that portray fracking as "energy independence" from Russia and the conventional pipeline gas it supplies to Europe. Because of Polish support for fracking, Kenarov said that it can be difficult for environmental activists to voice criticism. "No one wants to publish articles that are against fracking," he said.

However, Kenarov also noted that there were some challenges to implementing hydraulic fracturing. One of the differences between Poland and the United States is Poland's lack of economic resources. "In order to develop shale gas, you need a huge economy," Kenarov explained, something that Poland does not have. Fracking is only possible on a large scale, with dozens of wells needed to simply assess the gas reserves. Kenarov noted that "Small scale gas drilling is an oxymoron."

His biggest concern is how fracking affects local populations. Groundwater poisoning is a major issue with fracking, and Kenarov noted that 6% of cement casings in underground wells are expected to fail within the year, and half are expected to fail over 30 years of use. These wells are also clustered in certain areas, rather than spread out like traditional wells, so they have a more drastic effect.

Kenarov spoke of his fears that those living in these communities would become "human guinea pigs."  "When people talk about cutting through the red tape, I think no, we need more red tape, we need to make sure that people are safe." he said.

For Kenarov, what's happening with shale gas extraction in Ohio and Pennsylvania may provide an example for the rest of the world. "Europe is paying attention," he said. He noted that it was exciting to be able to visit an area where this issue was so central.

To find out more about Dimiter Kenarov, you can visit his website at: www.dimiterkenarov.com