What Impact Could Fracking Have on California Vineyards? (by winespectator.com)

Posted: January 8, 2013 by wynmaker in California, Farms, Research, Wine, Wineries, World wine news
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The energy industry’s growing interest in a controversial extraction technique has growers worried about water problems and other environmental concerns

 

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In several appellations on California’s Central Coast, winemakers tout the benefits of growing vines on soils rich with decomposing shale, which allows for good drainage and deep root penetration. Now that same terroir also promises bountiful harvests for the energy industry, whose experts predict that the region’s Monterey shale formation contains more than 15 billion gallons of oil.

But unlike typical drilling operations, which have long existed alongside many Central Coast vineyards, the only way to extract oil from the shale is with hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking, a process in which water and chemicals are pumped into the ground at high pressure to break up the rocks and force out oil or natural gas. Though the basic technique has been used sporadically for at least 60 years in California, recent innovations combined with high energy prices make fracking more alluring than ever. Shale formations in Texas, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Ohio have produced promising returns.

Yet as the technique’s popularity grows so does the controversy. Critics claim fracking threatens freshwater resources, both because the process utilizes vast quantities of local water and because the chemicals used may contaminate sources. Fracking operations bring heavy traffic and pollution to quiet rural areas. And some geologists believe the process may increase the risk of earthquakes. Debates are raging in other states where fracking is under way. New York has been undergoing a 4-year environmental and health review to determine if fracking will be permitted and, if so, under what conditions. A decision is expected in late Feb.
Read on …

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