Today I asked my protagonist, Hera Knightsbridge, to talk about her stance on hydraulic fracturing, the controversial gas drilling technique that forces water and chemicals into the ground under pressure to shatter shale and release trapped gas. In my murder mystery Poisoned Pairings, the microbrewers in the Butternut Valley are concerned about what this horizontal drilling technique will do to the valley. I thought I’d give Hera the opportunity to speak for herself and her colleagues and tell you how she sees the issue.
|This is Hera's Valley|
I brew beer, so why should I worry about fracking? I have my business. I don’t own enough land to lease any of it to the gas industry. Why should gas drilling be of concern to me or to any of my microbrewing friends? Here’s what I think.
When you think of microbrews you probably think of hops and malt, but microbreweries use enormous amounts of water to produce their product and to clean their vats after brewing. Some people forget it is the main ingredient in beer. Hops, malt, other flavor enhancers such as orange, coriander and the like and yeast are the necessary additions to the water to produce lagers and ales.
Fracking uses even more water than we do, and it comes from the same sources, the water supplies in the local region. One of the larger brewers, my friend Teddy, is successful enough to buy water if his wells go dry, but, for smaller operations such as my brewery, that’s not an option even though I have two wells on my property. The supply of water in any area is not endless.
The issue of fracking aside, we all need to be concerned with conserving water. I’d hate to see us fighting over water like ranchers and settlements did in the west. And still do. Water may be the battleground for the next great war, but I don’t want it to begin in my backyard if we can prevent it.
The water we use in beer needs to be clean, free from most chemicals, certainly free from those proprietary chemicals used in fracking. I worry, despite assurances to the contrary, that our water could become contaminated.
And what of the fracking ponds? Where does that water go? It cannot be cleaned, so it must be disposed of in some way, trucked out. And that brings me to an additional concern, the heavy equipment on our country roads, hauling equipment into the area, hauling contaminated water out. Many microbreweries like mine offer brewery tours or tastings, events to drawn in people to see how me make our product and to taste it. We want our roads to be safe for visitors, in good repair.
It’s not just a matter of getting our customers in here to our microbreweries. We know they come for other reasons also, reasons that have to do with the beauty of the area. They don’t spend the day sipping ale in our tasting rooms. They travel the area to local restaurants, fairs, shops, camp grounds and parks. The natural beauty here draws them to us. They certainly don’t come here to see drilling rigs settled into valleys denuded of trees and other flora.
Microbreweries are part of the communities in which they are located. They support it by offering jobs and pair with tourism concerns and colleges to further the economic health of the area. The sell a product made locally, and some of the ingredients are also local now that hops growing is making a comeback in this area.
So, yes, I am concerned about fracking. It appears it would be here only long enough to extract gas until the supplies diminish or extraction is not cost effective. I am aware there are individuals, many my neighbors, who would profit from a lease. But I don’t believe we can frack ourselves into a healthy economy. That will take the cooperation of numerous people, many of them small business owners like me, adding their individual input to the overall economic growth of this region. If I grow, I add jobs, but I need the right environment, one filled with the beauty of our stream and lakes, forest and meadows, one people want to visit and live in. I think we can make that possible by working together and not fighting each other.
Lesley's note: Hera and I welcome your comments on this issue. And I'd like to know if you like hearing from Hera on my blog.