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Fracking isn't a bad idea in theory, says Bill Nye, but it can't be allowed to go unregulated. The Science Guy runs through a personal anecdote about fracking before noting that new technological advances have opened the door to irresponsible practices with severe environmental and public health consequences.
While it would be great to replace things like fracking with renewable energy, we're, at the moment, hampered in several ways, the most notable being battery limitations. That said, it doesn't mean our potential green energy future isn't one to get excited about.
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Hi Bill. My name is Susan, aka primordial soup, and I have a question about fracking. Are you for it or against it and why? And on the subject of energies what’s the holdup with the green energies? Is it that there’s not enough investment money, not enough profits, not enough public interest, other, all of the above? Thank you for answering my question.
Bill Nye: Are you primal or primordial? If it’s a primordial soup I love you. So let’s talk about fracking. I left Boeing because they wanted me to work on the 767 airplane, which wasn’t going to fly for 15 years. And when you’re a young guy that just seems like a really long time. So I took a job as an engineer in a shipyard at the place where they skim oil slicks. They made, at that time, the best or the most popular oil slick skimming boat. And then that led to a job for me in the oil field. I worked in the oil patch for a while where they frack. Now my uncle, my beloved mother’s younger brother really was this guy. He was a geologist, graduated from Johns Hopkins and he got a job with — then he was in the Army during the Korean War as an engineer. And then he worked for DuPont Dynamite going all over the world blowing stuff up. He loved to blow stuff up. It was big fun for him. He was — you’re not supposed to say your favorite but he was my beloved uncle. Anyway I have his books on this business and I have — he’s not living anymore. And I have a torpedo — and a torpedo is something that they used to use in the oil field and in mining. It’s a tube. In English units, it’s two and a half inches in diameter and four and a half feet long. And it has a crude funnel soldered on the top or brazed on the top. And according to him — now look I wasn’t there and the guy was a storyteller. He’s a raconteur.
They would usually stuff the torpedo with dynamite, but sometimes they would pour liquid nitroglycerine into this thing, this tube. I mean if it blew up that’s it. You wouldn’t even know it. You wouldn’t even know what happened. You’d just be powder or liquid powder, droplets. All right you’ve just got to keep it cold Bill. You just keep it cold, 54 degrees Fahrenheit. Just keep it cold. You’ll be able to — what? So anyway they would lower it into the oil well and then, apparently in his day, they would have wired electricity and they would set it off — boom — dynamite or nitroglycerine. But in the old, old days – I’ve seen his book — they had something like a shotgun shell and a rope and they would yank it — boom. So that would be fracturing or fracking right at the bottom of the well, straight down. That was the state of the art. But what’s happened now we can steer drill bits in just three meters, in just 10 feet from the floor to the ceiling in this room I’m sitting in. So now you can drill down like this and go sideways. And this has led to irresponsible fracturing or fracking. And this is where it’s not inherently a bad idea; it just can’t be unregulated. And apparently that’s been the problem where people — oil companies especially are not — or the foreman on the job, the tool push as he’s called, are able to get away with this irresponsible practice. And so the thing about it, you know, usually these gas-bearing shales, this rock real down deep is a layer formed from an ancient sea or what have you. So I like to describe it this way. I don’t’ know if you’ve ever been around an obnoxious kid at a sandwich shop. But he or she may take the straw — it’s usually a boy — take the straw and poke it into the sandwich and then suck sandwich out of the end of the straw. Now when you do that you’re going to get a little pastrami, but you’re going to get a lot of bread.