walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
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Fracking Companies Offer Olive Branch to Greens

Greens may have even less to fear from fracking than before. The Wall Street Journal reports that an increasing number of energy companies are now cleaning and recycling their wastewater for use in future wells, not only reducing water usage but also lessening the need to inject contaminated water into the ground, as well as the micro-earthquakes associated with the process:

From energy giants Halliburton Corp. and Schlumberger Ltd. to smaller outfits such as Ecologix Environmental Systems LLC, companies are pursing technologies to reuse the “frack water” that comes out of wells after hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”—the process of using highly pressured water and chemicals to coax oil and gas out of shale-rock formations.

While the recycled water can’t currently be cleaned up enough for drinking or growing crops, it can be cleaned of chemicals and rock debris and reused to frack additional wells, which could sharply cut the costs that energy companies face securing and disposing of water.

Placating greens isn’t the only impulse at play here. Recycling water makes economic sense:

Chesapeake Energy Corp. has begun recycling 100% of the water it retrieves from wells in northern Pennsylvania. In addition to cutting the company’s costs, recycling reduces the number of trucks on the road ferrying clean water to drilling sites, a sore point for local residents, said spokesman Michael Kehs.

Is a truce between greens and fracking companies in the offing? Not likely. After all, the news that fracking had been more effective than European-style carbon-trading schemes at cutting carbon emissions was not well received in the green community. But in a more sensible world, developments like these would point the way to a green-brown consensus.

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