While attending Hart Energy’s DUO Conference in Denver the week of May 14, there were several attention-grabbing news items. First, Vermont is now safe from fracing. Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, who made Vermont the first state in the U.S. to ban fracing, declared, “This is a big deal.” The question then becomes a big deal for what? I’m not quite sure why the state banned something that doesn’t occur in the state. The governor emphasized that his signing the bill “will ensure we do not inject chemicals into groundwater in a desperate pursuit for energy.” Given that the Green Mountain State is right next to the Granite State (New Hampshire), there is probably a very good geological reason why there is no oil or gas drilling in the state. I wonder if he realizes what kinds of potential exist for contaminating aquifers from drilling water wells. He does “know” that the science behind fracing is “uncertain at best.” Given that he probably has never visited a drilling rig or watched a frac job, it is unlikely that he does know what he’s banning. On May 16, U.S. Today came out with a story on “Energy Independence Isn’t Just A Pipe Dream.” The conference attendees were glad to see that their efforts were being recognized in a major newspaper. Even with the publicity, the major newspapers continue to misrepresent oil and gas operations. The paper acknowledged George Mitchell for commercializing “a new gas-drilling technology called hydraulic fracing.” Unfortunately, the technology is neither new nor drilling related. Hydraulic fracturing is a completion operation. There is no drilling rig around when the fracing begins. And, the “new” technology was about 40 years old when Mitchell applied it to tight formations in Texas. Another statement was probably just poorly written. “Because of fracing, Citi says U.S. oil production might climb more than a third by 2015, driven by ‘tight oil’ from shale and tar sands that until recently was too costly to extract.” I’m not sure the author really meant that the industry was fracing tar sands. However, overall, the article was an acknowledgement of what the industry has achieved in a very short period of time. Finally, there is a reason other than global warming for why the oceans are rising. According to new research, water being pumped from deep underground reservoirs is the main culprit for rising sea levels. As the researchers noted in Nature Geoscience, trillions of tons of water have been pumped from deep aquifers worldwide, which have been used for crops and other uses. The water then flowed into the ocean, raising sea levels by about one millimeter per year since 1961. The water flowed into the oceans at a much higher rate that the aquifers have recharged. Storage of freshwater in reservoirs offset about 40% of the runoff, but that effect is diminishing. Yadu Pokhrel, University of Tokyo, headed up the research and pointed out that these results fill a gap that scientists had noticed between rising sea levels and the amount of water coming from melting ice. Even if global climate change was stabilized, scientists estimate sea levels could rise another 10 m (33 ft) if all of the world’s groundwater was pumped out. The researchers also noted that the scale of groundwater use is unsustainable. They estimated about 18 trillion tons of water have been pumped out of aquifers over the last 50 years. In some places, such as Saudi Arabia, those aquifers have been depleted. At one time, Saudi Arabia was self-sufficient in wheat crops. But, with the aquifers drying up, the country expects to end all wheat crops by 2016. As someone told me many years ago, the next great war won’t be over oil; it will be over water. It’s something to think about. Contact the author, Scott Weeden, at sweeden@hartenergy.com.