Fracking And Utility Bills

This week the Toledo Blade ran an interesting story about fracking — the word used to describe horizontal drilling and using pressurized water to break up shale formations and free natural gas and other fossil fuels — and its effect on the utility bills of Ohioans.

IMG_1751The gist of the story is that there are abundant supplies of natural gas due to fracking, and as a result Columbia Gas is charging its lowest amounts in years. The story estimates that, without fracking, the cost would be somewhere between 65 to 129 percent more. In a winter that’s been brutally cold, with higher natural gas usage as a result, the lower monthly bills are welcome indeed.

As the Blade story indicates, environmentalists are concerned about whether fracking will have an impact on water and its potential for causing earthquakes. My sense, however, is that most Ohioans are happy with how the development of the Utica Shale formation in eastern Ohio has proceeded. There’s no denying that the discovery of apparently vast natural gas and fossil fuel supplies deep underground has produced an enormous amount of economic activity in a formerly economically depressed part of the state, producing new jobs and causing lots of money from other places to be spent in the Buckeye State. If fracking also is lowering utility bills, and Ohioans make that connection, it will further increase the support for the entire fracking enterprise.

My Most Exciting Presidential Election Night

My most exciting presidential election night was the only election night where I worked as a professional reporter.

It was the election of 1980, and I was working for the Toledo Blade.  There were a bunch of races that year, topped by the contest between Ronald Reagan and President Jimmy Carter.  Polling was primitive by modern standards, and many people were confident that President Carter would win his race against an aging Republican whom many reporters considered a bit of a buffoon.  But Reagan won, and won big.  It was an exciting night because it was a huge surprise.

I remember sitting in the Blade newsroom, watching a cheap black-and-white TV as the networks reported the national results.  The reporters gaped at the results, slack-jawed and stunned.  It wasn’t so much Reagan’s victory — nobody cared much for Jimmy Carter — but his coattails that were a stunner.  Many liberal lions in the United States Senate went down to a surprising defeat, and Toledo’s long-time Democratic Congressman lost, astonishingly, to an upstart Republican.

Our world was turned on its axis, and suddenly a candidate whom many people had confidently dismissed was the President-elect, coming in to office with a slew of new Senators and Representatives ready to shake things up in Washington.  America had decided to change direction, abruptly and amazingly.

Confronting The Abyss

If you’ve been on planet Earth for a while, you’ve inevitably had to deal with death — and you have come to realize that it affects people differently, and they deal with it differently.  There is no right or wrong way.

My first job out of college was writing obituaries for the Toledo Blade.  In those days, the Blade treated obituaries as standard news stories, which meant the facts of the individual’s life and death, the names of survivors, and so forth had to be confirmed with a member of the decedent’s family.  It was not exactly a job well-suited to a callow, arrogant youth.  Some of the grieving family members I called to get the necessary information were so distraught and caught up in the rawness of their emotion they could barely speak, and I could feel the intensity of their pain through the phone line.  Others were ready for my call and very pleasant and business-like as they rattled off the names of survivors and the dates and times of calling hours.

That job taught me that there is no one way to respond to the loss of a friend or loved one.  (Being in heavily ethnic Toledo, where names like Czyzewski and Szilagyi were not uncommon, it also taught me the importance of double-checking spellings and careful proofreading.  People who open their newspaper and see that the name of a decedent or survivor is misspelled can get very angry, indeed.)

Some people don’t want to dwell on their pain; they prefer to move on and try not to think about it.  Others want to be by themselves, to wrestle with their mix of feelings and memories without having to put on a brave face for others.  I prefer to be with others who are dealing with the same loss.  I think there is a reason why, in many different cultures that developed at points across the globe, the deeply rooted tradition is for the community to come together to remember those who have gone on.  For me, it’s better to share stories and laughs and experiences with like-minded people than to thrash about alone, obsessing about questions of cosmic unfairness that can never be satisfactorily answered.