Why the coming natural gas boom isn't all it's 'fracced' up to be

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Please pardon my poor punning, and let me explain: "Fraccing" (rhymes with "cracking") is the oil and natural gas industry's an informal contraction for the technology called hydraulic fracturing, in which water (and in some cases, a chemical mixture) is pumped deep underground to fracture shale and rock and thus free up trapped oil and gas deposits.

The financial media has been buzzing with stories proclaiming a new era for America's natural gas industry as new fraccing technology has enabled the tapping of vast dispersed fields in the Eastern U.S. and the "oil patch" states of Oklahoma and Texas. These advances have caused analysts to raise their estimates of America's natural gas reserves to an astounding 1.8 trillion cubic feet, the equivalent of about 320 billion barrels of oil -- far more than Saudi Arabia's proven reserves of around 260 billion barrels of oil.