Time's cover story "Could Shale Gas Power the World?" is all about how we're going to get ourselves out of our current energy crisis by turning the Marcellus shale formation into a hydrocarbon war zone pockmarked with loud, noxious natural gas wells. The reserves in question happen to be underneath some of the most densely populated portions of America, including Pennsylvania and New York. Extracting the gas beneath this land requires fracking, which has been implicated as a threat to drinking water supplies and local air quality.
Things are pretty bad around fracking wells already, but full exploitation of this resource on the scale proposed by the Time story would require increasing the number of wells in Pennsylvania alone by a couple orders of magnitude. And that’s probably going to happen, given the world’s insatiable thirst for cheap energy.
"There are only a few thousand wells now, but there will be far more," says Anthony Ingraffea, a structural engineer at Cornell University. "What will life be like when there are 100,000 wells here?"
Here's an answer: Ever seen the opening credits of Bladerunner?