“Water with gas?” the waiter asked.
“Can you be more specific?” I queried.
With a sardonic sneer typical of the glistening-haired, easily-bored waiters in upper crust restaurants, he poked a neatly manicured finger into my menu. “It’s right there. You chose carbon dioxide or methane.”
Even though that conversation is imaginary, it is true, apparently, that in certain parts of the country where fracking is popular for extracting natural gas from the ground, there is some risk of that gas being forced into aquifers feeding wells intended to provide potable water.
Obviously water infiltrated with dissolved methane should not be used for cooking on gas stoves. I don’t need to explain the consequences.
And no doubt, drinking methane containing water could turn the high-school males’ risky game of flatus ignition into a pyrotechnic event competing favorably with the energy release of flaming napalm.
Although the Environmental Protection Agency seems to be silent on the issue, the AMA has recently posted their concern about fracking, for medical reasons. Not all of those reasons are proctological in nature.
Having been an observer and worker within the medical science community for many years, I have only two thoughts that might cheer the energy industry.
The first is that sometimes the medical community makes an issue of things that the human body produces, like cholesterol. Cholesterol is vital for a healthy nervous system. In fact, it is so important that the body makes it, just to make sure it has enough. So why do I have to deprive myself of dietary cholesterol which accompanies the finest food in the world; like lobster, fried fish, and filet mignon? Because supposedly it’s bad for me. That’s what they say, even though my body is producing prodigious amounts to keep itself healthy. Non sequitur is the phrase that comes to mind.
I have nothing against physicians. My father was one, as is my son. Some of my best friends are physicians; and one of them alerted me to this news item. Arguably, physicians have even saved my life.
As the son of a physician I grew up reading the Journal of the American Medical Association … which was almost as entertaining to a young boy as National Geographic. But I don’t understand the profession’s concern for methane in water. After all, methane is colorless and odorless, and does not react with biological systems. What goes in, comes out, unperturbed.
Like cholesterol, the human body produces methane. Methane is produced by bacteria in the gut (so-called methanogens) whose sole purpose is to live well and prosper in the low oxygen environment of the large intestine, and as a byproduct of that anaerobic life style, produce methane. Methane now actually seems to have some purpose in the gut; it stimulates the human immune system. So, apparently, it has a biological purpose. Without it, one could argue, we would literally get sick.
OK, there you have it: my two thoughts that might cheer the energy industry.
But since I don’t anticipate a check coming in the mail from the gas companies, now I’ll share my scientific opinion, of sorts. I once was a fellow in the Water Resources Management Training program at Georgia Tech. (Curiously, the director of the program was named Dr. Carl Kindswater, presumably originally Kindswasser. In German, Wasser is water, and best I can tell, Kindswasser is amniotic fluid. So in a sense it is truly water of children.)
I honestly don’t know if the ironically named Program Director spoke German or not, but I suspect that if he did, he might respond thusly to the story of fracking product found in our precious, and clearly mismanaged, fresh-water supplies.
“Sind Sie aus Ihrem brennenden Geist?”
By the way, I always take water without gas, just in case.