A new University of Michigan Study unveiled Thursday found it may take some time - perhaps many years - for the substantial natural gas reserves buried deep in Michigan ground to be fully developed.
And all things considered, that's probably a good idea, given the significant public health and environmental issues surrounding the method most often used to extract the reserves.
Additionally, the low cost and abundant supply of natural gas and the high cost of retrieving it serve to keep potential profits down.
According to an Associated Press story on our front page today, hydraulic fracturing or fracking as it's more commonly called, is a process in which water, chemicals and sand are injected deep underground to break apart rock and free trapped gases. Proponents say it's been done safely in Michigan for decades, but opponents argue that it's dangerous to humans and the environment.
We believe it's important to note that the study neither supports or opposes expansion of the process in Michigan.
The document does suggest that the state's vast network of lakes, rivers and streams would make it difficult to contain major spills, erosion or nutrient releases caused by fracking itself or construction of support infrastructure such as roads, AP reported.
By most standards, the industry's environmental record is good. But we believe clearly more work needs to be done - especially in the area of public education - before fracking gains wider acceptance.