An opportunity for UT graduates

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A new trend is shaking up Texas and has the potential to bring wealth and employment to thousands of Texans and UT graduates.

New hydrofracking projects in South Texas have already made millionaires out of dozens of small town farmers, and new drilling projects have the potential to completely reinvigorate the Texas energy industry. Considering the impressive engineering department here at UT (among the best in the world), UT petroleum engineering graduates may be looking at a new field of opportunities. Larger numbers of UT freshmen may also consider the petroleum tract to take advantage of the new industry, and rightfully they should. But petroleum engineers may not be the professionals who receive the most attention; it may be our peers in the smaller hydrogeology program who find themselves in high demand.

In the fracking process, drillers shoot high-pressure jets of sand, chemicals and water into the ground to crack sheet-rock and release trapped deposits of crude oil and gas. The technique has spurred a new on-shore drilling boom from Poland to New Zealand. Though the technique has been celebrated by the oil industry, environmentalists and wildlife activists naturally have some issues with the trend.

Apart from the fact that the process is just another way to exploit fossil fuels, fracking also uses up a lot more water than more conventional drilling processes. The proposed fracking technique would use water in an area of the state that shares an aquifer with Mexico and that has only received two inches of rain since last October and is experiencing the worst drought in the state’s 116 years.

State government is not helping the issue either, as was evident this past week when the Legislature’s attempts at revamping Texas’ water policy for the state was sidelined over the word “vested.” The new policy would have given local elected officials more autonomy over their city’s water supplies.

For this industry to thrive, fracking scientists will have to find a good solution to this issue, or we will see the already overwhelming water crisis in Texas expand exponentially. Exonn Mobil is trying out a process of recycling their frack water, and infrastructure updates in the region are already on the way. But these solutions will only be short-term. If these energy companies want to continue sucking the life force out of the land of Texas, they are going to have to find a better way to do it. Experts in geology and all things water are going to find themselves front and center in the energy game.

The hydrogeology department at UT is a prestigious institution with well-respected professors and researchers such as Jay Banner, who already has a reputation of positive dealings with
policymakers.

Moreover, this problem may be a huge opportunity for new hydrogeology graduates to work in the field of a massive industry and produce work that will have a powerful impact on people’s lives. Environmentally conscious graduates of UT still mulling over their career options post-graduation shouldn’t shy away from these new projects. The input of innovative and creative young Texans is needed now more than ever.

Young professionals can still participate and push for a more environmentally friendly and sustainable Texas, and they may now have the opportunity to do it from inside the energy industry — if they can stomach a little fracking.
Fisch is a rhetoric and writing senior.