Drilling For Answers: Inside Energy Collaborates With Science


For three years now, we at Inside Energy have been working to take the notoriously wonky world of energy and break it down for youthe public. What do we really need to know? How does this enormously important, but often invisible, part of our economy affect us on a day to day basis? It’s a mission that has taken us around the country, to the top of tall windmills and the heart of open pit coal mines. And, in that time, no sector of the energy industry has faced more volatility or created more controversy than oil and gas.

Since the very beginning, we’ve been fielding questions and concerns from our audience about drilling. In the West, especially along Colorado’s Front Range and parts of North Dakota, oil production has been getting closer and closer to homes and communities. Naturally, people in those communities have been wondering: Is it safe? How does it work? Should I worry?

Andrew Cullen

A pumpjack works throughout the night, bathed in the light from flares and electric lights on oil well pads near Watford City, North Dakota, which also illuminate low-hanging clouds.

When oil prices tanked in 2014 and 2015, production slowed down and the fiery disputes surrounding the industry followed suit. But, those prices have been creeping back up over the last year. Companies are drilling again and communities are worrying again, especially in the wake of a fatal home explosion in Colorado traced to a nearby well.

For the next few months, we’ll be partnering with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) Center for Science Education to get to the bottom of some of the most common and lingering questions about the impacts of oil and gas development, sharing what we know, what we don’t know, and the areas of active research.

For this to really work, we need to hear from you. What do you wonder about oil and gas development? If you live near it, what’s top of mind for you? Submit your question using the form above, and you might just see the answer to it in an upcoming story.

We’ll be talking to researchers, scientists, engineers, economists and social scientists – who have been exploring how oil and gas development affects our environment, communities, health and climate. As always, we’ll be committed to the facts and to reporting them in a way that doesn’t feel like eating our vegetables.

This collaboration is made possible with funding from AirWaterGas, a National Science Foundation Sustainability Research Network as well as by our on-going funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. We’re really excited about it, and we hope you’ll take part!