‘End of Country’ author brings Marcellus Shale experiences to Wilkes

Beneath our feet lies the Marcellus Shale, a formation of sedimentary rock rich with untapped reserves of methane. For those viewing natural gas as an answer to America’s energy needs, it represents an enormous resource. For those who live, work and go to school in Pennsylvania, though, the Marcellus Shale represents something more: a cause for concern, contemplation and conflict.

“This really is something that offers a great deal of promise and carries with it a phenomenal amount of peril,” Seamus McGraw said. “It is, in my estimation, a test of the character of the people in the country as a whole as to whether or not we have the wisdom, the strength and the foresight to balance those challenges.”

An award-winning journalist and one-time Wilkes University student, McGraw was first inspired to investigate and chronicle the effects of Pennsylvania’s gas drilling boom when his mother was approached to lease the land of McGraw’s family farm in 2007.

The resulting book, titled “The End of Country,” was released by Random House, Inc. earlier this year. It has received much critical praise, including endorsements by Tom Brokaw and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

At 10 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19 Seamus McGraw will participate in a two-hour discussion of his book and the issue of gas drilling. The event, to be held in Room 101 of Stark Learning Center, is another effort by Wilkes’ Institute for Energy & Environment Research to help educate the public of the potential benefits and dangers of gas drilling.

“I think (McGraw’s book) has had a big impact on this discussion, especially his experiences with the landmen. That’s something I really don’t think has been talked about enough in public,” Erich Schramm, the IEER outreach director, said.

Scramm explained that, for Pennsylvanians who live in natural gas hotbeds, the issue is as much an economic one as it is environmental.

“A lot of these people are third and fourth generation farmers. They’re blue collar people working long, hard days for not a lot of money,” he said. “I think it’s an interesting moral question for them. Do they take this money they need or do they try to preserve their way of life?”

At the same time, McGraw himself maintains that his book and the issues at its heart remain relevant on a broader, more national scale. The future of the energy industry, he said, is the future of America itself.

“It burns 50 percent cleaner than coal and 30 percent cleaner than oil,” McGraw said, “but it’s still a fossil fuel. It doesn’t get us where we need to be by itself, and it carries great risks with it. The question is if we can use the time it buys us to do what we should’ve done for the last 40 years. That’s the challenge we face.”

For more information on “The End of Country,” visit www.seamusmcgraw.com.

For more information about the Marcellus Shale, gas drilling or IEER, visit www.energy.wilkes.edu.