Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," hosted by an expatriate Appalachian named Anne Johnson. Anne Johnson is my real name. What it lacks in originality is more than compensated for by its fabulous properties of anonymity. I am me, and we are many, and go ahead and Google, try to pick me out from the crowd!
It has long been known that a supply of natural gas exists deep beneath the mountains of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and northern West Virginia. This gas is trapped in a kind of rock layer called Marcellus shale. Recently, engineers have perfected a means of extracting the gas by blasting water through horizontal drills that are somehow plunged deep beneath the mountains' surfaces.
Several things have happened as a result of this little jump in drilling technology:
1. People who own piece-a-nothin' farms overtop the Marcellus Shale Deposit could be potential Jed Clampitts and are already being lured by big-money energy companies.
2. Those big-money energy companies (think Dick Cheney) are trying to do what they do best -- circumvent paying out dough to property owners and low-balling what they do give in compensation.
3. Environmentalists are debating the pros and cons of getting clean energy (natural gas) by doing more mountain-rape, which brings us to the debate that...
4. Drilling for gas beats mountaintop removal mining for coal and brings a similar payoff: energy from a domestic source.
My granddad had a natural gas lease on our 75-acre farm. The farm sits on top of Marcellus shale.
My uncle, who has lived on the farm for the past 25 years, canceled the gas lease long ago.
The farm could go up for sale shortly. I own a share of it, but so do several cousins who are strapped for cash. My sister also has a share in the place, and she wants to sell. I would like to keep the farm, but with two kids to educate and a house in New Jersey, I can't afford to buy a second property -- even though I would only have to pay 5/6 of the agreed-upon price.
Usually I can get a grip on issues pretty quickly, but this Marcellus shale thing has me all at sixes and sevens. Does the gas beneath my mountain make the property more valuable? How would I feel if the Cheney trucks came roaring in and started to drill, baby, drill? Would I rather keep the farm in the family, and reap the potential Clampitt windfall, or sell to some speculator? How much respect do I have for the beauty and purity of my mountain? What happens if my neighbors have differing opinions and open their properties to the Cheney drillers?
It's times like this when one needs a bored god's advice. And who knows the underworld better than Hades? So today I put in a call, and it happened that He wasn't too busy (imagine that!). Here he comes now, trailing a little fire-and-brimstone that smells like Retsina. Please give a wild, warm, wonderful TGAB welcome to Hades, Greek God of the Underworld!
Anne: Welcome, God of the Underworld! How are things down below?
Hades: Oh, man, I'm stoked. Stoked! Yowsa! I've got Tiger Woods!
Anne: You mean Tiger Woods is dead? I didn't see that on the news.
Hades: Not yet. But when he dies, I get him! Turns out he's a cheetah, not a tiger! (Laughs)
Anne: Oh, for the love of fruit flies! I didn't invite you hear to listen to bad puns. I have a serious philosophical issue to discuss with Someone who knows the inside of the Earth.
Hades: I'll show him a thing or two about golf.
Anne: Now. Let's go over this whole Marcellus Shale Deposit thing. Where does the deposit lie in relation to Your kingdom?
Hades: Every time he tees up, I'll melt his irons right out from under him.
Anne: Could we please not talk about Tiger Woods?
Hades: Hey. This is a big catch for me. I've never gotten over missing out on Lou Gehrig.
Anne: You've gotta have a hundred thousand top-quality athletes in your collection, Hades. Not to stereotype or anything, but they're kind of a randy lot.
Hades: Yes, and golfers are no exception. But Tiger. Tiger! Huge acquisition. Huge.
Anne: Just for a moment can You give me some insight on the Marcellus Shale Deposit?
Hades: This also gives me all his concubines. More cuties to keep me warm in the wintertime!
Anne: You know what, Hades? You're not the first bored god I've interviewed from the ancient Greek and Roman pantheons. And to be quite blunt, I can see why it was easy for Christianity to get a toehold in those cultures. You Greek deities all seem to have such flagrant human failings. Try to be serious for two seconds! Please!
Hades: I am serious. I'm a collector. Don't you get excited when you get a valuable new item for your collection?
Anne: I don't collect anything except memories.
Hades: Boooorrrrring! You should collect something! I suggest stamps. You don't have to be rich to own a first-class stamp collection.
Anne: You know what, Hades? I just remembered. I'm alive. And I have a lot to do today. Look! Watch me move around, shoving the socks into the sock drawer! La di dah. Oh, it's great to be alive, with a wonderful new memory of dancing in the snow with the Spare, in the parking lot of the thrift store in Pennsauken...
Hades: I'll be back for you some day.
Anne: No you won't. I'm booked with another carrier. Thank goodness. Because it truly would be hell to spend eternity watching Tiger Woods try to play golf with molten putters.
Hades: Speak for yourself! I've got Tiger! I've got Tiger! (Dances into the storm drain and disappears.)
Well, readers, you never know what you'll get when you ask a bored god for an interview. Sometimes they help, sometimes they advise you to start a stamp collection. As always I'm open to your suggestions for a serious bored deity to which I can pose my ethical questions on the Marcellus Shale Deposit conundrum. Also, if you are reading this, and you have a personal opinion on the issue, I sure would like to hear that too. Even if you can spell "shale" and do nothing else, you'll offer me more than Hades just did.
Have a great day, and don't forget to look alive!