Microwaves could deliver plentiful fuel while dodging fracking’s downsides. So why aren’t we doing it already?

Forget fracking, microwave zaps could clean up the oil business

(Image: Spencer Wilson)

WHEN Peter Kearl waxes lyrical about microwaves, he’s not thinking about rustling up a quick dinner. An engineer who once worked at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, Kearl sees microwaves as the answer to our energy woes. As the world debates whether fracking for oil and gas is an economic godsend or an environmental nightmare, Kearl thinks zapping the ground with microwaves could provide a cleaner, greener way to get those fuels out. He also knows how the idea will sound to most people. “We’re still trying to convince people that this is not something out of Star Wars,” he says.

Perhaps not for much longer. Big names such as BP and ConocoPhillips are also warming to an idea that, its proponents argue, could provide a cheap new source of oil and gas to bridge the gap while renewables get off the ground …

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