Category — Hydraulic Fracturing (gas)
What’s the Sierra Club’s position on the development and use of natural gas from shale? Depends on whom you ask . . . within the actual organization.
By now, of course, we’re all well aware of the Sierra Club’s newly staked-out position in opposition to natural gas, notwithstanding the fact that the Club used to support it.
With its “Beyond Natural Gas” campaign, the Sierra Club now proclaims (without even a shred of irony) that natural gas is “environmentally damaging and harms public health.” Yet empirical evidence–even studies commissioned by none other than the Sierra Club itself–shows the opposite is true (also see here, here, and here).
But no one ever accused the Sierra Club of being constrained by novelties such as consistency, accuracy, or metaphysics.
The shift toward ideological opposition to an energy source they once pragmatically supported was in some ways predictable. The Club couldn’t sit on the sidelines as American oil and natural gas production soared to record highs due to the development of shale and other tight resources. The activist uprising around “fracking” posed too great a fundraising opportunity for them to ignore.
But that rapid 180-degree turn on natural gas has also put the Sierra Club in an uncomfortable position. With the near-daily news stories explaining the air quality and climate benefits of natural gas, the Sierra Club’s opposition to natural gas undermines its stated goal of protecting the environment.
In response, the Sierra Club has come up with a bold and fascinating strategy: Say whatever the heck they want, regardless of whether it contradicts their statements elsewhere. [Read more →]
March 18, 2013 6 Comments
The main thing you need to know about FrackNation is that you should watch it. More importantly, given that this blog’s audience is unusually educated about hydraulic fracturing–frac’ing–you should encourage friends and family to watch it.
The use of hydraulic fracturing and (less-publicized) horizontal drilling to extract oil and gas from shale rock is, to the best of my knowledge, the most important technological revolution of the last decade. The existence of enormous deposits of shale has long been known–some of the earliest experiments with kerosene involved shale–but the ability to affordably get oil and gas from these deposits has been elusive for over a century. In Ayn Rand’s 1957 Atlas Shrugged, one of the heroes manages to solve the problem, and it is rightly regarded as an epic achievement.
But, to read today’s media coverage of frac’ing, you would have no idea that it is a heroic, life-giving development. You would regard it as a health menace that must be banned from every town, city, and state.
Until you watched FrackNation. For an entertaining documentary, FrackNation does a remarkably thorough job of giving the truth about frac’ing, including: [Read more →]
January 29, 2013 3 Comments
The story of hydraulic fracturing (frac’ing) is one of the most important stories of our time. It needs to be told far and wide–and certainly by our top talent in Hollywood.
The true story of frac’ing is utterly inspiring. A band of renegade oil and gas executives, engineers, and rig-workers developed a technology that could transform worthless rock into wondrously abundant and affordable energy–enough to improve the lives of every single American. Frac’ing gives some states the cheapest electricity in the world, a boon to our manufacturing. It gives us the oil and gas that run our farms, warm our homes, and fuel our fun.
Whatever ways frac’ing technology has been misused–and for a pervasive technology there are shockingly few instances–our basic attitude toward the industry should be one of gratitude. And the most grateful of all should be the landowners who, thanks to the ingenuity of the frac’ing industry, now have the opportunity to participate in and benefit from a torrent of wealth creation miles beneath their feet.
A good, honest movie about frac’ing would inspire hope and inspire gratitude.
Promised Land, Hollywood’s first take on frac’ing, is neither good nor honest–it is a shameful smear-job by writer-actors Matt Damon and John Krasinski.
January 7, 2013 10 Comments
In recent months, the state of New York has been a focal point in the broader public debate over hydraulic fracturing. Activists in the state have teamed with musicians (in the loosest possible definition of the term) and Los Angeles movie stars to try to block shale development from occurring.
Hollywood’s finest, including Robert Redford and airline aficionado Alec Baldwin, as well as celebrities like meat-suit-wearing Lady Gaga have expended great effort in trying to undermine scientific conclusions about the safety of hydraulic fracturing.
Meanwhile, unemployment remains unacceptably high in the areas of upstate New York where prospective natural gas development would be located. So, it was with perhaps little surprise that when the voters in the Southern Tier had their say at the ballot box last week, they sent a clear message that they’ve had enough of “artists” telling them how to live their lives.
As the Associated Press reported, candidates opposing hydraulic fracturing “were beaten up and down the ballot after intense campaigns, some of which were framed as referendums on shale gas development.”
Translation: bring all the tambourines and celebrity star power you want, but facts will win the day, and the people have spoken.
Not to be rebuffed by democracy, “Artists Against Fracking” founders Yoko Ono and Sean Ono Lennon – best known for breaking up the Beatles and, well, being the son of the lady who broke up the Beatles, respectively – have paid for a huge billboard that says “Imagine There’s No Fracking.” [Read more →]
November 15, 2012 7 Comments
The anti-industrial “green” movement, which once played nice with natural gas, is at war against hydraulic fracturing (fracing). Peak gas fears may be gone, and parasitic wind energy would crash without gas-fired generation to fill in, but an anti-energy agenda rules. What should be good news is parlayed into bad by the enemies of modernism.
Technology Jump–Societal Benefits
Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have boosted shale gas production from zero a few years ago to 10% of all U.S. energy supplies in 2012, observes energy analyst Daniel Yergin. Fracing has also increased U.S. oil production 25% since 2008 – almost all on state and private lands, and in the face of more federal land and resource withdrawals, permitting delays and declining public land production.
In the process, the fracing revolution created 1.7 million jobs in oil fields, equipment manufacturing, legal and information technology services, and other sectors. It will generate over $60 billion this year in state and federal tax and royalty revenues, reduce America’s oil import bill by $75 billion, and save us $100 billion in imported liquefied natural gas, concludes a new IMF Global Insight analysis. [Read more →]
October 30, 2012 7 Comments
The development of enormous reserves of American energy from tight formations such as shale has been hailed as a “game-changer” by the Energy Information Administration; as playing a “key role in our nation’s clean energy future” by the Environmental Protection Agency; and as a means of helping our country “create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper” by President Obama earlier this year.
But for one mom in rural northeast Pennsylvania, the only real question that mattered was this: Is the process used to develop these resources safe? Or is it the way “Gasland” star Josh Fox tried to portray it in his HBO film: dangerous and disruptive – and completely unregulated, to boot? Shelly – a mother, grandmother, farmer and science teacher from Susquehanna Co., Pa. – needed answers, for herself, her family and her community.
And so she went looking for some. Her journey in search of the truth is captured and chronicled in “Truthland,” which officially goes live today.
“When we were told we could have natural gas under our farm, we felt very blessed,” said Shelly, who, as part of the film, interviewed more than a dozen energy and environmental experts in six states.
But that excitement was tempered somewhat by the negative stories we had heard about hydraulic fracturing. Then came ‘Gasland,’ and that made it even tougher to determine what the truth really was. Well, the science teacher in me had questions, and I owed it to my family to go and find out what was real. To get our questions answered, I knew I needed to go where the experts were. And so, that’s exactly what I did. [Read more →]
June 14, 2012 10 Comments
When it comes to climate, are all fossil fuels equal?
“No,” the answer has been until very recently. In terms of how much carbon dioxide (the major force behind the human alteration of the atmospheric greenhouse effect) is produced when burning various fossil fuels to produce a unit amount of energy, there is a definite ranking. From the most CO2 produced to the least, the list goes coal worst, oil next worst, and natural gas least worst.
While it would be stretch to call natural gas the sweetheart of climate-change-fearing environmentalists, many have considered it to be the lesser of the reliable-energy-source evils. Of course, they rally behind the wind and the sun, but even renewable energy idealists understand that there needs to be a bridge between where we are now and where they would like us to be—and that bridge is envisioned to be constructed primarily from natural gas (a foundation furthered by the nuclear problems in Japan).
But a new study out of Cornell University makes the natural gas bridge out to be another Gallopin’ Gertie rather than a secure pathway to the future—at least when it comes to being a climate-change mitigator/savior.
The Climate Impact of Natural Gas
According to the carbon dioxide emissions factors given by the Energy Information Administration (which assume 100% combustion), coal burning emits on average about 95 kilograms (209 lbs) of carbon dioxide per million BTUs produced. Burning oil to produce a million BTUs of energy produces about 20kg less, or about 75 kg (165 lbs) of CO2. And burning natural gas to do the same thing saves you another 20kg, producing only about 55 kg (121 lbs) of carbon dioxide.
So, on the face of things, numbers like these are what make natural gas the darling of climate change mitigators. They see that a switch from coal to natural gas could cut global-warming CO2 emissions by more than 40%. This number falls quite a bit short of the long term goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80%, but nevertheless it is a big step in the right direction. Thus, natural gas is viewed as a “bridge” to a largely carbon-free energy production—that is, it is a construct which buys time for other technologies to mature and/or be developed. [Read more →]
April 29, 2011 9 Comments
In June 2004, EPA released a study examining the safety and performance of an energy technology known as hydraulic fracturing – particularly in the context of its use in coalbed methane wells, from which nearly 2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas were produced in 2008 (latest numbers).
The goal of the study was simple: Determine whether the fracturing of coalbed wells had the potential to adversely affect the quality and composition of underground sources of drinking water (USDW). EPA’s methodology: Research more than 200 peer-reviewed publications, and interview almost 100 different state regulators, environmentalists, and industry reps. EPA’s conclusion: No evidence linking the deployment of fracturing technology to drinking water contamination. Of course, since the study was released during the tenure of the previous president, its findings were rejected out-of-hand by environmentalists – never mind that the study itself was initiated during the Clinton administration by then-EPA administrator Carol Browner.
Interestingly, Ms. Browner crops up a number of times in the looking back at the history of EPA involvement with hydraulic fracturing – and not necessarily in ways you’d expect. Here she is in 1995, for example, blinding a plaintiff’s attorney with some science in explaining the concept of geological separation, and why that’s an important part in assessing the safety of the fracturing process:
There is no evidence that the hydraulic fracturing at issue has resulted in any contamination or endangerment of underground sources of drinking water (USDW). … Moreover, given the horizontal and vertical distance between the drinking water well and the closest methane production wells, the possibility of contamination of endangerment of USDWs in the area is extremely remote. (emphasis added)
Why is any of this important? Quite simply, if you’re looking to prove that fracturing activities contaminate groundwater – notwithstanding 60 years of evidence suggesting the opposite — first you need to prove the formations being fractured are communicating with the formations holding that groundwater.
Problem is, if you can’t prove it’s happening in coalbed methane formations (which reside only hundreds of feet from the water table), the job of proving it’s happening in shale formations (which reside several thousands of feet from the water table) becomes all the more difficult to do. And shale, after all, is the big prize here. Remember how coalbeds produced 2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in 2008 nationwide? According to one report, natural gas development from shale could yield 5 trillion cubic feet by 2020. Not nationwide; that’s in a single state (PA). [Read more →]
August 23, 2010 5 Comments