Obama’s Energy Plan: Full Speed Ahead on Fracking

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

At DeSmogBlog, Steve Horn summed up President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan as “drill, baby, drill” and  “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.” The president’s plan is a full endorsement of controversial hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to extract natural gas from shale rack using toxic chemicals and horizontal drilling. Steve points out that the president’s claims of providing clean energy and a “moral obligation” to protect the environment for future generations flies in the face of the facts about the dangers of fracking not only to carbon emissions but to clean water.

In a study from Cornell University, researchers confirming that shale gas recovered through high volume hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” will produce even more greenhouse gases than the burning of coal in the next two decades:

“The greenhouse gas footprint for shale gas is greater than that for conventional gas or oil when viewed on any time horizon, but particularly so over 20 years. Compared to coal, the footprint of shale gas is at least 20% greater and perhaps more than twice as great on the 20-year horizon and is comparable when compared over 100 years… These methane emissions are at least 30% more than and perhaps more than twice as great as those from conventional gas. The higher emissions from shale gas occur at the time wells are hydraulically fractured — as methane escapes from flow-back return fluids — and during drill out following the fracturing.”

Another study from Duke University (pdf), shale gas fracking has been linked to groundwater contamination in the Marcellus Shale basin of Pennsylvania.

The scientists analyzed 141 drinking water samples from private water wells across northeastern Pennsylvania’s gas-rich Marcellus Shale basin.

They found that, on average, methane concentrations were six times higher and ethane concentrations were 23 times higher at homes within a kilometer of a shale gas well.  Propane was detected in 10 samples, all of them from homes within a kilometer of drilling.

“The methane, ethane and propane data, and new evidence from hydrocarbon and helium content, all suggest that drilling has affected some homeowners’ water,” said Robert B. Jackson, a professor of environmental sciences at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.  “In a minority of cases the gas even looks Marcellus-like, probably caused by poor well construction.”

The ethane and propane data are “particularly interesting,” he noted, “since there is no biological source of ethane and propane in the region and Marcellus gas is high in both, and higher in concentration than Upper Devonian gases” found in formations overlying the Marcellus shale.

This all comes as the Environmental Protection Agency has delayed a study examining the connection between hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and groundwater contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming. The EPA also dropped and censored the groundwater contamination study in Weatherford, TX.

Pres. Obama also endorsed plans to expand fracking internationally:

Obama’s plan also boasts about bringing the U.S. model for fracking abroad through the U.S. State Department’s Global Shale Gas Initiative, now called the Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program.

And to add to the package, the plan also fully endorses “T. Boone Pickens’ “Pickens Plan,” helping create a domestic market for natural gas vehicles, particularly for 18-wheelers.”

Obama’s Climate Plan: A Historic Turning Point or Too Reliant on Oil, Coal, Natural Gas?

Transcript can be read here

President Obama has unveiled a climate plan that imposes the first limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants. The move will not require congressional approval, meaning Obama can bypass expected Republican-led opposition. In his address, Obama also outlined a broad range of measures to protect coastlines and cities from rising sea levels, and vowed to promote the development of renewable energy. In a development that has led both opponents and supporters of the Keystone XL oil pipeline to express optimism for their side, Obama said approval of the project will be contingent upon assuring it “does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” Just how successful Obama will be in carrying out his sweeping plan to address climate change – and whether it goes far enough – is a matter of debate. We assess his speech with two guests holding differing views: Dan Lashof of the Natural Resources Defense Council and Tyson Slocum of Public Citizen.


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    • TMC on June 29, 2013 at 06:04
  1. “clean fuel” needs to be dispelled.

    Fracking has to be the worst yet of the gas and oil companies’ adventures in juicing the earth and ocean of every bit of oil and gas it can, some of the ramifications of which are known and yet, those that are unknown in terms of long term damage to the environment and health, to say nothing about the utter destruction of the decades’ old natural formations that Mother Nature provides, as well as the utter beauty.

    There is not one aspect of fracking that is good.  The silica derived for fracking, known as sand frac mining, is equally as dangerous and hazardous to the health as fracking, the tiny particles of silica lodge in the lungs and have razer sharp edges that damages the tissue.  Right now, there is planned for the Starved Rock State Park location by Minnesota Sand Mining Midwest Energy News.  Should this go ahead, this will utterly destroy this scenic and historical Park.  A young lady with respiratory problems, living in the area, has commenced a Petition against this sand frac mining.  Governor Quinn: Stop the Mississippi Sand Frac Sand Mine Near Starved Rock!

    Fracking had long been planned for Southern Illinois, in 18 counties and there were numerous petitions (I had one going, as well) from varying districts to Governor Quinn, AG Lisa Madigan, etc. demanding a moratorium on fracking.  However, on June 6, a bill (SB1715) was passed allowing fracking, with what is supposedly a bill with the most stringent of regulations.  That depends on one’s point of view.  It is not that strong period.  And fracking in Southern Illinois is unconscionable to begin with.  The areas designated for fracking are all within the New Madrid Seismic Zone and some are sitting atop two major fault lines. A disaster waiting to happen?  Fracking actually began before the bill was passed. Fracking can cause earthquakes. The Sierra Club was completely against the fracking there.

    Compounding the unlimited problems surrounding fracking is:

    “Of special concern are the hundreds of fracking components, some of which contain chemicals known to be or suspected of being carcinogenic or otherwise toxic. Increasing the likelihood of unwanted environmental effects is the so-called Halliburton loophole, named after the company that patented an early version of hydraulic fracturing. Passed during the Bush-Cheney Administration, the loophole exempts the oil and gas industry from the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act. What’s more, manufacturers and operators are not required to disclose all their ingredients, on the principle that trade secrets might be revealed. Even George P. Mitchell, the Texas wildcatter who pioneered the use of fracking, has called for more transparency and tighter regulation. In the absence of well-defined federal oversight, states are starting to assert control. In 2011 the North Dakota legislature passed a bill that said, in effect, fracking is safe, end of discussion.”* (emphasis mine)

    *March 2013 issue of National Geographic Magazine, entitled The New Oil Landscape” The fracking frenzy in North Dakota has boosted the U.S. fuel supply-but at what cost?

    It is incredible to me to think that we continue to puncture the ocean floors, remove mountain tops, drill deep into the earth, fracture mountain shales and assault Mother Nature in all the ways that we do and not expect it all to come back and haunt us.

    Thank you for this, TMC.  

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