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Shale gas - March 7

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


Rolling Stone Responds to Chesapeake Energy on 'The Fracking Bubble'

Jeff Goodell, Rolling Stone
Aubrey McClendon, the CEO of Chesapeake Energy, has a reputation for being a tough street-fighter, so his company’s response to my article in Rolling Stone is no surprise. (You can view the entire response here.) What is surprising is how weak it is. The company entirely dodges the article’s central point: that Chesapeake is highly-leveraged firm operated by a corporate gambler who engaged in complex scheme to profit off the illusion that America has a virtually unlimited supply of cheap natural gas...
(6 March 2012)



Why Not Frack?

Bill McKibben, The New York Review of Books
...We could, as a civilization, have taken that dwindling supply and rising price as a signal to convert to sun, wind, and other noncarbon forms of energy—it would have made eminent sense, most of all because it would have aided in the fight against global warming, the most difficult challenge the planet faces. Instead, we’ve taken it as a signal to scour the world for more hydrocarbons. And it turns out that they’re there—vast quantities of coal and oil and gas, buried deep or trapped in tight rock formations or mixed with other minerals...

The two books under review tell the story of that land rush. In fact, they manage to tell exactly the same story, with exactly the same set of characters—a few neighbors along a rural road in Dimock, Pennyslvania. Pennsylvania has been the very epicenter of this boom, less for geological than for political reasons: the powers that be in Harrisburg have been remarkably congenial hosts to the new fracking industry, rolling out the red carpet. (They’re so generous that, unlike Louisiana or Texas, they don’t even charge a severance tax on the gas that’s generated in the state. In fact, they’ve even offered up official state forests for use as drill sites.)...
(March 2012)
McKibben reviews End of Country by Seamus McGraw, Under the Surface: Fracking, Fortunes, and the Fate of the Marcellus Shale by Tom Wilber and Gasland a documentary film by Josh Fox


Fracking: The New Global Water Crisis - Report

Food & Water Watch
From the press release:
New technology enabling the extraction of large quantities of oil and natural gas from shale and other rock formations could drive the world’s next great global water crisis unless it is banned, according to a new report released today by national consumer group Food & Water Watch. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, combined with horizontal drilling, is poised to become a global environmental and public health threat as the oil and gas industry seeks more access to oil and gas trapped in rock formations far beneath the ground.

“Fracking is a dangerous American export that should be viewed critically by countries just starting to engage in the practice,” says Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. “Modern drilling and fracking have caused widespread environmental and public health problems, as well as posed serious, long-term risks to vital water resources.”

According to the report, Fracking: The New Global Water Crisis, countries around the world are grappling with how to address the push to drill and frack. In Europe, while France and Bulgaria have banned fracking in the face of strong public opposition, Poland has welcomed the industry. In China and Argentina, shale gas extraction is being developed with government support. In South Africa, pending an environmental review, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell may be granted permission to extract shale gas.

The oil and gas industry touts the economic benefits of fracking, but the report counters that any economic benefit to local communities is short lived and can be outweighed by the risks and costs of the industry. Employment, construction, housing demand and royalty payments may increase significantly during an initial boom, but these effects diminish quickly as well productivities decline and operations move elsewhere, leaving behind a costly legacy of environmental pollution and scarred landscapes.

“While the oil and gas industry is profiting off of this technology, it has been a disaster for Americans exposed to its pollution. They have dealt with everything from mysterious ailments likely caused by hazardous air pollution to well water contamination that has left rural communities unable to use their water for washing, brushing their teeth or cooking—much less drinking,” said Hauter. “Does the rest of the world want to live this nightmare?”

The report also notes that while natural gas has been touted as a low-carbon fuel, recent scientific studies have shown that the growing dependence on shale gas is likely to accelerate global climate change in the coming decades.

“Shale gas drilling’s benefits can be summed up quickly: good for the oil and gas industry, and bad for rural communities,” says Hauter. “Legislators around the world need to learn what’s happened to these communities in the U.S. as a cautionary tale and implement fracking bans in their countries before it’s too late.”

Fracking: The New Global Water Crisis is available here.
About Food and Water Watch.
(7 March 2012)



Kept in Dark by BC's Oil and Gas Commission

Ben Parfitt, TheTyee
So here's the little that we know about a pipeline break that occurred more than half a year ago and that British Columbia's Oil and Gas Commission (OGC) feels for whatever reasons the public is best kept in the dark about.

The incident occurred on Aug. 19 of last year when a 35-year-old pipeline broke and spilled its poisonous contents onto a nearby property.

In three separate interviews with three different people who have knowledge of the incident and who spoke on an "information only" basis, it was confirmed that whatever was in the liquids that burst from the broken pipeline that day killed at least one cow and sickened other cattle...

...Which quite naturally begs questions: Why the tight-lipped response? And what does such a response say about where the OGC sees its loyalties lying, as the commission both approves oil and gas company activities and is tasked with ensuring public health and safety and protecting the environment?

A quite reasonable response to the first question is that there may be more going on than just a small spill. Or perhaps the OGC just wants to keep a lid on things given the mounting concerns residents inside and outside the region have with the amounts of water being contaminated by the gas industry in its water- and energy-intensive hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" operations...
(7 March 2012)



A Fresh Scientific Defense of the Merits of Moving from Coal to Shale Gas

Andrew C. Revkin, New York Times
There’s been a fresh development in a prolonged intellectual tussle among researchers at Cornell University over the climate benefits of moving from coal to natural gas, including gas extracted from shale using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Lawrence M. Cathles of the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, with three colleagues, has offered a fresh rebuttal to the conclusions of a team led by Robert Howarth, a biogeochemist at the university...

Previous rounds in this continuing exchange were reviewed in my post “On Shale Gas, Warming and Whiplash.”...
(29 February 2012)


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