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Study: ‘Fracking’ may increase air pollution health risks

Neela Banerjee, LA Times
Air pollution caused by hydraulic fracturing, a controversial oil and gas drilling method, may contribute to “acute and chronic health problems for those living near natural gas drilling sites,” according to a new study from the Colorado School of Public Health.

The study, based on three years of monitoring at Colorado sites, found a number of “potentially toxic petroleum hydrocarbons in the air near the wells including benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene.” The Environmental Protection Agency has identified benzene as a known carcinogen.

Soon to be published in an upcoming edition of Science of the Total Environment, the report said that those living within a half-mile of a natural gas drilling site faced greater health risks than those who live farther away. Colorado allows companies to drill for natural gas within 150 feet of homes…
(20 March 2012)
Colorado School of Public Health press release

So, Is Dimock’s Water Really Safe to Drink?

Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica
When the Environmental Protection Agency announced last week that tests showed the water is safe to drink in Dimock, Penn., a national hot spot for concerns about fracking, it seemed to vindicate the energy industry’s insistence that drilling had not caused pollution in the area.

But what the agency didn’t say — at least, not publicly — is that the water samples contained dangerous quantities of methane gas, a finding that confirmed some of the agency’s initial concerns and the complaints raised by Dimock residents since 2009.

The test results also showed the group of wells contained dozens of other contaminants, including low levels of chemicals known to cause cancer and heavy metals that exceed the agency’s “trigger level” and could lead to illness if consumed over an extended period of time. The EPA’s assurances suggest that the substances detected do not violate specific drinking water standards, but no such standards exist for some of the contaminants and some experts said the agency should have acknowledged that they were detected at all…
(20 March 2012)

Poland Says Shale Reserves May Be 85% Below U.S. Estimate

Marek Strzelecki, Bloomberg
Poland’s recoverable shale gas reserves are probably as much as 768 billion cubic meters, or 85 percent less than a U.S. Energy Department estimate from last year, according to the Polish Geological Institute.

The deposits are enough to cover as many as 65 years of demand and are equal to as much as 200 years of the country’s production, Deputy Environment Minister Piotr Wozniak said today in Warsaw at a presentation of the institute’s data. “These estimates would make Poland Europe’s third-largest holder of gas reserves,” he said.

The minimum estimate is 346 billion cubic meters and is based on an analysis by the institute of 39 wells drilled in Poland from the 1950s to the 1980s. Reserves may be as much as 1.9 trillion cubic meters assuming maximum productivity, the study shows. The Polish estimates are less than a forecast last year by the U.S. Energy Information Administration that the country had as much as 5.2 trillion cubic meters of shale gas.

“It’s a good, conservative estimate and as data from new wells will be available these forecasts may rise,” Wozniak said. The next report will be published in two years…
(21 March 2012)

Shale gas is no alternative to renewables

Sunil Sharan, FORTUNE, CNN Money
The world is scrambling to deploy renewable sources of energy, but America has fallen behind. The upstart natural gas from shale industry has only further increased the prospect of depressing renewables in America, and potentially shoving them into cold storage.

Influential commentators have extolled shale gas’ low carbon footprint, as well as its economic potential. Even President Obama, who initially embraced renewables, has ardently converted to shale in his 2012 State of the Union address, while throwing renewables a few crumbs…

But how valid is this assumption? An Environmental Research Letters paper argues that to achieve substantial temperature reductions this century, it will take a rapid and massive deployment of a mix of conservation, wind, solar, and nuclear energy — not natural gas. If a trillion watts of gas-fired generation were installed over the next 40 years, the decline in warming by 2112 would only be within a tenth of a degree of that induced by coal-fired plants, it cautions.

A new MIT study asserts that shale use suppresses the development of renewables, and that it can only be a “short-term” bridge to a low-carbon future. Treating it otherwise could altogether stunt the development of lower-emission technologies like carbon capture and sequestration…
(23 March 2012)