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Found 7 results

  1. As the State of Pennsylvania continues to battle with various oil drilling companies regarding environmental violations, fracking sits at the top of list. Comparing the elemental damages to the amount of these proposed fines may mirror a lopsided playing field of sorts. Proponents of the fracking phenomena apparently see nothing wrong with polluting the groundwater contained in nearby streams via mishandled wastewater, thus killing off seemingly countless schools of fish, and rendering otherwise healthy water supplies undrinkable. Many of those who oppose these fracking methods may have stronger legal legs to stand on, as the practice itself has gained some notorious national attention. The fracking (aka fracturing) process is designed to extract fossil-based energy sources that lie deep beneath the earth’s surface. Drilling is one thing, yet injecting toxic chemicals into the core in order to hit pay-dirt is another. The increased risk of chemical leakage is now clear and present, as literally thousands of drinking water contamination complaints have been filed against subsidiary drilling companies that actually have legal permits to use the Marcellus Shale drilling site; one case in particular involves felony criminal charges that are still pending. Exxon Mobil Corporation District Judge James G. Carn ruled that each of the eight charges recently filed against the oil giant were all valid enough to warrant criminal proceedings. Two of these charges included violating the state’s Clean Streams Law and the Solid Waste Management Act. Exxon Mobil is chiefly being accused of wastewater tank tampering; the removal of a plug from one of their refuse receptacles resulted in 57,000 gallons of the liquid seeping into the soil and subsequently causing harm to local residents and the surrounding strata. Contesting these charges, Exxon Mobil representatives asserted that the spill had “…no lasting environmental impact.” Range Resources The Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) fined the Texas-based gas and oil company $4.15 million for employing the same illegal practices used by Exxon Mobil, all of which took place between 2009 and 2014. Range Resources repeatedly violated a number of the state’s environmental protection laws, yet the mishandling of wastewater topped the list of many fracking infractions committed at the very same Marcellus Shale drilling site. Even though the imposed fine is the largest in Pennsylvania DEP history, the profits made from these extractions heavily outweigh the penalty amount, which may simply be the price of doing business for big oil. These two incidents are merely a drop in the bucket when it comes to the fracking boom and its latent functions. Exxon Mobil is the first company to face criminal charges, which may turn out to be a benchmark case to be used as precedent for future criminal fracking violations. Hopefully future companies can learn from their example, and the example of good green practicing companies like Great Canadian which does green roofing in Edmonton. The future will be brighter when businesses can raise the standard of their practices and incorporate more beneficial green works.
  2. Members of the UK Parliament group, the Environmental Audit Committee, have in a report released last Monday called for a moratorium on the controversial shale gas extraction technology; fracking. This comes in the same week that Lancashire City Council in the North of England, was meant to have decided upon whether to grant fracking company Cuadrilla permission for two shale gas wells. On Wednesday the council said that they would need to defer the decision for eight weeks in response to legal advice. Half of the Environmental Audit Committee’s 16 members called for a moratorium on fracking in the report, which had been ordered following an inquiry on the environmental risk of the activity. The Committee consists of seven Conservative MPs, six Labour MPs, two Liberal Democrat MPs and one Green MP. In related news, on Monday, a cross party group of ten MPs also proposed a fracking moratorium motion in Parliament. One of the MPs, Labour’s Yasmin Qureshi, said: "The public have serious concerns about fracking that need to be listened to. In Lancashire where the council is set to decide on whether to allow fracking imminently, two thirds of the public are opposed. The Government should follow the example of New York and bring in a moratorium so that the risks of fracking can be properly assessed." That motion failed overwhelmingly when a majority of MP’s voted against it, including a large group of Labour MPs. However Labour did manage to insert amendments into the Government’s Infrastructure Bill that would tighten fracking regulation, which were subsequently accepted. Last week, Labour said that if they win May’s general election they will impose stricter regulations on the fracking industry, including banning fracking activities near water aquifers. Supporters of the growing anti fracking movement will say that the case for banning fracking is getting stronger, highlighting decisions like the one by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo decision to ban fracking in the New York state in the US. Environmental group Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Donna Hume stated: ‘’The call for a UK moratorium by senior cross party MPs is a further blow to an industry still reeling from the recent ban on fracking in New York State due to health risks. The truth is people do not want a high-impact fossil fuel industry that would leave a legacy of pollution and disruption and would lock the world into further climate change.’’ But the UK government remains adamant that a fracking revolution should take place in this country, having unveiled a series of tax breaks for the fracking industry and saying it would be foolish not to relish the golden opportunity that a shale gas revolution would bring. Meanwhile Cuadrilla have asked for today’s Lancashire City Council decision to be deferred. Cuadrilla was responding to the news that planning officials were encouraging the council to deny the permit for the two wells and made amendments to their application. It was due to these amendments that the Council was asked to defer for eight weeks for legal reasons, angering anti fracking campaigners. The Council said they regretted the decision but said they were left with no choice due to the legal advice being presented to them.
  3. Advances in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to obtain natural gas have made this resource an abundantly available and comparatively inexpensive source of fuel. While electric utility generators have traditionally favored large coal-or nuclear-powered plants to supply electricity to a designated grid, natural gas has steadily risen in popularity within this sector since the 1990’s - if it continues along its current path, natural gas is projected to overtake coal and nuclear power as a primary source of alternative energy over the next few decades. Automakers, however, are still struggling to put America’s prodigious volumes of natural gas to their use. While coal may still be the cheapest means of generating electricity, it is also the dirtiest, causing smog, soot, acid rain, and other toxic air pollutants. Natural gas burns cleaner, and releases dramatically fewer emissions into the atmosphere - a nearly 30 percent reduction in carbon output and toxins. It’s also cheaper by as much as $1 per gallon equivalent, even as the prices of gas and diesel have plummeted in recent weeks. When used to power vehicles, it’s one of the leading choices for environmentally-conscious drivers worldwide. But despite its comparatively clean and reliable track record, CNG vehicles have had a hard time catching on in the United States. The average yearly growth rate for the U.S. hovers at around 4%, as contrasted with an impressive global growth rate of over 30%. Government agencies and private companies are making massive investments to boost America’s natural gas fueling infrastructure, but the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel remains relatively modest. Most CNG vehicles offered today are available for commercial truck fleets, or as buses and medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks. Because there are so few personal vehicles running on compressed natural gas, companies are unwilling to invest in the construction of a network of refueling stations. And auto companies don’t want to build CNG vehicles if drivers will have no where to gas up. The compressed natural gas success story in the United States is still in its infancy. But as technology advances, the domestic uses for natural gas multiply. Furnaces and water heaters powered by the alternative fuel can allow homeowners to save between $300-$1,262 per year on their utility bills. In typical home appliances, the use of natural gas cuts energy consumption by 28 percent and produces 37 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Innovators in the fuel industry soon hope to give individuals the option to generate their own electricity at home, using natural gas to power small generators (more info at Direct Energy’s website). Our energy future continues to hang in the balance, and while the harvesting and transport of natural gas pose a threat to its success, it remains one of the most promising advances in the energy sector. As with all fossil fuels, natural gas began as microorganisms living in the ocean. As such, natural gas is a non-renewable resource (at least in our lifetime) and it’s important to remember that it won’t be available forever. Lack of infrastructure also complicates matters, and some fracking companies have become victims of their own success when productivity outpaces access to pipelines. The fracking process itself is also an enormous concern, and so far over 100 U.S. municipalities have banned fracking due to concerns about groundwater contamination. Air pollution, hazardous wastes and other issues are also connected with use of hydraulic fracturing, and have been linked to increases in health problems in people living near fracking sites. Tests from these areas have also revealed high levels of benzene, formaldehyde and other cancer-causing chemicals in the air. With fracking production outpacing the science on its impact, continued drilling has sparked public outcry and outrage from environmentalists. That said, the increase in available natural gas, along with increasingly strict vehicle emission requirements and a gradual improvement in fueling infrastructure, can be expected to continue to push the market for CNG passenger cars in conjunction with the increased demand for home heating and appliance applications. In 2013, 27% of U.S. electricity was generated from natural gas, more than doubling from amounts used for that purpose in 2004. While natural gas’s role in climate change remains controversial, our hunger for energy resources as insatiable as ever. With a cheap, domestic energy source at our disposal it seems foolish to throw the baby out with the fracking water.
  4. Will Germany really ban fracking?

    The German government says it will soon move to ban fracking in the country until 2021, which would make it the latest nation (after France and Bulgaria) to eliminate the destructive natural gas drilling process. In a press briefing, Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Environmental Minister Barbara Hendricks noted that legislation will be drawn up and approved in the final half of the year. "There won't be fracking of shale gas or coal gas for economic reasons in the foreseeable future," confirmed Hendricks. However, one can read in between the lines and see that there is still room for exploitation by natural gas corporations. Case in point: there are a number of "special circumstances" which would allow fracking to circumvent the legislation. An example is that the law's language states that "unconventional" fracking cannot take place more than 3,000 meters below the surface - but "conventional" fracking can. While this will still effectively prevent fracking from, in most cases, contaminating groundwater, it will not prevent it from triggering small earthquakes. Political parties including the Green Party have reacted with strong criticism; the chairman of the Greens' parliamentary group, Oliver Krischer, went as far as to call it a "fracking-enabling law," recognizing the distinction between this potentially deceptive proposal and an actual fracking ban - "a regulation that does not allow fracking in Germany and without loopholes that are as big as a barn door." Hubertus Zdebel of the Left party agreed, noting, "Fracking must be banned in Germany without any exceptions. To say that there is a fracking ban in the paper is window dressing. They want to enforce a regulation which mostly allows fracking under the guise of an alleged ban." Citing estimates obtained from the Federal Institute of Geosciences and Natural Resources, he added, "The planned restrictions will still allow the exploitation of half of all unconventional natural gas deposits in Germany." He also said there are other potential risks associated with allowing deep fracking, including uncontrolled methane gas emissions. Francisco Szekely, writer for EnergyBiz, remarked that the legislation is likely a play to quell environmentalists' fears while also reducing Germany's dependency upon Russia for gas imports. He said, however, "This decision is not a sustainable solution. The temporary relief of geopolitics should not be achieved at the long-term cost of environmental degradation. To put our economy and our world on a path to sustainability, governments and companies need to focus on doing real good for society and not just doing less harm, as seems to be the case" with this fracking issue. "With evidence of climate change becoming clearer than ever," he added, Germany should be "thinking carefully before allowing fracking in their territory. Moreover, whatever short-term promise fracking offers is also taking our sense of urgency away from transitioning to more renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar power." So in short, one might conclude, Germany's "fracking ban" may be little more than a smoke-and-mirror tactic. Said Szekely: "To quote Albert Einstein, 'We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.'"
  5. The EPA has been under-counting how much methane, which is 20-40 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than CO2, fracking emits at drilling sites, new research shows. "The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, adds to a growing body of research that suggests the EPA is gravely underestimating methane emissions from oil and gas operations." http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-methane-emissions-natural-gas-fracking-20140414,0,2417418.story
  6. In the article, Cameron writes that he wants to see fracking in all parts of Britain - and not just in the less populated areas in the north. "It's been suggested in recent weeks that we want fracking to be confined to certain parts of Britain. This is wrong," he said. "I want all parts of our nation to share in the benefits: north or south, Conservative or Labour. We are all in this together." Fracking is a controversial method of extracting gas. The word fracking comes from its technique, which involves fracturing rocks deep underground with water and chemicals to extract natural gas. The British Geological Survey has estimated that there could be around 1300 trillion cubic feet of gas in northern England alone. Cameron claims that only 10% of that is the equivalent of 51 years' worth of gas supply. Besides cheaper gas and energy bills for the British people, Cameron also promises that fracking will bring money to local neighborhoods and create new jobs in a struggling economy. He estimates that around 74 000 news jobs, in and around the gas sector, could be created. "If neighborhoods can see the benefits - and are reassured about its effects on the environment - then I don't see why fracking shouldn't receive real public support," Cameron said. "The Prime Minister's claim that UK shale gas will reduce energy prices doesn't stack," Greenpeace Energy Campaigner Leila Deen said in a response Cameron's pro-fracking comments. "Experts from Ofgem to Deutsche Bank to drilling company Cuadrilla itself agree UK shale will not bring down bills, because unlike the US, the UK is part of a huge European gas market," she said. "The government must come clean about where its getting its advice from, and the role shale gas lobbyists are playing in it." Fracking will bring potential dangers to the local environment, the climate and people's health. Fracking is a fossil fuel which production creates greenhouse gas emissions. It's no more different than coal and more conventional gas - in fact, its carbon footprint could even be worse than coal. Considering all the chemicals involved in the fracking process and the numerous reports of gas leaking into people's water supply, fracking could also become a real threat to people's health. In the US, at least eight states have reported surface, ground, and drinking water contamination due to fracking. In Pennsylvania alone, over 1,400 environmental violations have been attributed to deep gas wells utilizing fracking practices. Fracking will also bring pollution from truck traffic, chemical contamination around storage tanks, and habitat fragmentation and damage from drilling in environmentally sensitive. But Cameron claims that fracking is safe for both the public and the environment. "There is no reason why the process should cause contamination of water supplies or other environmental damage," Cameron said. At least if it's "properly regulated." And if "any shale gas well were to pose a risk of pollution, then we have all the powers we need to close it down," Cameron promises. "Our countryside is one of the most precious things we have in Britain and I am proud to represent a rural constituency. I would never sanction something that might ruin our landscapes and scenery." But, Cameron added, "the huge benefits of shale gas outweigh any very minor change to the landscape." If Cameron gets what he wants, which is thousands of shale gas pads scattered across Britain, he will just lock Britain into another form of fossil fuel addiction for another generation. And we cannot afford that. We need truly green and renewable energy sources.
  7. Debunking the myth of shale gas

    I've recently discussed a report by David Hughes of the Post Carbon institute on my energy blog (see here). The report is called "Drill Baby Drill" and it serves to debunk many of the myths regarding shale gas and tight oil (often referred to as "shale oil"). If you believe the propaganda shale gas / oil "solves" all of the west's energy problems for "a hundred years" (or a thousand years or some other large made up number!)"¦.not so! As this report illustrates shale gas is currently plateauing at an output level of 26 billion cfg/day (about 189 mtoe). Sounds like a lot"¦until you realise that current US gas demand is about 25.4 trillion cfg/yr (or about 60-80 billion cfg/day once you account for seasonal variations). This means that shale gas output within the US can only meet about 37 - 32% of current US gas demand. Total US energy consumption is currently hovering around about 2,200 mtoe. So, neglecting conversion losses and cycle efficiencies (which for certain energy pathways from natural gas to vehicles for example would be significant) you would need to increase shale gas production about 12 fold, just to meet current US domestic energy demand. Now there may be room for more growth, but it's limited. As I've pointed out in a prior post (see "is shale gas a fracking Ponzi scheme?"), many shale gas "plays" are not economic, often being driven more by market speculation than real world gas demand (a number of the same people behind the sub prime crisis have been getting involved in trading in shale gas "plays"). David Hughes suggests that there may be some room for growth in the form of joint gas and oil fracking operations. Even so, it's worth considering that he also notes how the EIA has been gradually downgrading its forecasts for proven reserves of shale gas. The present reserves estimate of 579 trillion cfg would only sustain current production for about two and a bit more decades. Again in reality it's more likely there there might be some further growth in output, before shale gas peaks and enters into a rapid decline. Shale/Tight oil isn't much better. They are a little behind shale gas operations, so further growth is likely. David Hughes estimates, based on DoE and EIA figures, that production will ramp up from a current output of 1.2 milion bbl/day to a maximum of around 2.2 million bbl/day in 2017, before declining sharply (of course I'm for hoping it stops altogether!). As with Shale gas, the oil industry has some wriggle room. They may not reach this high point and sustain less output for longer, or they might overshoot (as with shale gas) and sustain a higher output for less time, but that's about it. Again, 2.2 million bbl/day probably sounds like a lot, until you realise that current US oil demand hovers around 20 million bbl/day (i.e. if Hughes is to be believed the US can only get 11% of its oil needs from tight oil) and global demand is about 80 million bbl/day. It is literally a drop in the ocean, much like the Tar sands I reported on before. And also like those tar sands Shale gas and tight oil both come with a very heavy carbon footprint, many times greater than that associated with conventional fossil fuels extraction. Shale gas, as I discussed in a prior post may be worse than coal. In fact a recent joint study by the LSE and the Grantham Research Institute has pointed out that the bulk of the world's existing fossil fuel reserves are essentially "unburnable" if we want to keep global warming to be below the 2 degrees recommended by scientists. Many billions (about $674 billion last year) are being wasted every year on finding or adding additional fossil fuel reserves which we'll likely never use and thus the companies doing so will never recoup revenue from these operations (again it pretty much meets the definition of a Ponzi scheme). And it's not just the carbon dioxide being released as a result of shale gas production that's the problem. There's also all those nasty chemicals involved in the fracking process and the gas leaking into people's water supply (such that they can actually set their tap water on fire! Watch this video if you don't believe me). In short the advice of the fossil fuel industry to switch from conventional to unconventional fossil fuels is not that far removed from that of a drug dealer telling an addict that the solution to his cocaine addiction is to switch to crack. It is important as green campaigners we challenge this notion of "shale gas will solve all our problems" mantra, for it is tempting certain individuals (particularly those on the political right) to believe that if we just ignore climate change (which we can't) they can still have their SUV in the drive way and air-con on all night and basically maintain business as usual. By way of example, I highlighted a while back how the present UK energy policy is founded on the principle that nuclear power will be cheaply available (actually EDF are looking for a subsidy level that exceeds wind power!) and that natural gas from the UK's shale deposits will be cheap and plentiful. Neither of these conditions are likely to apply. Yet even so several major green energy projects, despite making more economic sense than the Tories obsessions with nuclear and shale gas, have been shelved. The reality is, unconventional fossil fuels are simply not up to the task. While I would accept the argument that the more "pessimistic" peak oil analysts have perhaps underestimated the potential output from these sources, the numbers still do not add up. At best shale gas has bought America maybe a decade or two more of cheap energy addiction. But the come down from the other side of this shale fueled binge is just going to be all that more severe. My advice would therefore be to curtail the use of these sources (if not an outright ban on them) and begin the transition to renewables. Indeed by contrast to America's shale gas splurge Portugal has succeeded in going to 70% on its renewables consistently over the last winter (briefly 100% at times). Another way is possible!