Monday, January 30, 2012

Is Fracking a Bad Word?

There is a debate about whether the word 'fracking' is accurate or an overly-charged rhetorical ploy. For my two cents, the negative connotations with this harsh sounding word do justice to a process that is so technologically and resource intensive. Whether we choose to frack or not, we should have language capable of denoting the reality of what we are choosing. "Fracking" is more true to form than "resource exploration" at least.

Shale Gas and Climate Change

A new study from Cornell questions the notion that natural gas is better for the climate than traditional fossil fuels. Read more about it here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Natural Gas Bridge to Nowhere

Natural gas is often touted as a "bridge fuel" to get us from coal to renewable sources like wind and sun. I have long been suspicious of this metaphor...we should remember that coal used to be described as a bridge fuel too. The problem I first thought of was that reliance on natural gas means reliance on gas infrasctructure (pipelines and power plants), which creates a path dependency. We won't bridge anywhere if we are locked into this system.

Turns out the bridge metaphor is even more suspect. The natural gas glut caused by hydraulic fracturing of shale formations has cut electricity prices by 50%. This means that investment in costlier sources of energy (wind and solar!) has declined. Indeed, the largest U.S. wind energy producer has just shelved plans for more wind production. Why can't we see this for what it is: same old addiction to fossil fuels.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Study uses animals as sentinels for health impacts

This study just showed up in Scientific Solutions.


Environmental concerns surrounding drilling for gas are intense due to
expansion of shale gas drilling operations. Controversy surrounding the
impact of drilling on air and water quality has pitted industry and lease -
holders against individuals and groups concerned with environmental
protection and public health. Because animals often are exposed continually
to air, soil, and groundwater and have more frequent reproductive cycles,
animals can be used as sentinels to monitor impacts to human health. This
study involved interviews with animal owners who live near gas drilling
operations. The findings illustrate which aspects of the drilling process may
lead to health problems and suggest modifications that would lessen but
not eliminate impacts. Complete evidence regarding health impacts of gas
drilling cannot be obtained due to incomplete testing and disclosure of
chemicals, and nondisclosure agreements. Without rigorous scientific studies,
the gas drilling boom sweeping the world will remain an uncontrolled health
experiment on an enormous scale.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Public Health and Fracking

One big question is the connection between drilling/production/transmission and public health. As New York ponders what its rules should look like, one scientist submitted this report on set backs and their impact on health and drillable area (thus, production). And the group Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers for Healty Energy submitted this report calling for more studies on the public health impacts of high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF). That report cites this study, which discusses the health impacts of the chemicals used in fracking. Locally, a team of scientists submitted this report to the City of Denton, which surveys studies and makes recommendations.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Conservatism is not Consumerism

There is a good post here and follow up here on the Daily Beast. The point being made is a crucial one that needs more attention. George Will represents many conservatives who fail to appreciate an irony in their philosophy. As they cheer for more fracking and more consumption in general, they champion bigger technical systems that in turn require big government to regulate. The irony is even deeper - all this consumption is the very opposite of conservation. So, conservatism somehow now means immoderate consumption, less self-reliance, and more government?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Reserve Estimates in Question

A good article in Slate that questions the estimates of shale gas reserves and production. Do we really have 100 years of natural gas reserves?