Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dallas Task Force Recommendations

Dallas is currently rewriting their ordinance - click here for a slide show with their Task Force's recommendations to City Council.

Speaking of Dallas, one controversial issue they face is whether to allow drilling in the Trinity floodplain. Here is an interview with a Trinity East manager on that topic.

Played out?

Here is an interview with Deborah Rogers. She is making the point that shale gas wells tend to rapidly deplete, which means the industry claims about long-term, robust economic growth are over-stated. Rogers continues to be an important and interesting voice making an economic case against drilling.

Here is a link to the MIT study she mentions on the relation between shale gas and renewables.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Are Reserves Overstated?

Deborah Rogers has this piece out in Energy Policy Forum claiming that the models used to estimate shale gas reserves are flawed, leading to major over-estimations and unsustainabile business practices.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Tracking health impacts of shale gas in PA

Here is a story from Pennsylvania's State Impact site (a partner with NPR) about doctors struggling to figure out some of their patients' illnesses and their (potential) link to gas drilling. It is difficult to make the link between illnesses (e.g., skin lesions) and shale gas drilling - requiring partnerships between doctors and toxicologists and ruling out the other potential causes.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Industry Waging War

One way to see shale gas politics is in combative terms ("war" and "battle") - usually with the lines drawn between environmental activists/communities on one side and industry groups on the other. This isn't the only wayt to see things (and probably not the most hopeful), but it has some truth. Here are four articles I saw recently that cover some of the spectrum of battles being waged:

1. Battlfield: Municipal Ordinances
Arlington has just been sued regarding its new annual fee on gas wells for emergency response preparedness.

2. Battlefield: National Politics
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. discusses the forced resignation of Dr. Al Armendariz.

3. Battlefield: Pipelines and Emininent Domain
A New York Times article discusses the TransCanada pipeline and one Texas farmer's resistance to it.

4. Battlefield: Non-disclosure Agreements
A Truthout piece on non-disclosure and sealed documents as hindering our ability to evaluate the risks associated with fracking.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Unearthed: The Fracking Facade

This is a very compelling 24 min. video about the ground water impacts of shale gas development. It uses expert testimony, eye witnesses, and language-clarification to deconstruct the claim that fracking has occured for 60 years, over a million wells, with no documented case of ground water contamination. I think I can say now with certainty that that claim is false.

The ethics of non-disclosure agreements is an interesting, important aspect discussed as part of this. How can we collect evidence to correct corporate policy if no one is allowed to speak?

The cost of orphaned wells

State Impact Texas ran this piece on the orphan wells in Texas - it is a good illustration of how we need to build the true and full costs of drilling/production into the process up front.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Modeling study questions fracking and groundwater

There is a new study, discussed here in Common Dreams (also run in Propublica) and a good piece in Businessweek, that questions the long-held industry assumption that frack fluids pose no threat to groundwater.

This is important for calling our attention to the fact that it has been assumptions all along, about the geology involved, that have justified the pumping of millions of gallons of chemicals underground. We have been told that the rock is too impermeable for those chemicals to migrate upward into groundwater aquifers. This study helps us to question that as an assumption rather than as the "settled science" Energy InDepth claims it to be or as simply "expertise," or a view from nowhere mirror of reality.

But, note, the study uses only models and not actual observations. Thus, as one scientist points out in the Common Dreams piece, it is only going to be as good as its own assumptions that are built into it. Models famously follow the law: garbage in, garbage out. So, we must not let our critical thinking stop and accept this study as somehow the "expertise" view from nowhere Truth about Reality. Just becuase some study concludes with a message we want to hear, we must not accept it solely on that basis. That is confirmation bias, dogma, ideology, and laziness. It leads to the condition where we argue our politics and values through competing scientific studies and pretend that all along the other side must be a bunch of corrupt liars - can't they see the plain facts!!??

Also, note this study was funded by two organizations that oppose fracking. That is fine - but it should make us even more skeptical in questioning its assumptions and conclusions. Don't let some scientific study be your excuse to stop thinking!

I am going to look into it more and see what I make of it...