Safe Fracking: The biggest “if” of all time

By Robert Jackson, MBA Candidate C17

I tuned in to listen to the State of the Union Address from President Obama, not out of naive belief that a politician will follow through on his word, but to gain a sense of direction in the political rhetoric. As I listened, I paused often to ponder points of interest throughout the speech. Whether you like him or not, Obama and his speech writers are a gifted team. I definitely found myself getting wrapped up in it — shouting at the screen as if it were the 49’ers in the Super Bowl. Things escalated quickly when he started talking about energy:

“One of the reasons why is natural gas. If extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change. (Applause.) “

“If extracted safely”? Flag on the play!

Let us backtrack for a quick minute and review what natural gas is. Natural gas is methane; a fossil fuel. Black carbon, carbon dioxide and methane are the main human-made contributors to greenhouse gases. Natural gas is extracted by a process called fracking, which involves injecting a cocktail of toxic chemicals and sand deep into the earth, potentially polluting the ground water. Once fractures take place to access the gas, the liquid chemicals are extracted and the flow back period begins — which can continue for several days. The flow back period at best releases hundreds of cubic feet of methane into the environment.

“…it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change.”

Come on! Are the ref’s paying attention here?

The natural gas (shale) lifecycle, including extraction, production, storage and distribution not only emits non-burned methane, but also black carbon as a byproduct of processing. Methane is 105 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period — the worst of all greenhouse gases. Releasing black carbon and methane into the environment is not reducing carbon pollution that increases climate change, it is accelerating it. Proponents of natural gas will tell you that the industry is highly regulated, but studies are showing that 3% to 9% of shale gas never gets burned (it gets released into the environment).

Current state hydrofracturing regulations in conjunction with fracking techniques do not provide a bridge fuel to reduce climate change. Increasing natural gas production will accelerate climate change and is projected to push us over the “tipping point” by 2045.

“Businesses plan to invest almost a hundred billion dollars in new factories that use natural gas. I’ll cut red tape to help states get those factories built and put folks to work, and this Congress can help by putting people to work building fueling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas. (Applause.)”

If we want to win the game of climate change, we have to petition politicians to change state policies and encourage businesses to invest in renewable energy, while divesting from fossil fuels. A recent study analyzed a plan to convert New York State’s all-purpose (for electricity, transportation, heating/cooling and industry) energy infrastructure to one derived entirely from wind, water and sunlight generating — electricity and electrolytic hydrogen. It shows that the state of New York can meet their energy needs within 30 years using technology that exists today. Every state can do this with the support of its people.

“Meanwhile, my administration will keep working with the industry to sustain production and jobs growth while strengthening protection of our air, our water, our communities. And while we’re at it, I’ll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations. (Applause.)”

Applause.

Sources

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421513001213

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/326/5953/716

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-109publ58/pdf/PLAW-109publ58.pdf

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/full-text-of-obamas-2014-state-of-the-union-address/2014/01/28/e0c93358-887f-11e3-a5bd-844629433ba3_story.html

http://www.slb.com/~/media/Files/resources/oilfield_review/ors03/aut03/p62_76.ashx

http://www.eeb.cornell.edu/howarth/publications/HowarthetalJan202012_GHGSuppMaterial.pdf

http://www.eeb.cornell.edu/howarth/publications/Howarthetal2012_Final.pdf

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/04/02/1202407109.abstract

via Safe Fracking: The biggest “if” of all time.