Thursday 29th of October 2020

fracking america ....

fracking america ....

The explosion of hydraulic fracturing in the last several years, according to a new report, is creating a previously 'unimaginable' situation in which hundreds of billions of gallons of the nation's fresh water supply are being annually transformed into unusable - sometimes radioactive - cancer-causing wastewater.

According to the report, Fracking by the Numbers, produced by Environment America, the scale and severity of fracking’s myriad impacts betray all claims that natural gas is a "cleaner" or somehow less damaging alternative to other fossil fuels.

The report explores various ways in which gas fracking negatively impacts both human health and the environment, including the contamination of drinking water, overuse of scarce water sources, the effect of air pollution on public health, its connection to global warming, and the overall cost imposed on communities where fracking operations are located.

“The bottom line is this: The numbers on fracking add up to an environmental nightmare,” said John Rumpler, the report's lead author and senior attorney for Environment America. “For our environment and for public health, we need to put a stop to fracking.”

In fact, the report concludes that in state's where the practice is now occurring, immediate moratoriums should be enacted and in states where the practice has yet to be approved, bans should be legislated to prevent this kind of drilling from ever occurring.

Though the report acknowledges its too early to know the full the extent of the damage caused by the controversial drilling practice, it found that even a look at the "limited data" available - taken mostly from industry reports and government figures between 2005 and 2012 - paints "an increasingly clear picture of the damage that fracking has done to our environment and health."

So what are the numbers?

The report measured key indicators of fracking threats across the country, and found: 

• 280 billion gallons of toxic wastewater generated in 2012,

• 450,000 tons of air pollution produced in one year,

• 250 billion gallons of fresh water used since 2005,

• 360,000 acres of land degraded since 2005,

• 100 million metric tons of global warming pollution since 2005.

“The numbers don't lie," said Rumbpler. "Fracking has taken a dirty and destructive toll on our environment. If this dirty drilling continues unchecked, these numbers will only get worse."

The Environment America report comes on the heels of a study released by researchers at Duke University earlier this week that found a "surprising magnitude of radioactivity" in the local water near a fracking operation in Pennsylvania.

And Climate Progress adds:

The report also pointed out the weaknesses of current wastewater disposal practices - wastewater is often stored in deep wells, but over time these wells can fail, leading to the potential for ground and surface water contamination. In New Mexico alone, chemicals from oil and gas pits have contaminated water sources at least 421 times, according to the report.

Those toxic chemicals are exempt from federal disclosure laws, so it’s up to each state to decide if and how the oil and gas companies should disclose the chemicals they use in their operations - which is why in many states, citizens don’t know what goes into the brew that fracking operators use to extract oil and natural gas. Luckily, some states are beginning to address this - California recently passed a law ordering fracking companies to make their chemicals public, an order similar to laws in about seven other states.

The report also noted the vast quantities of water needed for fracking - from 2 million to 9 million gallons on average to frack one well. Since 2005, according to the report, fracking operations have used 250 billion gallons of freshwater. This is putting a strain on places like one South Texas county, where fracking was nearly one quarter of total water use in 2011 - and dry conditions could push that amount closer to one-third.

In addition to the impact on surface and ground water supplies, fracking is a well-known contributor to global warming and numerous studies have shown that the methane emissions created by the extraction and transportation of natural gas far outweighs any benefit generated by its ability to burn "cleaner" than oil or coal.

Download or read the complete report here (pdf).

Shut It All Down: Report Calls For A Ban On Fracking

 

fracking us .....

The interests of the Australian people are not being well served by the poor quality of the public debate around the merits of the coal seam gas fracking industry or our long-term energy needs & security.

Few would realise that Australia is the only natural gas exporting country in the world that does operate within a regulatory framework, requiring producers to ensure an affordable supply of gas is provided to the domestic market.

At the same time, Australians are being conned into believing that our natural gas supplies are running out when, in fact, what is driving shortages & significant local price increases is the determination of the international energy companies who control the industry to prioritise lucrative export markets ahead of domestic markets.

This disadvantage to Australians, connived by our useless political class, then conveniently plays handmaiden for arguments in support of allowing unfettered development of the coal seam gas industry: our ticket gets punched yet again by the very same multinationals, as they go about despoiling our environment & our future clean water security, not to forget that our future energy security needs continue to be ignored.

For those relaxed about fracking across the road, I suggest a quick read of the latest report published by Environment America, called ‘Fracking by the Numbers’, which provides a stunning expose on the devastating impact this criminal enterprise has visited on the US & the planet in recent times. Headline numbers include 280 billion gallons of toxic wastewater generated in 2012; 450,000 tons of air pollution produced in one year; 250 billion gallons of fresh water used since 2005 &       360,000 acres of land degraded since 2005.

Do Australians really think that paying Peter Reith $60,000 will result in a report & recommendations that will in any way address these critical strategic issues?

I suspect that more likely we will be presented with yet another rubber stamp, fashioned to serve the usual multinational interests: certainly not Australia’s.

fracking 101 ....

scammed ....

from new matilda ….

The gas industry says greenies and farmers are to blame for price rises. Exports driven by coal seam gas expansion are the real cause, writes Justin Field.

New South Wales Greens mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham has recently called for an East Coast domestic gas reservation policy. His plan would ensure the needs of domestic and industrial gas users are met before gas is allowed to be exported via plants currently being built in Queensland.

It is also the only policy response that will counter gas price rises that have been locked in by the reckless approval of damaging coal seam gas developments across Queensland.

Gas reservation is a sensible approach for the Greens and it should become part of the formal policy platform of the party. The proposal would reserve a proportion of conventional gas resources - not coal seam gas or shale gas - for domestic and industrial gas users.

This reserved gas would not be open to purchasing competition from export buyers and would guarantee Australian gas for Australian users at a price that would allow industrial gas users in manufacturing to remain viable. It would also protect domestic consumers from the price rises that will be caused by the opening up of the gas export market in Queensland.

Importantly, this policy would not reserve gas for electricity generation and therefore not reduce the incentives to move to renewable electricity.

The proposal for reservation provides a direct challenge to the current industry and federal government scare campaign of a gas “crisis” and escalating prices for NSW consumers.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s Economics Editor Ross Gittins affirmed this week what other economists have been saying all along about the industry’s scare campaign:

“The gas industry is working a scam on the people of NSW… It's trying to frighten us into agreeing to remove restrictions on the exploitation of coal seam gas deposits. Failing that, the various parties want to be able to lay the blame for an inevitable jump in the price of natural gas on the greenies and farmers.”

The fact, as highlighted by Gittins and The Australia Institute’s Matt Grudnoff, is that the reckless expansion of the coal seam gas industry has made gas exports viable on the East Coast. It is this connection with export markets that is pushing up the price of all gas in the Eastern states.

Origin Energy’s purchase this month of $3 billion of Bass Straight gas from ExxonMobil and BHP was reported to be at prices that reflect coming export parity rates. Had the export plants not have been coming online, this conventional gas would have been available for local purchase at much lower rates.

Supporting a gas reservation policy does not mean the Greens support the development of further gas, particularly unconventional gas resources like coal seam gas and shale gas. These developments cannot be supported given the unacceptable risks they present to farmland, water supplies and sensitive environmental areas.

It is also increasingly clear that the climate impacts from fugitive emissions from the unconventional gas production process are higher than estimated by industry and may produce lifecycle emissions as high or even higher than coal.

Eighty per cent of known fossil fuels must stay in the ground if we are to avoid dangerous climate change. This presents even more reason to continue to reject all unconventional gas development.

While the Buckingham proposal doesn’t include unconventional gas because it is inherently unsafe, if government continues to pursue it despite the clear environmental and climate risks, it too should be captured by a reservation policy. 

It would be unfair to reserve only conventional sources of gas, which can be produced more cheaply, while unconventional supplies are allowed unrestrained access to higher-paying export markets. A reservation policy affecting unconventional gas will likely constrain some higher cost projects, which explains the hysterical industry opposition to a reservation policy.

The Greens have the right long-term plan for Australia’s energy future. For the climate’s sake we need a rapid transition to 100 per cent renewable energy. A reservation policy will ensure Australian gas is available for Australian use in the meantime. 

While the major parties continue to fiddle with climate policy and do the bidding of big fossil fuel companies by supporting the unsustainable unconventional gas industry, the Greens have to be able to engage in the energy debate as it affects the day to day lives of domestic energy users and businesses. A domestic gas reservation policy is a common sense approach and will ensure no blame can be laid at the feet of “greenies” who have been putting forward constructive energy solutions from the start.

Gas Exports Hurt The Climate & Consumer

exposed ....

An excellent piece by Justin Field, although I think some points could have been made more strongly.

The proposal by the Greens Jeremy Buckingham for the creation of an "east coast gas reservation policy" fails to recognise the more important national interest issue, which is that Australia is the only natural gas exporting country in the world that does not operate within a regulatory framework requiring producers to not only ensure an adequate supply of gas is available locally, but that it is available on an 'affordable' basis. 

Justin is right to suggest that Australians are being conned  into believing that our natural gas supplies are running out when, in fact, what is driving shortages & significant local price increases is the determination of the international energy companies who control the Industry in Australia to prioritise lucrative export markets ahead of domestic markets & customers.

This disadvantage to Australians, connived by our useless political class, then conveniently plays handmaiden to arguments in support of allowing unfettered development of the coal seam gas industry: our tickets get punched yet again by the very same multinationals, as they go about despoiling our environment & our future clean water security, not to forget that our future energy security needs continue to be ignored. 

I also think that Justin could have better highlighted some of the disastrous outcomes that we can expect to experience if we allow the coals seam gas industry to run amok as it has in the US.

A quick read of the latest report by Environment America called Fracking by the Numbers provides a stunning expose on the devastating impact this criminal - yes, criminal - enterprise has visited on the US & the planet in recent times. Headline numbers include - 280 billion gallons of toxic wastewater generated in 2012; 450,000 tons of air pollution produced in one year; 250 billion gallons of fresh water used since 2005 & 360,000 acres of land degraded since 2005.

The interests of the Australian people are not being well served by the poor quality of the public debate around the merits of the coal seam gas fracking industry or our long-term energy needs & security.

 

fracked ....

The words "coal seam gas" remain highly controversial and unpopular, which is why the industry wants to rebrand itself as "natural gas" as a way to avoid debate, writes Matt Grudnoff.

Just as those in the world of Harry Potter refused to utter Lord Voldemort's name for fear of their lives, the gas industry appears equally frightened of using the words 'coal seam gas' for fear it might hurt its profits.

But just as calling Voldemort 'He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named' didn't make him disappear, calling coal seam gas (CSG) something else doesn't make it any less of a concern for the community.

The gas industry has been hit by an increasing number of restrictions on its CSG projects at the same time that both sides of politics have been talking about reducing green tape for resource projects. Exclusion zones in NSW and new water triggers from the federal government show the level of unease that governments and the general public have about CSG.

According to the Liberal-National Party, the industry has failed to gain a social licence, with NSW Resources Minister Chris Hartcher chiding the industry at its national conference, saying, "Industry did not engage in the debate; industry stood back and allowed the debate to happen."

But how did the industry get to the point where the conservative side of politics is implementing two kilometre exclusion zones around homes?

Avoiding the issue seems to be the industry's plan, with new survey data from The Australia Institute showing that 36 per cent of Australians have not heard of coal seam gas. The industry tries not to mention CSG by name and in all kinds of ways it has avoided engaging with people's concerns.

It has refused to do any work to look at how much natural gas is leaking out of the ground because the industry is using the controversial method of extracting CSG known as fracking. This is a process that splits the rocks underground - where the natural gas is trapped - in order to force it out. With a complete lack of information from the industry, the government has been forced to commission the CSIRO to conduct research in this area.

The industry in its recent multi-million dollar advertising campaign has not made any attempt to allay the general public's concerns about the environmental effects of CSG extraction. In The Australia Institute survey, the top concerns people had about CSG were damage to the local environment, negative impacts on farming land, damage to people's health, and water contamination.

Instead, the advertising campaign focused on possible economic benefits of expanding the natural gas industry, including the amazing claim that it was responsible for 100,000 jobs last year. According to ABS, the industry employs about 20,000 people in total.

Apart from extraordinary claims of economic benefits, the most interesting thing about the advertising campaign is what it hasn't talked about. Nowhere does it mention CSG, despite the purpose of the campaign being to remove restrictions on CSG extraction. The advertising instead talks about natural gas, a term that is far less controversial.

The industry clearly understands how the general public views CSG because just after the federal election, it gleefully reported that it had conducted exit polls in a small number of electorates where it asked voters if natural gas was an issue for them. No one said it was. This fits in with the industry's desire to keep a low profile, but what is really interesting is that they asked about 'natural gas', not CSG. The response may well have been very different if they had used the words coal seam gas.

These words are so toxic that the NSW government has proposed changing them. Rather than referring to 'coal seam gas' or 'CSG', it would instead be called 'natural gas from coal seams'. Natural gas from coal seams might be technically correct, but we are left to wonder why the term needed expanding.

But the real question is why the industry is avoiding the debate. Could it be avoiding discussing environmental concerns because it fears that the public might be correct? Is its strategy not to engage a delaying tactic in the hope that CSG projects can be up and running before the full extent of the damage is known?

Whatever the reason, the restrictions on CSG do not look like going away anytime soon. Vote compass asked if people thought restrictions on CSG should be reduced and 60 per cent of respondents from New South Wales said no. With the industry afraid to even talk about CSG, it seems intent on exaggerating the economic benefits, running a baseless gas shortage scare campaign, and hoping that the 36 per cent of Australians who have not heard of CSG don't find out about it anytime soon.

Matt Grudnoff is a senior economist at The Australia Institute. View his full profile here.

CSG Industry Wants To Hide From Its Toxic Name