Follow me on Twitter: @JohnHQuigley

Thursday, November 20, 2014

UN: world (as we know it) needs net zero GHG emissions by 2100 at latest

A new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) finds that in order to limit global temperature rise to 2 degree Centigrade and head off the worst impacts of climate disruption, global carbon neutrality must be achieved by mid-to-late century.

Missing that mark would increase the risk of severe, pervasive, and in some cases irreversible climate change impacts, and drastically increase the costs of any possibility of still meeting the 2 degree goal.

Emissions Gap Report 2014 builds on the findings of the IPCC synthesis report issued earlier this month. It finds that greenhouse gas emissions must peak within the next ten years and fall by half by mid-century.  In the second half of the century, the world must achieve carbon neutrality between 2055 and 2070, followed by net zero of all greenhouse gas emissions between 2080 and 2100.

There's little new in this latest report. The challenge is immense.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Setting and achieving fracking chemical disclosure goals

Hot on the heels of yesterday's blog about Halliburton's acquisition of Baker Hughes and the uncertain future of the latter's exemplary full disclosure policy on fracking chemicals, a new article published in the Natural Resources Journal offers valuable guidance to officials charged with designing a disclosure regime.

Goal-Oriented Disclosure Design for Shale Oil and Gas Development was written by Kate Konschnik, Policy Director of Harvard Law School's Environmental Law Program. Kate is an authority on the subject of chemical disclosure and last year published a seminal study of the serious shortcomings of FracFocus as a regulatory compliance tool.

The article suggests that ineffective disclosure requirements "risk undermining public confidence in the disclosure process and waste an important opportunity to put these disclosures to work." Officials designing disclosure requirements should clearly define their "goals for disclosure, the information end users need to target in pursuit of each goal, and the feedback loops those end users can trigger." 


The article helpfully walks through the design process for a disclosure regime that "fully informs" first responders and medical professionals.

A Harvard news release sums up the suggested approach:

By thinking through when target audiences need information, how they use information, and where they get their information, disclosure law designers can draft disclosure laws that will hit their mark.
That mark has so far been badly missed by state and federal regulators. The article is a must-read. 


Monday, November 17, 2014

Making a big deal an even bigger one

Earlier this year, Baker Hughes, a major provider of services for the oil and gas industry,  announced plans to begin disclosing all the chemicals it uses in fracking fluid, without exceptions for trade secrets. The exemplary policy went into effect on October 1st.

Now, another major service company - Halliburton - has purchased Baker Hughes.

At $34.6 billion, this is a big deal.  It would be an even bigger one - for the industry's social license to operate and for public confidence - if Halliburton adopted the Baker Hughes chemical disclosure policy.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Toothpaste and ice cream

A study of one component of fracking fluid - surfactants - has found chemicals used in ice cream, laxatives and toothpaste, according to new research from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Analysis of Hydraulic Fracturing Flowback and Produced Waters Using Accurate Mass: Identification of Ethoxylated Surfactants was published in the journal Analytical Chemistry. It led to this misleading headline and simplistic story in The Washington Post:

Study: Fracking chemicals found in toothpaste and ice cream
Why misleading and simplistic? First, the article says that "Though the fluid is mostly water and sand..." That's true - on its face. But a typical frack job, in Pennsylvania at least, uses four to six million gallons of water - and that number is growing. And if you do the math, each frack job uses on the order of 25,000 to 120,000 gallons of chemicals. So, while the fluid is "mostly water," I'm not convinced that the use of tens of thousands of gallons of chemicals - even diluted, and some that are "no more toxic than common household items" - is inconsequential.

Much more importantly, surfactants are only one component of the fracking cocktail. The nature of the other chemicals are of serious concern. See, for example, this and this.


The Post story, in my opinion, did not perform a pubic service.