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Friday, October 17, 2014

Study: fracking won't save the climate

A new peer-reviewed study from researchers in several nations, published in the journal Nature, finds that abundant global natural gas supplies will reduce coal use, but also crowd out nuclear and renewable energy as well, providing little if any climate benefit overall through 2050.

Limited impact on decadal-scale climate change from increased use of natural gas used separate computer models of the effects of abundant global supplies, and finds that: 
Future CO2 emissions are similar in magnitude with and without abundant gas, as the two emission trajectories continue to rise over time at similar rates. 
This really isn’t a surprise, as readers of this blog know. See, for example, here, here, and here.

The critical piece of the study was that its models were run assuming current greenhouse-gas reduction policies.  Those policies are totally inadequate to prevent climate catastropheLeveraging the attributes of natgas-fired electricity to intentionally build a short bridge to a renewable future is where the world must go.  That will not happen on its own. In the end, it’s all about policy, and that includes requiring CCS for all fossil fueled electricity.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Study: fracking caused 100's of small earthquakes in Ohio

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that a new study has found that hydraulic fracturing - not waste injection - triggered hundreds of small, unnoticeable earthquakes in eastern Ohio late last year:
The report, which appears in the November issue of the journal Seismological Research Letters, identified nearly 400 tremors on a previously unmapped fault in Harrison County between Oct. 1 and Dec. 13, 2013.
That included 10 quakes of magnitudes of 1.7 to 2.2. That’s intense enough to have temporarily halted activity under Ohio’s new drilling permit rules had they been in place at the time, but is still considered minor.
The quakes fell along a fault lying directly under three hydraulic fracturing operations and tended to coincide with nearby activity, researchers found. About 190 quakes were detected in a single three-day period last October, beginning within hours of the start of fracking. None of the quakes was reported felt by people.
These quakes are in addition to five tremors in March, 2014 near Youngstown that state geologists concluded were caused by fracking activity near a previously unknown fault.  That incident spawned new state regulations aimed at limiting the possibility of seismic events related to unconventional oil and gas development.

The newest study supports the wisdom of Ohio's adoption of those regs - and the need for similar measures in other states.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

NETL to launch fracking lab; are there other pathways to change?

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the National Energy Technology Laboratory will launch a working shale oil and gas laboratory, which will be used to test technologies that could get more oil and gas out of each well and simultaneously lessen the environmental impact of the industry.

Among NETL's interests is the "holy grail" of waterless fracking using liquified natural gas. As the story notes:

Companies have successfully fracked with carbon dioxide, nitrogen and propane. But those are expensive and often impractical.
I've argued - repeatedly - that full-cost accounting of all of the risks and costs associated with the use of water and chemicals in fracking may make the business case for the so-called "futuristic" technologies and get them deployed a lot sooner than under the current business-as-usual paradigm. And that the same accounting should drive the development of regulations that encourage the growth of these technologies.

Investing in technological development is an important and necessary function of government. But a new paradigm is needed to drive technology in the direction of sustainability.  How much more quickly could we reach NETL's goals if business decisionmaking and regulatory development were fully aligned with them?

Monday, October 13, 2014


The Pittsburgh City Paper has discovered an intelligence-sharing network between state law enforcement and a private security company employed by Marcellus shale drillers.  More here.

The Paper's story notes that about four years ago, it came to light that the Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security was monitoring citizen-activists without the knowledge of then-Governor Ed Rendell.  I was serving as Secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources at the time.  I remember the ensuing urgent phone call with the Governor's office for members of his cabinet.  Governor Rendell was furious about the abuse, and immediately put a halt to it.

As far as I know, the current governor of Pennsylvania has not taken any action in response to this latest revelation. 

Citizen participation is the lifeblood of our democracy.  That includes the right to vote - and to dissent - without intimidation or monitoring. Pennsylvania is failing on both counts. Utterly.