Why Natural Gas is NO Cure for Climate Change

Promoted by Rosi. Listen live to Senate fracking discussion.

Update: I added a new NASA link on the science of methane:  

Here are the things I want The NJ Senate Environment Committee to think about before they are asked to vote on the fracking ban today.

NASA recently came out with a study that methane – which is released from natural gas well drilling, is 25 times more potent a greenhouse gas – than CO2 in affecting Climate Change. And yet every day I hear politicians who claim to be for solving the Climate Change problem bring up Natural Gas as a solution.  I know NASA can be very technical and difficult to understand, but our elected officials need to understand this.  ASAP.  I am tired of shouting at my TV at elected officials with the power to make very bad decisions who spout ill-informed glowing assessments of how natural gas will save us.

Levels of methane had been stable for years until 2007 – when the shale gas boom started.  Here is another article from  NASA in 2004 about methane BEFORE the huge increase that goes into a lot of detail about the science: http://www.giss.nasa.gov/resea…

Let me repeat and emphasize: Methane is not better than CO2 for Climate Change – it is worse. Natural Gas should not be part of any Climate Change solution for the simple reason that it is part of the problem.  For years the methane levels stayed the same – but since the fracking boom it has jumped suddenly.  Which may be part of the reason we are seeing  surprising climate shifts so much earlier than expected.

For years scientists were concerned about methane – mainly the vast stores of it under the frozen arctic that would be released by a warming ocean. But we need to address the component now being released by wanton gas drilling.

Here is another article about methane and its impact on climate from the Journal Nature.

There is enough natural methane to worry about but we are currently a nation on a methane high right now and the pipelines across NJ are just feeding that habit. Allowing drillers to spread their waste across NJ by renaming it Brine for salting roads (sounds like a Frank Luntz job) to fool folks who live along the coast into thinking  of it as harmless sea foam is another disturbing angle to this story.

About that “brine”…..

I am a Licensed Civil Engineer in NJ  – a Water Resources specialist to be exact. I have been working for years to prevent even parking lot runoff from going into the ground untreated. There is a good reason for that.  Once it goes into the ground it is nearly impossible to clean again.  The fracking industry is exempt from the the Clean Water Act and can inject toxic water into the earth.  They claim they have to treat it when it comes back up but that is too late, they should be using something that complies with the Clean Water Act to begin with.  

So basically the insanity of the fracking argument is this: They can take take pure potable water, add toxic chemicals to it, release it into the environment by accidentallly spilling it and injecting into the earth and when they are done using it and only SOME of it comes back up, they then have to treat that portion according to the Clean Water Act. After they have already unleashed it on the world. How considerate of them.

As a very concerned member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, I wrote to ASCE on their Facebook page (after which they took down their Facebook page and contacted me privately by email) and part of the written response (they also represent the frackers, unfortunately) was this

“It is true that water for drilling and hydraulic fracturing can come from surface water bodies such as rivers and lakes.  It also may be taken from groundwater, private water sources, municipal water and re-used produced water.   For example, one energy-production company active in the Marcellus formation buys most water for drilling operations from local municipal water suppliers, according to the company’s Web site.

The fracturing fluid, or “flowback,” is recovered at the surface.  The volume of water in the flowback ranges from about 30 percent to 70 percent, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.  This flowback is then either disposed of in deep wells regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act or sent to a publicly owned treatment works for treatment and discharge to surface waters pursuant to a permit issued under section 402 of the Clean Water Act.

… Typically, it takes three to four million gallons of water to stimulate a shale well through fracturing…”

Needless to say , I was still appalled about fracking and what the ASCE had to tell me was not reassuring. At all. The fact that when I went to renew my membership, part of my dues automatically went to the group that touts fracking, was infuriating to say the least.  When I called, they claimed it was a “glitch”.

Knowing that illegal dumping has been occurring for years in many industries is also a concern. PA has already indicted fracking waste dumpers.

Surface water in the form of rivers and streams belongs to the public, and this water is being stolen to frack with.  Completely ignoring the theft of millions of gallons of water from areas of the country that use these rivers and streams for recreation and sustenance is a huge problem.  It is like blowing up a gold mine to get at aluminum.  Using the most precious natural resource that humans cannot live without to get to a resource that is affecting global warming based on NASA’s own statement that methane gas is contributing to the greenhouse effect, is the very definition of madness.

By focusing only on groundwater, it is disingenuous at best to neglect the impact of stealing millions of gallons of freshwater and destroying the ecosystem to transport that water to a well.  

Also, with Climate Change the country is experiencing record drought. People are not allowed to water their lawns in these times, Is it rational or sane to use millions of gallons of water to frack with?  At a time of drought – caused by the very stuff you are  trying to get at?    

Don’t even get me started about the earthquakes. Well, while I’m at it, here goes:

The USGS attributes the rise in the number of earthquakes in the US directly to gas and oil exploration.  As far back as 1987, scientists knew that earthquakes accompany fracking. In Texas it is happening. Scientists knew twenty years ago.  And yet we are allowing fracking near our major east coast cities.  Are we waiting for another major event that will make the disaster movies of the 70’s seem like Gilligan’s Island?  

Lets consider the integrity of the wells. Remember what caused the Deepwater Horizon failure?  I’ll tell you – since I just got the ASCE’s report on what happened.  They used wastewater they did not want to treat to plug the well instead of what they should have used. This industry cuts corners – every darn day.  Because the waste water clogged the pipes used in the test, the structural integrity test failed to produce a proper result.  The concrete was not sound and the well blew.

Wells fail all the time, it is inevitable. No well is 100% fool proof. It is an engineering impossibility.

Now – the toxicity. According to the Sierra Club

“A recent study found that 25% of the chemicals used in fracking cause cancer. Another study found the amount of benzene, a cancer causing compound, from a single fracked well could contaminate more than 100 billion gallons of water.”

This does not even address the release of radiation.  Everyone knows what radon is and that they should avoid it.  And that it comes from the ground.  Fracking fluid goes in toxic – and comes out more so. Now radiation is added to the waste.  And they are calling it “brine” and spreading it on your roads in winter.  Lovely.   From whence it goes into rivers and streams that feed our reservoirs.  http://www.post-gazette.com/st…

I know Obama needed that PA vote to get re-elected, but he needs to stop talking about natural gas as a clean energy solution.  

Please, any of my friends out there with a politician’s ear – please share this information with them. The lobbyists ain’t gonna tell them what I just told you.  

I have been professionally worrying about clean drinking water for years. The fact that the oil and gas industry can in one fell swoop destroy all of the progress we have made in NJ in water resources is the height of irresponsible stewardship by our government. Our elected officials should be striving to keep all NJ residents safe from harm and provided with clean pure drinking water – at all times  – but especially in times of drought.  

Preventing another Hurricane Sandy in the process would be a huge bonus.

Comments (19)

  1. carolh (Post author)
  2. William Weber (WjcW)

    I will regret this.

    But if you google atmospheric methane levels and read the first 10 articles, you will find they all reference a spike in atmospheric methane in 2007. But not one of them mentions anything about ‘fracking’ being the cause. All of them mention a Siberian tundra melt, ice cap melt…and one from MIT even points out the spike was detected uniformly about the globe, which pretty much discounts North American fracking as the cause of the additional atmospheric methane.


  3. carolh (Post author)

    http://ngm.nationalgeographic….  The National Geographic article on Methane from December that puts the story in perspective.

  4. William Weber (WjcW)

    The (1) link I provide is, in fact, to the same “study” that NASA did IN CONJUNCTION with MIT that YOU reference. Did you even read your own link? (see the MIT address of the author on top) It says…

    One surprising feature of this recent growth is that it occurred almost simultaneously at all measurement locations across the globe. However, the majority of methane emissions are in the Northern Hemisphere, and it takes more than one year for gases to be mixed between the hemispheres. Theoretical analysis of the measurements shows that if an increase in emissions is solely responsible, these emissions must have risen by a similar amount in both hemispheres at the same time.

    Again, this pretty much rules out North American ‘fracking’ as the cause of the recent increase. I’m not saying it doesn’t contribute, just that your correlation of the ‘fracking boom’ and the increase in atomospheric methane is not accurate, per NASA, per MIT, not me, all I have is an engineering degree like you and know how to do is read.

    But go ahead, I guess myself, NASA, MIT, GOOGLE search, we’re all in cohoots with the evil gas companies.

    I’m not saying fracking is safe, or desirable. I’m saying it doesn’t appreciably contribute to atmospheric methane (PER NASA). I’m saying natural gas is preferable to coal. And wind/solar can’t be the total solution because there aren’t batteries big enough when night arrives or it isn’t windy.

    No more from me. I promise.  

  5. carolh (Post author)

    and owe William an apology for being so heavy handed in my response. But here is the thing.  We need to find OTHER sources of energy that are NOT fossil fuels. I don’t think we should be drilling for Natural gas at all. We need to focus on solar and wind and uses that don’t use up potable water, or release ANY type of greenhouse gas.  Right now there are folks trying to frack without water, but our problem is we should get away from burning anything.  

  6. carolh (Post author)

    parts of the turnpike that we hold our breath and hurry past….

  7. William Weber (WjcW)

    pointing this out is that natural gas is exponentially better than coal. Although still a fossil fuel, if you are concerned about damaging the enviroment and pollutants, I would think most would support the increased production of clean natural gas, rather than rely on a significant production of our electricity needs from coal.

  8. carolh (Post author)

    Stop misinforming people, William and I will stop calling you out for it.  According to the links I gave you FROM NASA, gas drilling IS contributing to the methane in the atmosphere and METHANE is more potent a GREENHOUSE gas than Co2.  You don’t even mention all my other links that show that natural gas production is NOT clean or safe.  Wind Power and Solar should be our focus, NOT gas.  It is folks like you who repeat the “well it beats coal” argument who continue to misinform folks now. The gas industry pays for Google placement. I get MY information from the USGS and NASA who know a LOT more about the science of this than a guy named William who uses the Google and believes the first garbage he sees there.

  9. carolh (Post author)

    misinterpreting the REAL NASA data. Your “study” was done in partnership with the TEPCO chair at MIT. (In case that sounds familiar, TEPCO is the energy company who screwed up Fukushima.  Surprise surprise, the energy industry inserting themselves in university research – wow that never happens.) And the other folks involved with your bad interpretation of the NASA data is CSIRO – GAS industry folks. http://www.csiro.au/en/Outcome…  How special.  Better luck next time, William.

  10. carolh (Post author)
  11. carolh (Post author)

    You are parroting the garbage the gas industry sold the Sierra Club – who is now regretting their niavete.

  12. Got Kids

    carol, you have every right to express your opinions and I enjoy reading them. But to accuse WW of being paid to express his is really over the top. It is becoming a bore to visit this site to read the posters here congratulating themselves on their opinion and when an opposing opinion is expressed the boom is lowered. I don’t remember this always being the case.

  13. Got Kids

    “Better luck next time, William” really?

    Maybe WW didn’t look behind the study, maybe you could have educated us all..but now I’m sure he’s as turned off to the subject as I am.

    And oh, that NJ Fracking Ban including waste processing lasted all of three (3) months. Did I get that right?

    OK, now I’m getting snarky.  

  14. carolh (Post author)

    that does not sound like a gas commercial? That was my point.   They may not be paying you, but do you have ANYTHING to say about all of my other points?

    They used the data collected by NASA, but the researchers who say fracking has nothing to do with climate change are energy industry connected. NASA says plainly that methane is released from gas drilling and that it is 25 times more potent a greenhouse gas.  National Geographic says the very same thing. It is accepted scientific fact.

    We experienced Sandy already. We do not have the luxury of time – using fossil fuels for the next 50 years which is the life of a fracked well. You may be comfortable using natural gas, but I saw the damage from Sandy up close and personal and I am not willing to push fossil fuels as any “answer” to Climate Change. We do not have the luxury of a slow switch away from fossil fuels.

  15. carolh (Post author)

    But your argument is the one that keeps folks mistakenly believing that gas is somehow not a fossil fuel.  Being a scientist I know that there is data and there is the interpretation of that data. The data shows that methane increased – jumped really from being stable in 2004 to quickly jumping. The folks interpreting that data happen to be compromised by their connections to the gas industry.  Just because more may be coming from the arctic does not mean that gas drilling magically stopped being a source of the greenhouse gas methane.  

  16. carolh (Post author)

    and the only argument made is something that sounds like a gas commercial selecting only one point and using industry sponsored opinion to make it.  A little critical thinking is all I am asking for.  Methane is released from fracked wells.  Period.  It is true.  Methane is 25 times more potent than C02 as a greenhouse gas.  Also True.  Burning methane or oil or coal warms the atmosphere. TRUE.  Fracking wells is not getting us away from fossil fuels.  TRUE. When you consider that it uses up water while we are experiencing record drought. Also True.  The idea that gas will help us beat Climate Change is a false choice.  Setting this argument up as a gas vs coal argument is ignoring all the other facts in this case and buying in to the gas commercial hype.  It’s downright depressing.

  17. Got Kids

    No seriously. If I were Governor for a Day I’d put you in charge of showing us how this can be done properly. Regardless of the cost.

    We here in the Northeast have no appreciation for the relief natural gas has provided to millions in the mid-west who previously relied on propane for heat. And I don’t think they’d mind paying a little more for the drilling to be done properly.

    Point being…we can beat this drum until we are blue (no pun intended) in the face OR we can lead the charge to do it responsibly and safely.

  18. Rosi Efthim

    Here’s a hint. When you find yourself hitting the caps lock, you’re not communicating effectively. (And see Rule #5).

    I already had to edit out the caps (connotes shouting) in your diary, but you – anyone – has to monitor their own tone in comments. I’m sorry; I don’t enjoy having to be the scold around here. But it is possible to be persuading without treating other posters like they’re idiots.

    It’s useful for everybody to remember that. Not just you.  

  19. carolh (Post author)

    The only argument made is the very same one that keeps the public misinformed and gives them the impression that natural gas is somehow a renewable source of energy that does not pollute the water and is not a greenhouse gas. That is what annoyed the heck out of me.    


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