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Dollarocracy: U.S. Congressmen Refuse to Address Keystone XL Southern Half Spill Concerns

2:00 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog  

What’s the U.S. congressional response to the safety issues with the 485-mile southern half of TransCanada‘s Keystone XL pipeline raised by Public Citizen‘s Texas office? Mostly what Simon & Garfunkel called “The Sound of Silence” in their famous song.

DeSmogBlog contacted more than three dozen members of the U.S. Congress representing both political parties to get their take on Public Citizen’s alarming findings in its November investigation (including dents, metal that had to be patched up and pipeline segments labeled “junk”), but got little in the way of substantive responses.

Set to open for business on January 22approved via an Executive Order by President Barack Obama in March 2012 and rebranded the “Gulf Coast Pipeline Project” by TransCanada, the southern half of the pipeline has garnered far less media coverage than its U.S.-Canada border-crossing brother to the north, Keystone XL‘s northern half.

Over two dozen members of the U.S. House of Representatives wrote a letter to President Obama on December 12 expressing concern over the conflicts-of-interest in the U.S. State Department’s environmental review process for the northern half of the line.

But none of them would comment on concerns with the southern half of the line raised in the Public Citizen report after multiple queries via e-mail from DeSmogBlog.

Two to Tango

Only two out the dozens contacted offered somewhat substantive comments.

And one of them, U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) (Left), did not respond to the meat and bones of the question at hand. He did offer some oft-used industry talking points, though.

“The Keystone pipeline will create jobs and help reduce dependence on oil supplies from unfriendly nations,” Hall told DeSmogBlog. ”The State of Texas has a proven track record of successful oversight of the oil and gas industry, including pipelines, and I am confident that they will be diligent in ensuring the pipeline’s safety.”

Hall — who took $59,500 from the oil and gas industry before the 2012 elections and has already taken $12,500 for the upcoming 2014 elections — is far from a neutral stakeholder in the debate over anything pertaining to the petroleum industry.

“Since 2010, Hall has earned as much as $1 million from a company that holds mineral rights along the Barnett Shale,” explained a March 2013 Sunlight Foundation article. “The money was disclosed as dividends from a company called North & East Trading Co. (N&E).”

On the other side of the aisle, U.S. Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) (Right) also responded toDeSmogBlog‘s request for comment, offering more cautious words of support for the southern half of the pipeline’s commencement.

“Over the past decades, our interstate and intrastate pipeline systems have had remarkable safety records, unmatched by rail or highway modes of transportation,” Green stated. Read the rest of this entry →

New “Frackademia” Report Co-Written by “Converted Climate Skeptic” Richard Muller

11:46 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

MyFDL Editor’s Note: Read more about the Muellers on Firedoglake.

Richard Muller in class

The conservative UK-based Centre for Policy Studies recently published a study on the climate change impacts of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for shale gas. The skinny: it’s yet another case study of “frackademia,” and the co-authors have a financial stake in the upstart Chinese fracking industry.

Titled “Why Every Serious Environmentalist Should Favour Fracking“ and co-authored by Richard Muller and his daughter Elizabeth “Liz” Muller, it concludes that fracking’s climate change impacts are benign, dismissing many scientific studies coming to contrary conclusions.

In an interview with DeSmogBlog, Richard Muller — a self-proclaimed “converted skeptic” on climate change — said he and Liz had originally thought of putting together this study “about two years ago.”

“We quickly realized that natural gas could be a very big player,” he said. “The reasons had to do with China and the goal of the paper is to get the environmentalists to recognize that they need to support responsible fracking.”

The ongoing debate over fracking in the UK served as the impetus behind the Centre for Policy Studies — a non-profit co-founded by former right-wing British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1974 — hosting this report on its website, according to Richard Muller.

“They asked for it because some environmentalists are currently opposing fracking in the UK, and they wanted us to share our perspective that fracking is not only essential for human health but its support can be justified for humanitarian purposes,” he said.

This isn’t the first time Liz Muller has unapologetically sung the praises of fracking and promoted bringing the practice to China. In April, she penned an op-ed in The New York Times titled, “China Must Exploit Its Shale Gas.”

The Mullers co-head the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST), a non-profit that at one time received funding from the Koch brothers. BEST published a study in 2011 affirming that climate change is real and caused by humans.

There is an important detail buried on the last page of the Centre for Policy Studies report: Liz Muller’s position as founder and Managing Director of the China Shale Fund. One copy of the study is even published on the China Shale Fund’s website.

EDF Study, “FrackNation,” PM2.5

In their paper, the Mullers rely heavily on the recent University of Texas-Austin fracking climate change study published in October in partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund. DeSmogBlog characterized that study as another example of “frackademia,” science funded by Big Oil with accompanying results favoring the industry’s bottom line.

The Mullers’ report also cites the Koch Brothers-funded documentary “FrackNation” to dispute the veracity of fracking causing water contamination.

They also juxtapose the PM (particulate matter) 2.5-emitting Chinese coal industry (named such because the PM is less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter) with a powerful source of energy they claim does not emit PM2.5: shale gas. They do so both in the report itself and in an accompanying YouTube video.

Unmentioned is the fact that fracking has all kinds of accompanying air quality issues of its own, documented comprehensively in Earthworks’ recent report, “Reckless Endangerment While Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale.”

Also unmentioned is the issue of frac sand mining — the fine-grained cyrstaline sillica sand shot down a well to facilitate fracking - which emits immense amounts of PM2.5.

“We were not trying to make a comprehensive review of the subject. Our goal was to alert people to the fact that shale gas, if responsibly developed, can mitigate both air pollution and global warming,” Richard Muller told DeSmogBlog when asked why frac sand went undiscussed in his study. “There is nothing intrinsic about the mining of sand that means it cannot be responsibly extracted.”

China Shale Fund

Though the title of the report says nothing about China, “China” and/or “Chinese” appears 58 times in the report. BEST is also currently a partner of the non-profit organization Future 500, teaming up to bolster China’s rising tiger shale gas industry.

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Shale Gas Bubble About to Burst: Art Berman, Bill Powers

4:55 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Food and Water Watch recently demonstrated that the dominant narrative, “100 years” of unconventional oil and gas in the United States, is false. At most, some 50 years of this dirty energy resource may exist beneath our feet.

Bill Powers, editor of Powers Energy Investor, has a new book set for publication in May 2013 titled, “Cold, Hungry and in the Dark: Exploding the Natural Gas Supply Myth.”

Powers’ book will reveal that production rates in all of the shale basins are far lower than the oil and gas industry is claiming and are actually in alarmingly steep decline. In short, the “shale gas bubble” is about to burst.

In a recent interview, Powers said the “bubble” will end up looking a lot like the housing bubble that burst in 2008-2009, and that U.S. shale gas will last no longer than ten years. He told The Energy Report:

My thesis is that the importance of shale gas has been grossly overstated; the U.S. has nowhere close to a 100-year supply. This myth has been perpetuated by self-interested industry, media and politicians…In the book, I take a very hard look at the facts. And I conclude that the U.S. has between a five- to seven-year supply of shale gas, and not 100 years.

The hotly-anticipated book may explain why shale gas industry giants like Chesapeake Energy have behaved more like real estate companies, making more money flipping over land leases than they do producing actual gas.

Powers told The Energy Report:

Put simply: There is production decline in the Haynesville and Barnett shales. Output is declining in the Woodford Shale in Oklahoma. Some of the older shale plays, such as the Fayetteville Shale, are starting to roll over. As these shale plays reverse direction and the Marcellus Shale slows down its production growth, overall U.S. production will fall.

Powers believes we are quickly approaching a gas crisis akin to what occured in the 1970′s and because of that, prices will soon skyrocket.

Art Berman Also Sounds the “Shale Gas Bubble” Alarm

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Shale Gas Bubble Bursting: Report Debunks “100 Years” Claim for Domestic Unconventional Oil and Gas

1:56 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Food and Water Watch (FWW) released a report today titled “U.S. Energy Security: Why Fracking for Oil and Natural Gas Is a False Solution.”

Rows of gas tanks

Gas from a shale deposit in Pennsylvania

It shows, contrary to industry claims, there aren’t 100 years of unconventional oil and gas sitting below our feet, even if President Barack Obama said so in his 2012 State of the Union Address. Far from it, in fact.

The report begs the disconcerting question: is the shale gas bubble on its way to bursting?

FWW crunched the numbers, estimating that there are, at most, half of the industry line, some 50 years of natural gas and much less of shale gas. This assumes the industry will be allowed to perform fracking in every desired crevice of the country. These are the same basins that advocates of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) claim would make the U.S. the “next Saudi Arabia.”

“The popular claim of a 100-year supply of natural gas is based on the oil and gas industry’s dream of unrestricted access to drill and frack, and it presumes that highly uncertain resource estimates prove accurate,” wrote FWW. “Further, the claim of a century’s worth of natural gas ignores plans to export large amounts of it overseas and plans for more domestic use of natural gas to fuel transportation and generate electricity.”

The race is on for the gas industry to export unconventional gas on the global market, implement a gas-powered utilities sector, and create a gas-powered vehicle market. Due to these races, FWW says that the resource is being depleted at a rate far more quickly than the industry would like to admit to the mass public, writing,

The oil and gas industry’s plans to export shale gas, America’s supposed ticket to energy security, reveal that the only thing the industry seeks to secure is its bottom line. But the oil and gas industry’s push to increase U.S. dependence on natural gas in the transportation and electricity sectors is perhaps even more insidious.

The unfortunate reality is that peak domestic production may have passed, and over the coming years, production rates will likely decline. This means short-term, profit-oriented thinking will lead to contaminated air, polluted water, human health impacts, and even the industrialization of university campuses. Most importantly of all, it means a continued assault on the global climate, which makes for deadly and expensive extreme weather events. Think Hurricane Sandy.All for a few decades of further fossil fuel addiction that doesn’t solve any of the problems that future generations will face.

FWW explained,

The United States consumed about 18.8 million barrels of oil per day in 2011, yet it produced only an estimated 0.55 million barrels of tight oil per day. The EIA does project that tight oil production will increase, but to only about 1.2 million barrels per day between now and 2020, peaking at 1.33 million barrels per day in 2029 before starting to decline. This peak would amount to only about 7 percent of the 18.8 million barrels per day consumed in the United States in 2011.

It’s these numbers that have moved analysts to discover that the unconventional oil and gas craze is a potential economic crisis rather than a blessing, not to mention the accompanying climate and ecosystem costs and consequences of fracking the future.

Fracking Your Future: Shale Gas Industry Targets College Campuses, K-12 Schools

2:41 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Don't Frack NY signs at protest

Photo: CREDO.Fracking / Flickr

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

In Pennsylvania – a state that sits in the heart of the Marcellus Shale basin – the concept of “frackademia” and “frackademics” has taken on an entirely new meaning.

On Sept. 27, the PA House of Representatives – in a 136-62 vote – passed a bill that allows hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” to take place on the campuses of public universities. Its Senate copycat version passed in June in a 46-3 vote and Republican Gov. Tom Corbett signed it into law as Act 147 on Oct. 8.

The bill is colloquially referred to as the Indigenous Mineral Resources Development Act. It was sponsored by Republican Sen. Don White, one of the state’s top recipients of oil and gas industry funding between 2000-April 2012, pulling in $94,150 during that time frame, according to a recent report published by Common Cause PA and Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania. Corbett has taken over $1.8 million from the oil and gas industry since his time serving as the state’s Attorney General in 2004.

The Corbett Administration has made higher education budget cuts totaling over $460 million in the past two consecutive PA state budgets. The oil and gas industry has offered fracking as a new fundraising stream at universities starved for cash and looking to fill that massive cash void, as explained by The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Half of the fees and royalties generated by leases of State System of Higher Education lands would be retained by the university where the resources are located. Thirty-five percent would be allocated to other state universities. The remaining 15 percent would be used for tuition assistance at all 14 schools.

Some professors aren’t exactly thrilled with this notion.

“I’ve become extremely concerned, disturbed, and disgusted by the environmental consequences of fracking,” a professor at Lock Haven University told Mother Jones in a recent article. “They’ve had explosions, tens of thousands of gallons of chemicals spilled. And we’re going to put this on campus?”

Mother Jones‘ Sydney Brownstone also explained that Pennsylvania isn’t the only state playing this game, writing:

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