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Fracking Making Its Way Toward the UK

1:39 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

To frack or not to frack

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

To date, opposition to hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for unconventional oil and gas in the United Kingdom (UK) has been fierce. The opposition, though, seems to be meeting deaf ears in England, according to recent news reports.

Bloomberg reported on Dec. 4 that England’s Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, wants to lift the country’s currently existing moratorium on fracking. The halt was put in place after drilling sites owned by Cuadrilla Resources caused two minor earthquakes in northwestern England in November 2011.

England’s Chancellor of the Exchequer (a position equivalent to the Secretary of the Treasury in the United States), George Osborne, is set to release Britain’s new energy plan on Dec. 5 and told Bloomberg he wants to ensure “Britain is not left behind” in the unconventional oil and gas boom.

“Cuadrilla estimates that the area it is exploring in Lancashire, in northwestern England, could contain 200 trillion cubic feet of gas—more gas than all of Iraq,” explained Bloomberg. John Browne, the scandal-ridden former CEO of BP, sits as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Cuadrilla.

Osborne, The Independent recently reported, will also offer tax breaks to oil and gas corporations hungry to profit from England’s shale gas prize.

“Mr. Osborne hopes that tax breaks for shale gas extraction will encourage investors and help economic growth,” The Indepedent wrote. ”Oil and gas are currently taxed at between 62 per cent and 81 per cent. Shale gas would be taxed at lower rates.”

An astounding 64-percent of the English countryside could soon be subject to fracking, which is over 34,000 square miles, according to The Independent.

Fracking in Ireland on Hold For Now

England’s neighbor to the west, Ireland, also sits on massive reserves of unconventional oil and gas yet to be tapped.

A recent independent assessment, according to The Financial Times, estimates Ireland’s stockpile of shale gas at up to 13 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable gas. The Marcellus Shale, by comparison, which sits predominantly in Pennsylvania and New York, has 84 TCF of shale gas according to the most recent estimates by the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Estimates of technically recoverable shale gas have proven controversial in the United States, though, with critics such as Bill Powers, Art Berman, Deborah Rogers, and Food and Water Watch all saying actual production rates have proven far lower than the estimations on what’s technically feasible. This ongoing trend, these critics say, portends the bursting of the “shale gas bubble” akin to the bursting of the “housing bubble” in 2008.

Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency is set to publish a report on the potential ecological risks of fracking in the country by 2014 and until then, the Irish ban on fracking will remain in place.

The question still remains: Is there as much gas under the ground in The Emerald Isle as the industry currently boasts of? The answer: Not likely.

Image by SS&SS under Creative Commons license.

Locking in Dirty Energy Demand: GE Signs Deal with Clean Energy Fuels for Gas-Powered Vehicles

1:31 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

On November 13, Clean Energy Fuels (CEF) signed a deal with General Electric (GE) to purchase its natural gas vehicle fueling assets in an effort to expand what it describes as “America’s Natural Gas Highway.”

CEF is owned on a 20.8 percent basis by T. Boone Pickens, energy magnate and owner of the hedge fund, BP Capital. Andrew Littlefair, President and CEO of CEF, described the deal as one of the “most significant milestones in Clean Energy’s history.”

The deal, “will enable trucks to operate [on natural gas] coast to coast and border to border.”

Forbes dug into the nuts-and-bolts of the deal:

In particular, Clean Energy has agreed to buy two MicroLNG plants from GE Oil and Gas (with up to $200 million in GE financing), to be operational by 2015. These modular units can quickly liquefy natural gas off of any pipeline, producing up to 250,000 gallons per day – enough to fuel 28,000 trucks – while minimizing the associated physical footprint.

In summer 2011, CEF signed another big deal with Chesapeake Energy it coined the “Declaration of Energy Independence,” with Chesapeake giving $150 million in capital to CEF to bolster its natural gas vehicle infrastructure.

Natural gas vehicles are an underexamined side of the battle brewing over the future of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the North America, but a key niche market controlled by the likes of CEF and Chesapeake Energy.

Locking in Demand for Shale Gas, Fracking the Future

According to a recent report published by Food and Water Watch, only 3-percent of vehicles currently on the road in the United States are fueled by natural gas. Though 3-percent may seem trivial, Food and Water Watch believes it’s a key mechanism to ensure the “shale gas bubble” doesn’t pop, writing,

Locking-in future increases in demand for U.S. natural gas — through increased consumption in the transportation and electricity sectors and through increased exports to foreign markets — appears to be part of the industry’s long-term strategy for ensuring that natural gas prices are high enough to make shale gas development profitable.

CEF has big plans for natural gas vehicles and says it hopes to have 150 filling stations by the end of 2013. Shell Oil also has its sights on building 100 stations as well, according to Forbes.

“America’s Natural Gas Highway,” given the climate and ecosystem impacts of fracking the future, looks much more like what the legendary band AC/DC would describe as a “Highway to Hell.”

Photo by lawrence’s lenses under Creative Commons license.

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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