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“Frackademia” By Law: Section 999 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 Exposed

3:41 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

With the school year starting for many this week, it’s another year of academia for professors across the United States — and another year of “frackademia” for an increasingly large swath of “frackademics” under federal law.

“Frackademia” is best defined as flawed but seemingly legitimate science and economic studies on the controversial oil and gas horizontal drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), but done with industry funding and/or industry-tied academics (“frackademics”).

While the “frackademia” phenomenon has received much media coverage, a critical piece missing from the discussion is the role played by Section 999 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Although merely ten pages out of the massive 551-page bill, Section 999 created the U.S. Department of Energy-run Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA), a “non-profit corporation formed by a consortium of premier U.S. energy research universities, industry and independent research organizations.”

Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, RPSEA receives $1 billion of funding – $100 million per year – between 2007 and 2016. On top of that, Section 999 creates an “Oil and Gas Lease Income” fund “from any Federal royalties, rents, and bonuses derived from Federal onshore and offshore oil and gas leases.” The federal government put $50 million in the latter pot to get the ball rolling.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005′s ”Halliburton Loophole” — which created an enforcement exemption from the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act for fracking, and made the chemicals found within fracking fluid a “trade secret” — is by far the bill’s most notorious legacy for close followers of fracking.

These provisions were helped along by then-Vice President Dick Cheney’s Energy Policy Task Force, which entailed countless meetings between Big Oil lobbyists and executives and members of President George W. Bush’s cabinet. Together, these lobbyists and appointees hammered out the details behind closed doors of what became the Energy Policy Act of 2005, a bill receiving a “yes” vote by then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama.

Meanwhile, almost no focus – comparatively speaking – has gone into scrutinizing Section 999, which subsidizes biased pro-industry studies for a decade and in turn, further legitimizes unfettered fracking nationwide.

Speaking at an industry public relations conference in Houston, TX in 2011 - the same conference in which it was revealed the shale gas industry is using psychological warfare tactics on U.S. citizens and recommending the military’s “Counterinsurgency Field Manual” for “dealing with an insurgency” of Americans concerned about fracking – S. Dennis Holbrook of Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York stated that it’s crucial for industry to “seek out academic studies and champion with universities—because that again provides tremendous credibility to the overall process.”

Section 999: In Service to Big Oil

RPSEA’s “FAQ” section makes its raison d’être crystal clear.

“The objective of RPSEA is to leverage research dollars along with the technical expertise and experience of RPSEA Members to conduct industry led research and development work to help commercialize domestic…Unconventional Onshore Hydrocarbon Resources,” RPSEA’s website explains. “RPSEA will focus on innovative technologies to reduce the costs of production, expand and extend the nation’s hydrocarbon resource base…” Read the rest of this entry →

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.