Sunday, September 21, 2014

fracking does not cause well water pollution, and other propaganda

there was one relatively small study of contaminated water wells in Pennsylvania & Texas that overwhelming dominated the news this week, with literally hundreds of headlines that said fracking does not cause well water pollution...once one gets past the headline, we find that the study shows that faulty well casings are blamed, as the gas moves along those casings to the surface, but generally the coverage continues to insist that the pollution isnt fracking's fault, as if the faulty well casings would still be there whether the shale layers beneath the surface were being exploited or not (ie, it's those damn well drillers that are poisoning your water, not the frackers...the frackers are good guys bringing you clean energy)...considering the barrage of articles on this same study, akin to the quantity of articles covering the fukushima meltdown or the gulf oil spill, i can only assume there was an orchestrated effort to push this news that "fracking isnt at fault" -- the same story appeared on literally hundreds of small town new despite the twisted way the results of the study were reported, we have to assume they were successful in getting the message out that fracking does not pollute...

the only other article that was widely circulated was a 9 part series on fracking in China, apparently co-produced by the Atlantic, Grist, Huffington Post, the Guardian, Mother Jones, Slate and Wired, which was carried on each of those websites under a different headline...considering that China has been adding the rough equivalent of two 600 MW coal generating plants each week over the last 4 years and is now consuming half the coal burned on the planet, this series generally advocates increased fracking for gas in China as an alternative to burning coal...if we're to be concerned about CO2 emissions and their effect on the climate, understanding what is happening in China, whose CO2 emissions are now nearly twice that of the US, is key...this series is a good introduction:

Deep Inside the Wild World of China’s Fracking Boom (9 parts, 4 videos)

  1. I. China's Energy Tipping Point
  2. II. American Profiteers
  3. III. Choking on Coal
  4. IV. "We Call This Shale County"
  5. V. Runaway Growth
  6. VI. Pollute First, Clean Up Later
  7. VII. Can Gas Trump Coal?
  8. VIII. The Struggle Over Land
  9. IX. Unfit for Drinking

the only story from Ohio of note was an Ohio Supreme Court ruling that allows those with mineral rights under state land (a state wildlife preserve in this case) to strip mine the area for coal, which would obviously destroy any parks or preserves on the land above it...also of interest, the Coast Guard on the Great Lakes has no equipment or capabilities of dealing with a large oil spill; the question was raised by the Sierra Club, questioning them on how they'd deal with spills from two large oil pipelines operating underneath the Straits of Mackinac...also, we've got a new US envoy from the Canadian province of Alberta who thinks a Lac-Mégantic experience in America, referring to the train derailment that killed 47 in Quebec, is the way to get the Keystone XL pipeline approved quickly...and another story that is getting almost no media coverage is that obama caved to the utilities & backed off the climate plan that he announced with so much hoopla several weeks ago..

since many of you are going to New York for the People's Climate March, we'll start with an insider's critique of that event:

How the People’s Climate March Became a Corporate PR Campaign -- I’ve never been to a protest march that advertised in the New York City subway. That spent $220,000 on posters inviting Wall Street bankers to join a march to save the planet, according to one source. That claims you can change world history in an afternoon after walking the dog and eating brunch.Welcome to the “People’s Climate March” set for Sunday, Sept. 21 in New York City. It’s timed to take place before world leaders hold a Climate Summit at the United Nations two days later. Organizers are billing it as the “biggest climate change demonstration ever” with similar marches around the world. The Nation describes the pre-organizing as following “a participatory, open-source model that recalls the Occupy Wall Street protests.” A leader of, one of the main organizing groups, explained, “Anyone can contribute, and many of our online organizing ‘hubs’ are led by volunteers who are often coordinating hundreds of other volunteers.”  I will join the march, as well as the Climate Convergence starting Friday, and most important the “Flood Wall Street” direct action on Monday, Sept. 22. I’ve had conversations with more than a dozen organizers including senior staff at the organizing groups. Many people are genuinely excited about the Sunday demonstration. The movement is radicalizing thousands of youth. Endorsers include some labor unions and many people-of-color community organizations that normally sit out environmental activism because the mainstream green movement has often done a poor job of talking about the impact on or solutions for workers and the Global South. Nonetheless, to quote Han Solo, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

Ohio, then the rest of the news & opinion:

Council says Ohio EPA is giving gas, coal a pass: An environmental advocacy group says the state wants to loosen permit requirements for several project types that affect waterways, a move the group says would give fracking and coal industries a pass to destroy wetlands. But the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency says it's simply streamlining the process companies are required to follow for certain types of projects. Either way, if Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler approves the proposed changes, water quality in some parts of Ohio could be hurt, Butler acknowledged in his draft of the changes. But he also determined any lessening of water quality was necessary, according to the draft. Butler didn't explain in the draft why it was necessary, but an agency spokeswoman said the agency was trying to cut red tape and support economic growth while protecting the environment. "It's pretty transparent that they're granting special favors to the industries," said Nathan Johnson, attorney for the Ohio Environmental Council, the nonprofit advocacy organization that opposes the changes. The Ohio EPA is asking for changes to nationwide permits regarding pipeline activity, coal remining and linear transportation projects, which include road construction, said Heidi Griesmer, agency spokeswoman. Pipeline activity would include shale gas from fracking, Johnson said. In coal remining, a company could reopen an abandoned mine, Griesmer said. In some remining cases, water quality could actually be improved because the company would have to fix environmental issues created by the mines in the past, she said. A nationwide permit is basically a general permit that covers certain types of projects, Griesmer said. If the Ohio EPA approves the permit changes, larger projects would fit under the nationwide permit and receive less scrutiny and oversight, Johnson said.

Ohio Supreme Court: It’s OK To Strip Mine State Wildlife Areas - This week, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled 6-1 to potentially allow part of a state wildlife area to be strip-mined for coal. The ruling, which settles a dispute involving an esoteric land contract from 1944, could open up $2 million of coal to be dug out of a 651-acre section of the Brush Creek Wildlife Area owned by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Appellants Ronald Snyder and Steven Neeley appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court after an appeals court and common pleas court ruled in favor of the state’s claim that the land could not be strip mined unless it was explicitly permitted in the contract. They argued that the only way to get at the coal was to surface mine.  When the 1944 contract was transferred from the landowners to the ODNR the seller “reserve[d] all mineral rights, including rights of ingress and egress and reasonable surface right privilege.” The court found this to be the “ultimate issue” on Wednesday, with Justice Paul E. Pfeifer writing that “some areas of the property at issue were strip-mined before ODNR acquired it:Thus, there is reason to believe that the signatories to the original contract understood that ‘reasonable surface right privileges’ included the right to strip mine, and there is no reason to believe that the signatories intended to exclude strip-mining. Bethany McCorkle, spokesperson for the ODNR, disagrees with Pfeifer’s interpretation. “ODNR is disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision, which ignored substantial precedent as to this issue,” she told ThinkProgress. “Based on this decision ODNR intends to review all of its deeds to confirm what other surface disturbances, if any, are possible as a result of this outcome.”  In its summary judgement, the common pleas court had found that although the reservation of mineral rights implies the right to remove the minerals, it does not imply the right to remove them by strip mining because “strip mining does not merely use the surface, it destroys the surface.”

Kasich vows to 'focus' on hiking fracking tax - The legislature has steadfastly declined to give Gov. John Kasich what he wants regarding a new severance tax on fracking in Ohio, but the governor says he’s only going to push harder if he wins re-election — and end a “rip-off” of consumers at the same time. Lawmakers have given Kasich many of his agenda items over three-plus years, but he and GOP legislative leaders, particularly in the House, have butted heads repeatedly over whether, or how much, Ohio should increase severance taxes on the shale fracking industry spreading across eastern Ohio.  “I think, in the Senate, they want to do something seriously over there,” Kasich told The Dispatch. “The House, I can’t tell you. Give us time to ratchet it up. I need to focus on it.” A divided House in May passed a severance tax, House Bill 375, but Kasich called it “puny” and has continued to push for more. The bill is in the Senate, but few expect that chamber to move the measure in the post-election lame-duck session. “We tried to do it in a way that included everybody,” said Rep. Jeff McClain, R-Upper Sandusky, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee who has been mentioned as potential chairman next year of the Finance Committee. “Nobody was really happy about it, but they were supportive."

Lawmaker action with hydraulic fracturing: The head of the Ohio House committee considering legislation that would increase penalties for illegally dumping oil field waste said he hoped to have the bill ready for a floor vote when lawmakers return to session after the November election. Rep. Dave Hall, R-Millersburg, chairman of the House’s agriculture committee, said he hoped to convene a hearing on HB 490 later this month and likely would focus some attention on law changes to combat algal blooms in lakes. The latter comes in response to a Lake Erie algal bloom that left hundreds of thousands of residents without drinkable tap water earlier this month. Among other provisions, HB 490 would expand the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ authority to revoke or suspend drilling and related activities of those who break the state’s environmental regulations. The legislation also would tighten requirements for transporting brine and increase potential prison time and civil penalties for violators. The bill was offered, in part, in response to a Youngstown-area dumping incident. The man involved, Ben W. Lupo of Springfield Township, was sentenced in August to 28 months in federal prison and fined $25,000. Stiffer penalties: A Democratic lawmaker said the state needs tougher penalties for those who illegally dump oil field waste, in light of Lupo’s conviction. “What we need are more-severe penalties for the bad actors in this industry,” Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd, said in a released statement. “This is not the first time illegal dumping has occurred in the state, and those who violate this law are often repeat offenders. ... While I encourage the continued exploration of oil and gas in the Mahoning Valley and throughout the state, we must have strong laws in place to preserve the environment and protect the public.”

America’s Big Bet On Natural Gas And Big Short On Coal --America is betting the kitchen sink on natural gas. No matter which estimate you look at -- the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the International Energy Agency, or Wall Street banks -- two things are clear: the United States is slated to consume enormous amounts of natural gas and the dominant fuel of electricity generation for the last 50 years, coal, is diminishing.  It is difficult to overstate the effect shale gas production has had on the United States. In 2006, shale gas production accounted for about 5 percent of natural gas production. In 2013, it accounted for roughly 40 percent. As industry leaders clamored to take advantage of the vast supply of newly accessible domestic natural gas, analysts began to forecast longer and longer projections of low natural gas prices. The result is big expectations for natural gas.Meanwhile, the outlook for coal continues to appear bleak. This week, the Government Accountability Office released a new report with increased projections for the number of coal plants expected to retire in the coming years. The report estimates that 42,192 megawatts, or 13 percent of coal-fueled summer generating capacity, will retire between 2012 and 2025 as a result of environmental regulations, lower natural gas prices, and decreasing electricity demand. These retirements are on top of the 150 coal-fueled units with a summer generating capacity of 13,786 megawatts that have been retired since 2000. America’s gamble will not affect everyone in the country equally. Almost 40 percent of the retired coal capacity will take place in in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and West Virginia. Fortunately, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and to a lesser degree West Virginia, have economies that will be better prepared for this transition as a result of surging production from the Marcellus and Utica shale plays.For everyone’s sake, let’s hope the gamble pays off. Because if natural gas fails to live up to the high expectations, there will be less coal to back it up.

‘This Changes Everything’ Including the Anti-Fracking Movement -  Sandra Steingraber -  Among its many demonstrations, This Changes Everything, reveals how the grassroots anti-fracking movement is right where it should be—except for decades-old backroom deals between Big Green groups and the oil and gas industry that hold the movement down like a cartoon ball and chain. But I’m getting ahead of myself. So, let me start again: You need to read Naomi Klein’s new book, This Changes Everything, which delivers a message so big that the title alone pushes both the author’s name and the subtitle (“Capitalism vs. the Climate”) right off the front cover. Simply put, This Changes Everything is a literary enactment of the old adage that every crisis is an opportunity in disguise. For Klein, the crisis—and she rightly sees it as a moral one—is the ongoing destruction of our agriculture-enabling, freshwater-providing, weather-regulating, life-nurturing climate system, which is under attack by heat-trapping gasses that are the unpriced, unregulated, untaxed, unmonitored consequences of a global economic system that runs amok on fossil fuels.

President Obama has a huge gas problem - Later this month, hundreds of delegates will gather inside the U.N. to talk about climate change. President Barack Obama plans to attend the climate summit and reportedly wants work on a deal with other world leaders to “name and shame” countries that aren’t actively pursuing serious climate action. But outside the U.N., thousands of activists will be protesting with one message: Whatever Obama accomplishes at the U.N., it won’t be enough to save his climate legacy. The Obama administration has been tough on coal, directing the Environmental Protection Agency to severely limit the amount of CO2 that power plants are allowed to emit. But at the same time, the administration has embraced natural gas. Environmentalists say that embrace has created a chasm between Obama’s rhetoric and his climate-fighting actions. That’s because a growing body of scientific evidence that shows gas development produces significant amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Experts Call on Obama to Ban Fracking in Lead Up to People’s Climate March - Americans Against Fracking, a coalition of more than 270 national and local groups opposed to hydraulic fracturing, held a media teleconference today to call on President Obama to ban fracking in the lead up to the People’s Climate March. The press call highlighted a new report by Food & Water Watch, The Urgent Case for a Ban on Fracking, providing a comprehensive compilation of research on the harmful effects of fracking. It makes the case that the huge amount of methane released during the fracking process traps 87 times more heat pound for pound than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.  “Gas wells are like chimneys in the Earth and what they leak goes straight into our atmosphere,” said Sandra Steingraber, science advisor to Americans Against Fracking, and national expert on climate change and scientist at Ithaca college. “Fracked gas wells leak heat-trapping methane into the atmosphere which cripples any chance we have to combat climate change—unless we halt fracking. We’ve underappreciated just how powerful a greenhouse gas methane is. That’s why we’re calling methane the new carbon dioxide.”

EIA: Natural gas storage deficit to 5-year average is narrowing - Oil & Gas Journal: Natural gas storage injections continued to outpace the 5-year (2009-13) average, with inventories as of Sept. 5 at 2.80 tcf, according to data from the Weekly Natural Gas Storage Report (WNGSR) by the US Energy Information Administration. Due to an unusually cold winter during 2013-14, gas inventories ended March 2014 almost 1 tcf lower than the 5-year average. As of Sept. 5, relatively higher weekly net injections into storage reduced that deficit to 463 bcf. EIA's latest Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) expects that this trend will continue, with forecast inventories of 3.47 tcf by the end of October, 355 bcf below the 5-year average and the lowest end-October level since 2008. However, increasing new production is expected to mitigate the effect of these lower inventories on winter natural gas markets, as evidenced by decreasing seasonality in natural gas futures contracts. “Although the injection season began slowly, injections have exceeded their average comparable-week levels in each week since April 18,” EIA said. Strong domestic production growth and mild demand have supported strong injections through the summer. Dry natural gas production increased to 70.2 bcf/d in June, up nearly 6% from a year earlier, while mild weather reduced natural gas use for electric generation. Natural gas prices have also fallen during the injection season.

Oilprice Intelligence Report: US Picks up Pace in LNG Race: This week in energy, the prospect of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports gains momentum in Washington with final federal approval for two more projects in Louisiana and Florida thanks to a tweaking of legislation. On Wednesday, the US  Energy approved final permits for Sempra Energy’s Cameron LNG facility in Louisiana and Carib Energy’s small-scale export project in Florida, making them the second and third LNG export projects to win final federal approval. The first to win a final permit to export LNG to non-Free-Trade Agreement countries was Cheniere’s Sabine Pass project in Louisiana, which was approved in 2012. Since then, some two dozen projects have waited for final approval. Cameron will be allowed to export up to 1.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas for up to 20 years through its $10-billion project. For Cameron, this was some significant fast-tracking helped by pressure from Congress to speed things up and the resulting Energy Department decision in August to streamline and prioritize applications. Essentially, it put those projects that already had environmental reviews and construction permits to the top of the list for federal approval. Cameron had received its construction permit in June. With this tweaking of the process, Cameron would have had to wait for a lengthy public interest determination. The pressure on Washington is indeed growing because the race to the finish for LNG exports is a tight one and will have a major impact on long-term contracts.

LNG Exports Are a Win For All Concerned - Bipartisanship in Washington is not quite dead. Republicans and Democrats both praised the Department of Energy's approval of two new liquid natural gas export projects. With Russian gas exports to Europe slowing, and Russia solidifying its hold on eastern Ukraine, more approvals should be in the pipeline. But bureaucratic red tape from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency result in two dozen pending applications for natural gas exports, some from 2011. America has enough gas for itself and for export. About a third of natural gas in North Dakota is wasted. The U.S. spot price for natural gas is about $3.90 per million British Thermal Units, compared with $9.14 per million BTUs for Europe. The differential has been higher in the past, making exports worthwhile.  Europe is substantially dependent on Russian gas. Germany gets 37 percent of its gas from Russia, and Poland gets 59 percent. Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are completely dependent on Russian natural gas. Testifying before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last March, Lithuania's Minister of Energy Jaroslav Neverovič said, "At present, we are completely-100 percent-dependent upon [a] single supplier of natural gas and, as a result, are forced to pay a political price for this vital energy resource....The United States, with your enormous natural gas resources and highly developed infrastructure, has the kind of liquid market that Europe is trying mightily to achieve." Speeding up exports would be a win for America and a win for Europe.

Don’t exaggerate how fracking helps the US economy – AEI - The economic impact of the shale revolution — while a significant positive —  is still often exaggerated. We likely cannot frack our way back to prosperity or 4% GDP growth. (I understand, though, the temptation to make oversized growth claims given the constant push-back from environmentalists.) As Goldman Sachs recently put it:We estimate that the overall impact from the increase in US energy supply on real GDP growth is currently in the range of 0.2-0.3pp per year. Most of this is due to the direct effects from increased energy output and drilling activity, while the spillovers to other industries or via lower household energy bills have been more modest. Now those impacts are hardly beanbag — really, not at all — especially given the continued anemic pace of economic growth. But they shouldn’t preclude all manner of other economic reforms the economy needs. It can’t be cut business taxes, frack more, and call it a day (though that would be quite a productive day.) A new Fed study looks at how fracking is only modestly affecting the nation’s manufacturing industry: Over the past eight years, the use of hydraulic fracturing techniques has significantly increased U.S. natural gas production. This production increase has pushed U.S. natural gas prices down and has also provided a competitive advantage to those U.S. manufacturers that are intensive users of energy. This paper uses industry-level data on capital expenditure, production, employment, producer prices, imports, and exports to offer a preliminary empirical assessment of the impact of the drop in natural gas prices on U.S. manufacturing through this competitiveness channel. …Overall, our estimates suggest that the roughly two-thirds decline in the price of natural gas in the United States relative to the price of natural gas in Europe has boosted activity in the manufacturing sector as a whole by perhaps two to three percent. Although a few industries are expanding, as of yet there does not appear to be a large effect across the entire manufacturing sector.

The Consequences Of Fracking: Two Clashing Views: Two academic studies of the health dangers of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have produced different conclusions. One, conducted by Yale University, said people living near fracking sites report increased health problems. The other, by Penn State University, says fracking water stays underground, far below the groundwater supplies that people use for drinking, and poses no threat. Both studies were conducted in Pennsylvania, part of the Marcellus Shale formation in the sprawling Appalachian Basin in the eastern United States. It holds enormous reserves of gas and has been a focus of fracking activity and protests. In the Yale study, former Yale medical professor Dr. Peter Rabinowitz reported in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives that residents living near a fracking site in southwestern Pennsylvania were more than twice as likely to report skin problems and respiratory illnesses than those living farther away. Thirty-nine percent of respondents living within 0.6 of a mile of a gas well reported sinus infections and nosebleeds, compared with 18 percent who said the same and lived more than twice as far away. The difference was even starker for those reporting skin problems: Thirteen percent reported rashes, while only 3 percent of people who lived farther away had the same complaints. The Penn State study concluded that the water and chemicals that are injected into deep shale to help extract gas stays far below the surface and therefore doesn’t pose a serious threat to drinking water supplies.

What's Pa. hiding on fracking contamination? --  The history behind the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's recent revelation of at least 243 confirmed cases of water contamination from fracking illustrates how that disturbing number is just the tip of the iceberg in the disaster that has been fracking in Pennsylvania. Buried deep within the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's website is the long-awaited list of letters of determination telling property owners that their water wells have been contaminated as a result of fracking. The agency recently announced the list's addition to their site, six years after the drilling boom began in Pennsylvania and more than a decade after the first unconventional well was drilled in the state. That's where, for the first time, the agency is admitting that 243 private water sources have been contaminated by fracking. This comes after years of denying any contamination at all from fracking, which is a process where water, sand and chemicals are inserted into rock deep underground at extreme pressures to crack the rock and release natural gas and oil trapped within the rock. The list is just the first stab at transparency in some time for an agency still reeling from a scathing review by the Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale. His report in July concluded that the DEP was "woefully" unprepared to monitor and regulate shale oil and gas development. And this new attempt at transparency comes only after a Scranton Times-Tribune reporter got a court order to review letters to residents informing them whether or not oil and gas drilling was responsible for contaminated water wells.

Well Leaks, Not Fracking, Are Linked to Fouled Water - A study of tainted drinking water in areas where natural gas is produced from shale shows that the contamination is most likely caused by leaky wells rather than the process of hydraulic fracturing used to release the gas from the rock. The study looked at seven cases in Pennsylvania and one in Texas where water wells had been contaminated by methane and other hydrocarbon gases. Both states have extensive deposits of gas-bearing shale that have been exploited in recent years as part of a surge in domestic energy production. Some environmental groups have suggested that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, could cause the gas to migrate into drinking water aquifers. Shale-gas producers commonly drill a deep vertical well that is then extended horizontally in several directions into the rock, like spokes from a hub. In fracking, water and chemicals are injected at high pressures into these spokes, creating fissures and releasing the natural gas trapped within. But in their analysis, published Monday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers found no evidence that fractured shale led to water contamination. Instead, they said cement used to seal the outside of the vertical wells, or steel tubing used to line them, was at fault, leading to gas leaking up the wells and into aquifers.

Study: Faulty gas wells, not fracking, pollute water: Faulty wells, not deep underground fracking, is the main reason that natural gas extraction from shale rock has contaminated drinking water in parts of Texas and Pennsylvania, says a study Monday by researchers from five universities. As natural gas production increases in the United States, so, too, have reports of well water contaminated with methane. Now a study, the first to make comprehensive use of "stray gas forensics," not only found pollution in multiple wells but also identifies the culprit. "Our data clearly show that the contamination in these clusters stems from well-integrity problems such as poor casing and cementing," says co-author Thomas Darrah, assistant professor of earth science at Ohio State. While a scientist at Duke University, he led the research team, which includes experts from Duke, Stanford, Dartmouth and the University of Rochester. Over a two-year period, the researchers took samples from 130 drinking water wells where contamination had been suspected in the two states. They found contamination in eight clusters of wells — seven in Pennsylvania and one in Texas — from deep underground in the Marcellus shale and from shallower, intermediate levels in both states.

Fracking study: Correctly built wells don’t contaminate water -- Fracking — fracturing shale to free up oil and gas — does not inherently contaminate nearby drinking water with methane, a new study has found. But poorly constructed wells with leaky casings or faulty cement can allow methane to leach into drinking water, according to the study, published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. That means that as long as a well is built correctly, methane is unlikely to move from shale deep beneath Earth’s surface into a drinking-water well, said Thomas Darrah, an assistant professor of geochemistry at Ohio State University who is the study’s lead author. “The implication is that future improvements in well integrity will keep methane out of drinking water,” Darrah said. He and researchers from Duke, Stanford and Dartmouth universities and the University of Rochester analyzed 133 samples from drinking-water wells over the Marcellus and Barnett shale formations.  The researchers found eight clusters of contaminated groundwater wells near shale-drilling sites — seven in the Marcellus region and one in the Barnett.

Bad fracking wells taint water, scientists find — Faulty fracking wells are to blame for drinking water contamination in Texas and Pennsylvania, according to new findings from researchers at five universities.“People’s water has been harmed by drilling,” said Robert Jackson, a professor of environmental and earth sciences at Stanford University. “In Texas, we even saw two homes go from clean to contaminated after our sampling began.”Construction problems with natural gas wells are responsible for the tainted water, the researchers found. That includes poor casing and failed cement jobs meant to seal the steel drilling pipe from surrounding earth and rocks and prevent water contamination.The researchers said there was no evidence the water was contaminated by the process of hydraulic fracturing itself, known as fracking. Fracking is when high-pressure water and chemicals are pumped deep underground to break shale rock and release oil and natural gas.That’s an important finding in the debate over fracking, which has unleashed an American energy boom but also allegations of pollution and health problems.“The good news is that most of the issues we have identified can potentially be avoided by future improvements in well integrity,”

True Cause Of Fracking Leaks Found – Industry Breathes A Sigh Of Relief -- An Ohio State University led study has pinpointed the likely source of most natural gas contamination in drinking-water wells associated with hydraulic fracturing as the walls of the gas well and their well casing seal to the ground. It’s not the source many people may have feared and, if the press can get its facts – truth – and integrity act together, the news should enable the natural gas industry, the state regulators and well engineers an opportunity to solve the public’s anti fracking issue with real results for much improved water well protection. The problem should be fixable with improved construction standards for cement well linings and metal well casings at hydraulic fracturing sites. The team was led by a researcher at The Ohio State University and composed of researchers at Duke, Stanford, Dartmouth, and the University of Rochester. The team devised a new method of geochemical forensics to trace how methane migrates under the earth. The study identified eight clusters of contaminated drinking-water wells in Pennsylvania and Texas. Most important among their findings, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is that neither horizontal drilling nor hydraulic fracturing of shale deposits seems to have caused any of the natural gas contamination. This will not come as much of a surprise to those in the industry and mechanical engineers.“Many of the leaks probably occur when natural gas travels up the outside of the borehole, potentially even thousands of feet, and is released directly into drinking-water aquifers.”

Study Links Water Contamination To Fracking Operations In Texas And Pennsylvania - Faulty casing and cementing in gas wells has contaminated drinking water in Texas and Pennsylvania, according to a new study. The study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences but has not yet been made public, looked at cases of water contamination in drinking water wells in the two states and found that it was these casing and cementing failures — not the actual process of fracking — that are to blame for the contamination. Fracking involves drilling a deep well into the earth, then inserting a steel casing tube into the well and pumping cement into the well to seal the casing in place and, in theory, protect groundwater from the gas that travels through the tube to the surface. If that casing or cementing isn’t done correctly, however, it can lead to contamination, the study found.  “This is relatively good news because it means that most of the issues we have identified can potentially be avoided by future improvements in well integrity,” lead author Thomas Darrah from Ohio State University told the Dallas Morning News. In other words, more thorough cementing and casing jobs could protect people who live near fracking wells from contamination.  “Many of the leaks probably occur when natural gas travels up the outside of the borehole, potentially even thousands of feet, and is released directly into drinking-water aquifers” Robert Poreda, another author of the study and professor at the University of Rochester said.

Drinking water contaminated by shale gas boom in Texas and Pennsylvania -- The natural gas boom resulting from fracking has contaminated drinking water in Texas and Pennsylvania, a new study said on Monday. However, the researchers said the gas leaks were due to defective gas well production – and were not a direct result of horizontal drilling, or fracking. The study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences validated some of the concerns raised by homeowners in the Barnett Shale of Texas and the Marcellus formation in Pennsylvania about natural gas leaking into their water supply.The film Gasland notoriously showed flames bursting out of a kitchen tapbecause of high concentrations of natural gas in drinking water. But the researchers said there was no direct causal relationship with fracking itself. “Our data do not suggest that horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing has provided a conduit to connect deep Marcellus or Barnett formations directly to surface aquifers,” the authors wrote. Instead, the researchers said the leakage was due to faulty cement casing on natural gas wells. The finding was in line with a number of earlier studies on leaks in the cement casing of natural gas wells. In Pennsylvania, state inspectors found about 9% of steel and cement casings on wells drilled since the start of the natural gas boom were compromised. There was an even higher risk on newer wells drilled since 2009, especially in the north-western part of the state, the inspectors found.

New Study Confirms Every Other Study: Gas Wells Leak . . . Gas ! --  Right up the well bore itself – on outside of the casing and on the outside of the cement sheath. Because the well bore is nothing but a enormous hole in the ground – that opens a pathway through every gas bearing formation that it encounters on the way to the target. And horizontal shale gas wells are ten times more likely to leak than vertical gas wells -because the hole is that much bigger. What a surprise!  Texas Drinking Water Tainted by Natural Gas Wells, Scientists Find The shale-gas boom of recent years has contaminated drinking-water wells in North Texas’ Barnett Shale and the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, a study published Monday concludes. The study, by researchers from five universities, concludes that neither drilling itself nor the hydraulic fracturing that follows it is directly to blame. Instead, gas found in water wells appeared to have leaked from defective casing and cementing in gas wells, meant to protect groundwater; or from gas formations not linked to zones where fracking took place. “Our data do not suggest that horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing has provided a conduit to connect deep Marcellus or Barnett formations directly to surface aquifers,” the authors wrote. The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, adds to a growing body of science that examines the environmental impacts of natural gas production, which has seen a rush of drilling and processing in numerous states over the past decade.

If Natural Gas Wells Used In Fracking Are Contaminating Water, Why Isn’t Fracking To Blame? -- Big news came out this week about fracking: Duke scientists have found thatnatural gas wells used in fracking caused contamination in eight drinking water wells in Texas and Pennsylvania. Many of you might have seen the videos of people living near gas exploration sites who can light their tap water on fire, because there’s so much methane in it. But the energy industry has solidly defended its position that the gas could be naturally occurring. There’s no evidence fracking caused the contamination. This Duke study is a big deal, because it traced the methane in contaminated water wells to nearby natural gas wells. Thousands of feet beneath those wells, hydraulic fracturing is being used to get the methane from deep underground. You might say that links the drinking water contamination to fracking, but... It technically doesn’t. The average person might be tempted to put the whole shebang – drilling to explore for gas, pumping water and sand and chemicals into the ground to break up the deep gas-filled rock, pumping gas up to the surface – under the “fracking” umbrella. But the oil and gas industry disagrees. As far as it's concerned, fracking is simply the part where they’re spraying stuff to break up the rock. So far, there is no evidence that causes ground water contamination.

Cuomo: I Won't Decide on Fracking Before the Election - —Gov. Andrew Cuomo reiterated Thursday that he would not make a decision on fracking before the election, again rebuking activists who have repeatedly entreated the governor to ban fracking. “No, there won’t be,” Cuomo told reporters at a press event at the Plaza Hotel, on whether he would make a decision about extending the state’s moratorium on hydraulic fracturing before Nov. 7. New York instituted a nonstatutory ban on the controversial oil and natural gas extraction method in 2008, in order to study its effects on the environment. New York’s environmental commissioner could permit fracking as early as April 2015, according to a Bloomberg report. Across the street from the hotel, scores of fracking activists were protesting Cuomo’s indecision, holding posters and chanting slogans against fracking. “We always have the fracking groups outside, some things are constant,” Cuomo said, referring to the persistence of the anti-fracking movement, which has held protests at his visit to SUNY New Paltz and his fundraiser in Webster, Monroe County, just this week.

Fracking Bans Enrage Coloradans Sitting on Energy Riches - Mineral owners left out of the energy boom in Colorado and other states are mobilizing to fight local fracking bans they say are depriving them of billions of dollars in oil and natural-gas royalties. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper repeatedly invoked the rights of his state’s 630,000 royalty holders to head off ballot measures that would have given local governments more control over energy drilling. Now owners of royalty interests are going public, organizing in an effort to exploit deposits that cities and counties have blocked them from developing. “We have valuable minerals in the Niobrara that may be worth some money -- a lot of money,” Bill Peltier said of rights in an oil shale formation that his family has held for five generations. “They should pay me off for those mineral rights.”  Mineral owners are emerging as a potent force in the escalating battle between residents and producers over how to regulate drilling as it moves closer to residential areas. From California to New York, royalty holders are joining forces with oil companies to make their voices heard in the debate over hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. They are coming together through social media and at town hall meetings, offering to be featured in advertising and campaigning door-to-door against local fracking bans.

Scientists Find ‘Direct Link’ Between Earthquakes And Process Used For Oil And Gas Drilling - A team of scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey have found evidence “directly linking” the uptick in Colorado and New Mexico earthquakes since 2001 to wastewater injection, a process widely used in the controversial technique of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and conventional drilling.  In a study to be published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America on Tuesday, the scientists presented “several lines of evidence [that] suggest the earthquakes in the area are directly related to the disposal of wastewater” deep underground, according to a BSSA press release. Fracking and conventional natural gas companies routinely dispose of large amounts of wastewater underground after drilling. During fracking, the water is mixed with chemicals and sand, to “fracture” underground shale rock formations and make gas easier to extract.  The USGS research is just the latest in a string of studies that have suggested the disposed water is migrating along dormant fault lines, changing their state of stress, and causing them to fail.  For their research, the four California-based USGS scientists monitored the 2,200 square mile Raton Basin, which goes from southern Colorado into New Mexico. They pointed out that the Basin had been “seismically quiet” until 1999, when companies began “major fluid injection” deep into the ground. Earthquakes began in 2001 when Colorado wastewater injection rates were under 600,000 barrels per month, and and since then there have been 16 earthquakes that could be considered large (above a magnitude of 3.8, including two over a 5.0 magnitude), compared with only one — a 4.0 magnitude quake — in the 30 years prior.

Wastewater injection is culprit for most quakes in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico: – The deep injection of wastewater underground is responsible for the dramatic rise in the number of earthquakes in Colorado and New Mexico since 2001, according to a study to be published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America (BSSA). The Raton Basin, which stretches from southern Colorado into northern New Mexico, was seismically quiet until shortly after major fluid injection began in 1999. Since 2001, there have been 16 magnitude > 3.8 earthquakes (including M 5.0 and 5.3), compared to only one (M 4.0) the previous 30 years. The increase in earthquakes is limited to the area of industrial activity and within 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) of wastewater injection wells. In 1994, energy companies began producing coal-bed methane in Colorado and expanded production to New Mexico in 1999. Along with the production of methane, there is the production of wastewater, which is injected underground in disposal wells and can raise the pore pressure in the surrounding area, inducing earthquakes. Several lines of evidence suggest the earthquakes in the area are directly related to the disposal of wastewater, a by-product of extracting methane, and not to hydraulic fracturing occurring in the area. Beginning in 2001, the production of methane expanded, with the number of high-volume wastewater disposal wells increasing (21 presently in Colorado and 7 in New Mexico) along with the injection rate. Since mid-2000, the total injection rate across the basin has ranged from 1.5 to 3.6 million barrels per month.

Gas production blamed for rise in Colorado, New Mexico quakes (Reuters) - The deep injection of wastewater underground by energy companies during methane gas extraction has caused a dramatic rise in the number of earthquakes in Colorado and New Mexico since 2001, U.S. government scientists said in a study released on Monday. The study by U.S. Geological Survey researchers is the latest to link energy production methods to an increase in quakes in regions where those techniques are used. Energy companies began producing coal-bed methane in Colorado in 1994, then in New Mexico five years later. The process creates large amounts of wastewater, which is pumped into sub-surface disposal wells. Scientists have long linked some small earthquakes to work carried out below ground for oil and gas extraction, which they say can alter pressure points and cause shifts in the earth. The new study, published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America (BSSA), focused on the Raton Basin, which stretches from southern Colorado into northern New Mexico. The report said the area had been "seismically quiet" until shortly after major fluid injection began in 1999. But since 2001, the scientists said, the area experienced 16 earthquakes of greater than 3.8 magnitude, compared with only one of that strength recorded during the previous three decades. "The increase in earthquakes is limited to the area of industrial activity and within 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) of wastewater injection wells," the study said.

Fracking Advocates Get Homeless People To Pose As Shale Supporters  - Around 30 people wearing t-shirts with pro-fracking slogans showed up to a state hearing in Cullowhee, North Carolina, to support the shale gas industry last Friday. The problem is that many had no idea what fracking was.Representatives from groups that oppose fracking told ThinkProgress that they believe the North Carolina Energy Forum (NCEF) compensated people to attend a state hearing in order to feign grassroots support for hydraulic fracking in the state. A group of people wearing “Yes Shale” t-shirts were bused 200 miles from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to Cullowhee in order to attend the hearing, activists from Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) and the Jackson County Coalition Against Fracking (JCCAF) told ThinkProgress. Some of the people in the group were homeless, according to anti-fracking activists present at the hearing. North Carolina residents have been in a heated battle with the state government and shale interests ever since a moratorium on fracking that had been in place since 2012 was lifted in July. Hydraulic fracturing is scheduled to begin in 2015 and the mere prospect of fracking is already affecting local communities: “Fracking is already affecting property values; we can no longer insure our wells, and the first rock has not even been cut into yet,” Bettie Ashby of the JCCAF said.

Fracking the Homeless --  Frackers subsidize supporters to come to rally’s – free bus rides, free T shirts, free pizzas – but now they are paying the homeless to pretend to be pro-fracking.  Need a fracking supporter? Hire a homeless person.  In bizarre energy industry news of the day, the North Carolina Energy Coalition seems to have brought in some homeless men to stand in as fracking supporters at a state hearing on developing fracking operations in the state.The men were bussed 200 miles from Winston-Salem to Cullowhee, N.C., where the hearing took place, for the day.  From Asheville’s Citizen-Times: “They were clueless,” said Bettie “Betsy” Ashby, a member of the Jackson County Coalition Against Fracking. “At least two of them I met definitely came from a homeless shelter. One of them even apologized to me and said, ‘I didn’t know they were trying to do this to me.’ One said, ‘I did it for the…’ and then he rubbed his fingers together like ‘for the money.’” Several of the men were wearing turquoise shirts or hats that said “Shale Yes” on the front and “Energy Creates Jobs” and “N.C. Energy” on the back.  It’s not a new tactic: If you can’t find people who actually support your cause, just pay uninformed members of underprivileged groups to fake it!

Shale Industry Resorts to Conspiracy Theories to Explain Opposition to Fracking --As evidence mounts concerning the hazards of fracking, the oil and gas industry is increasingly trying to redirect public discussion of the topic, focusing instead on the funding behind the environmental groups rather than the actual science of the matter. Aside from showing a certain desperation, the tactic is especially disingenuous since this industry has no small experience with astro-turf campaigns and buying faux research to promote its interests. Again and again, it has turned out that scientific research downplaying the risks of fracking or hyping the benefits of the shale gas rush was actually funded by the oil and gas industry, and oftentimes, that funding was not properly disclosed. It's a problem repeated enough that it's often referred to simply in shorthand: frackademia. With all this attention focused on how research is funded, many shale gas boosters, like bloggers at Energy in Depth, a PR organization formed by the oil industry, have begun trying to turn the criticism around. They've focused on the role played by several non-profit foundations, claiming that research funded by these foundations and endowments should be treated just as skeptically as research funded by shale companies. It's a false equivalence, a child's “I'm rubber but you're glue” taunt. But, in some instances, it's helped the industry turn around narratives told in the press.

Shale Fracking Is a “Ponzi Scheme” … “This Decade’s Version of The Dotcom Bubble” … “A Lot In Common With the Subprime Mortgage Market Just Before It Melted Down”-- In 2011, the New York Times wrote: “Money is pouring in” from investors even though shale gas is “inherently unprofitable,” an analyst from PNC Wealth Management, an investment company, wrote to a contractor in a February e-mail. “Reminds you of dot-coms.” A review of more than 9,000 wells, using data from 2003 to 2009, shows that — based on widely used industry assumptions about the market price of gas and the cost of drilling and operating a well — less than 10 percent of the wells had recouped their estimated costs by the time they were seven years old. In 2012, the New York Times pointed out: The gas rush has … been a money loser so far for many of the gas exploration companies and their tens of thousands of investors. Rolling Stone reported the same year: Fracking, it turns out, is about producing cheap energy the same way the mortgage crisis was about helping realize the dreams of middle-class homeowners. For Chesapeake, the primary profit in fracking comes not from selling the gas itself, but from buying and flipping the land that contains the gas. Oil Price reported in March: Shell’s new boss, Ben van Beurden, said bets on U.S. shale plays haven’t worked out for his company. “Some of our exploration bets have simply not worked out,” Shell’s Chief Executive Officer Ben van Beurden said. It was bad management policy to commit close to $80 billion in capital on its North American portfolio and still lose money. Now, he said, it’s time to cut the loss and slash exploration and production investments by 20 percent for 2014.  The Wall Street Journal pointed out this April: These newly public companies are spending more than they make …. Bloomberg wrote in May: Shale debt has almost doubled over the last four years while revenue has gained just 5.6 percent, according to a Bloomberg News analysis of 61 shale drillers. A dozen of those wildcatters are spending at least 10 percent of their sales on interest compared with Exxon Mobil Corp.’s 0.1 percent. And Tim Morgan – former global head of research at Tullett Prebon – explained last month at the Telegraph: In the future, shale will be recognised as this decade’s version of the dotcom bubble. In the shorter term, it’s a counsel of despair as an energy supply squeeze draws ever nearer.

Commodities Suffer As Oil And Gas Takes Rail Priority - The rapid pace of energy exploration, for both natural gas and oil, in North Dakota is creating a crisis for upper Midwest farmers. Grain shipments have been held up by a vast new movement of oil by rail, leading to millions of dollars in agricultural losses and slower production for everything from breakfast cereals to corn and soybeans. Grain and other agricultural shipments are more perishable than oil, yet they are largely taking a back seat to it as shipments of fuel have overwhelmed an aging railroad infrastructure in a part of the country that’s still largely rural and struggling to keep up with housing and infrastructure for a massive influx of shale oil- and natural gas-drilling workers drawn to the Dakotas to take part in the boom.  North Dakota has a 2.8 percent unemployment rate, the lowest in the nation, yet farmers who have long been the mainstays of the state’s economy are finding themselves at least third in line when it comes to rail transportation priorities. Railroads carry grains and other crops from both North and South Dakota to ports in Portland, Ore., Seattle and Vancouver. From there, the bulk of the grain is shipped across the Pacific to Asia; and to East Coast ports like Albany, from which it is shipped to Europe. Reports the railroads filed with the federal government show that for the week that ended Aug. 22, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway — North Dakota’s largest railroad, owned by Warren Buffett — had a backlog of 1,336 rail cars waiting to ship grain and other products. Another railroad, Canadian Pacific, had a backlog of nearly 1,000 cars. For farmers, the delays often mean canceled orders from food giants that cannot wait weeks or months for the grain they need to make cereal, bread and an array of other products. It can also mean product that is spoiled in the field as the wait for rail cars drags on with highly perishable stock unable to be held for a long wait. A recent study by North Dakota State University concluded that the state’s farmers could lose $160 million as grain backlogs cause prices to fall. The backlogs are also hurting food producers like General Mills and Cargill.

Fracking Woes Stem from Oil Addiction, Not Hydraulic Fracturing - Scientific American (blog) -- Flaming tap water comes from bad wells, and not the drinking-water kind. Folks who live closest to natural gas wells in Pennsylvania suffer ill health. And the uptick in earthquakes in parts of Colorado and New Mexico is entirely human-induced. All of these problems are associated with fracking, yet none of them have anything to do with either the horizontal drilling or cracking rock with high-pressure water that fall under that rubric. Instead, all of these bad outcomes are the simple results of an oil and gas addiction—and the need to get the next fix out of the ground fast—just like subsidence and toxic ash floods result from our addiction to coal. The fossil-fuel addiction is, of course, primarily responsible for climate change as well, but that’s another story.  As more and more research focuses on fracking, the outcome becomes clearer and clearer. It is bad industry practices—poorly finished wells, leaking compressor stations or overdumping of copious wastewater—that lead to trouble. The solution is to either slow industry down or increase its regulation, especially the staff to oversee such operations.

Why the U.S. total rig count went past the 2-year high -According to Baker Hughes, the U.S. total rig count increased by six rigs—from 1,925 to 1,931—during the week ending September 12. Baker Hughes publishes rig counts every week. With the additions, the rig count continues its upward trend. This was the highest U.S. total rig count since August 17, 2012. This marked the 11th rig count increase in the past 14 weeks. It’s also the third consecutive addition after the steep fall on August 22. In the past week, the number of oil rigs increased by eight. The number of natural gas rigs decreased by two. Rigs categorized as “miscellaneous” were unchanged last week. The increase in rig count was a result of increases in horizontal and vertical drilling. See Part 4 of this series to learn more about vertical rigs versus horizontal rigs. Year-to-date (or YTD), the total U.S. rig count is up by 180—or ~10%. Oil rigs have increased by 214 rigs—up 16%. Natural gas rigs have decreased by 34—or ~9%. Rig counts represent how many rigs are actively drilling for hydrocarbons—oil and gas. Baker Hughes noted that rig count trends are “governed by oil company exploration and development spending, which is influenced by the current and expected price of oil and natural gas.”

How Hillary Clinton’s State Department Sold Fracking to the World -  Clinton, who was sworn in as secretary of state in early 2009, believed that shale gas could help rewrite global energy politics. "This is a moment of profound change," she later told a crowd at Georgetown University. "Countries that used to depend on others for their energy are now producers. How will this shape world events? Who will benefit, and who will not?…The answers to these questions are being written right now, and we intend to play a major role." Clinton tapped a lawyer named David Goldwyn as her special envoy for international energy affairs; his charge was "to elevate energy diplomacy as a key function of US foreign policy." Under her leadership, the State Department worked closely with energy companies to spread fracking around the globe—part of a broader push to fight climate change, boost global energy supply, and undercut the power of adversaries such as Russia that use their energy resources as a cudgel. But environmental groups fear that exporting fracking, which has been linked to drinking-water contamination and earthquakes at home, could wreak havoc in countries with scant environmental regulation. And according to interviews, diplomatic cables, and other documents obtained by Mother Jones, American officials—some with deep ties to industry—also helped US firms clinch potentially lucrative shale concessions overseas, raising troubling questions about whose interests the program actually serves.

Could This Environmental Risk Derail America's Oil and Gas Boom? - According to the Energy Information Administration, in 2015 the US is expected to produce an average of 9.5 million barrels/day (bpd) of oil, the highest level since 1986. Thanks to this production boom US oil imports fell from 60% of oil consumed in 2005 to just 32% in 2013.  Americans seem to agree with the positive nature of these benefits, according to a Harris poll conducted earlier in 2014:

  • 87% of people think increased U.S. oil and gas production could stimulate the economy.
  • 92% think it will help U.S. energy security.
  • 91% believe it will help create jobs.

However, fracking, which is largely responsible for America's energy renaissance, has proven to be a highly controversial issue, with environmentalists claiming that it pollutes ground water with large numbers of little-studied chemicals and even causes earthquakes. This article examines this last claim with the aim of detailing how this risk, whether true or perceived, might affect the future of America's oil and gas boom.  No one would be surprised to learn that California is America's most seismically active state, however, they may be surprised to discover that coming in at No. 2 is Oklahoma. Though the state has a fault system, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, it shouldn't be experiencing as many earthquakes as it is.  In fact, in 2013, the state experienced 109 quakes larger than 3.0 on the Richter scale, about 50 times the normal level. In the first half of 2014, that number nearly doubled to 200, an annualized rate of 400 quakes.  In July, a joint study from Cornell University and the University of Colorado concluded that the increased seismic activity is likely caused by fracking and a few high-volume waste water injection wells, of which the state has about 4,500, according to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which regulates drilling in the state. In fact, according to the Oklahoma Geological Survey, 80% of the state is within nine miles of an injection well.

The Era of Bad Feeling -- Kunstler  - Glance in the rear-view mirror and say goodbye to the Era of Wishful Thinking. This was the time when the USA was inspired by its Master Wish: to be able to keep driving to Wal-Mart forever. Looked at closely, the contemporary idea of Utopia was always a shabby package. On one side, all the pointless driving. For most Americans it was nothing like the TV advertising fantasy of a lone luxury car plying a coastal highway in low, golden light. More like being stuck near the junction of I-55 and I-90 in Chicago at rush hour in July in an overheating Dodge Grand Caravan with three screaming ADD kids whose smart phone batteries just died — plus your fiercely over-filled bladder and no empty Snapple bottle to resort to. On the other side, there’s the Wal-Mart part: the unbelievable cornucopia of insanely cheap plastic goodies, like, somewhere in the 1990s America became one giant loading dock for nearly free stuff. Wasn’t that fun? Now, everybody has got the full rig, from the flatscreen to the salad shooter, but we’re tired of seeing Kim Kardashian’s booty, and nobody really liked salad, even when you could shoot the stuff into a bowl. The thrill is gone, and so is the paycheck that was your ticket to the orgy. It’s especially gloomy over in the food department, where the boxes of Lucky Charms are suddenly half the weight and twice the price. And that was going to be the family dinner! Must be Nature’s way of telling you it’s time for a new tattoo. In this weird liminal time since the so-called Crash of 2008 leadership has depended on lies and subterfuges to prop up the illusion of resilience. One biggie is the shale oil revolution, kind of a national parlor trick to wow the multitudes for a long enough moment to convince them that their troubles with the national energy supply are over. Even people paid to think were hosed on this one. Wait until they discover that the shale oil producers have never made a buck producing shale oil, only on the sale of leases and real estate to “greater fools” and creaming off the froth of the complex junk financing deals behind their exertions. Expect that mirage to dissipate in the next 24 months, perhaps sooner if the price of oil keeps sinking toward the sub $90-a-barrel level, where there’s no economically rational reason to bother drilling and fracking.

Coast Guard says it’s not prepared for Great Lakes oil spill - A Coast Guard commander says the service and other responders are not adequately equipped or prepared for a "heavy oil" spill on the Great Lakes. A major oil spill could spell economic disaster for states in the region, severely damaging the multibillion-dollar fishing and recreational boating industries and killing wildlife, the Detroit Free Press reported.. Rear Adm. Fred Midgette, commander of the Coast Guard's District 9, which includes the Great Lakes, said everyone involved in spill response on the Great Lakes is urgently seeking a plan to address a major spill, but they haven't found a way forward yet. "When you get environmental groups, technical experts, oil spill recovery groups and regulators together, that's how you find what's the best way ahead," Midgette said Tuesday at an international forum attended by a cooperative of oil and chemical spill professionals. Midgette said he was particularly concerned that response plans and organizations "are not capable of responding to heavy oil spills, particularly in open-water scenarios" in an Aug. 20 memo to the Coast Guard's deputy commandant for operations. David Holtz, Michigan chairman of the non-profit Sierra Club, said the problem is serious. "How can Michigan and the Great Lakes be in a position where two large oil pipelines are operating underneath the Straits of Mackinac, and the lead responders — the first responders to an oil spill — say they couldn't respond effectively if something happened to those pipes?" he said.

Will U.S. Oil Exports Grease The Path To Economic Growth? - A flood of oil could leave the country if proponents of more lax export laws get their way. The support, coming from unrelated but influential circles, argues that such rules would lead to huge new investments that would bolster economic output — while actually reducing gas prices. Increasing U.S. oil exports, unquestionably, leads to more production that leads to more jobs — the chorus coming from the big oil producers. But that sentiment is getting echoed in some left-leaning corners as well, which include the Brookings Institution and a former member of President Obama’s inner circle, Larry Summers, who led his National Economic Council. “Lifting the ban generates paramount foreign policy benefits, increases U.S. gross domestic product and welfare and reduces unemployment,” says a report just released by the Brookings Institution. “It is time the United States commits to its position on free trade markets … and allows U.S. crude oil to flow.” Its authors, Charles Ebinger and Heather Greenley, add that any perceived oil shortages created by the embargo of 1973 were never real — and that such history has no bearing on today’s global environment. Oil price volatility during that time had been a function of market constraints placed on oil — not one tied to “scarcity.” Such controls still include the, general, inability to sell U.S. oil overseas, they say.

Alberta’s New U.S. Envoy: Oil Train Disaster Would Spur Keystone XL  -- When asked what it will take to get the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline approved, Alberta’s new envoy to Washington, former Alberta MP Rob Merrifield, had a very direct response: It will take a potential — which is devastating — Lac-Mégantic experience in America. [That] would tip it and the Democrats would have no choice and would bail on the President on this one. With Lac-Mégantic, Merrifield is referring to the 2013 oil train crash in the small Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic that killed 47 people and devastated much of the town’s center. He said that an event like this would sway at least the three Democrats needed to approve the pipeline in the Senate. He advised President Obama to consider the possibility of a spill of this magnitude and hopes he will “feel the pressure and understand this is in the best interest of America to approve Keystone.” Before accepting the job as Alberta’s representative to the United States, Merrifield was already spending about half his time in the U.S. as a representative for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government. At that job he pushed for Keystone XL approval, and this job “will be a continuation of that work.”

Oil – The Next Commodity Domino? - Yves here. As we’ve written, austerity in Europe and Chinese efforts to rein in construction-related lending have delivered enough of a hit to global growth so as to start denting oil prices, which were holding up in large measure due to tensions in the Middle East. This post suggests that more oil price weakness is in the offing. This is a big negative for the fracking boom, needless to say, and may give environmentalists more time to stymie further development. By David Llewellyn-Smith: The oil price is taking a shellacking today on the terrible Chinese data, down north of 1%:The weekly chart is already through key support and targeting $85: I was one that thought we would see consistent geo-political premium in prices as Iraq deteriorates. However BofAML has an intersting opposite take today:Islamic State could force a rethink of Saudi oil output policyWe recently showed how active management of Saudi oil output has helped keep oil prices above $100/bbl for almost 4 years. Yet recent advances by the Islamic State (IS) have disrupted Middle East politics and shifted incentives for key regional and global players. After all, self-proclaimed caliph al-Baghdhadi, leader of the IS, rejects political divisions established by Western powers at the end of World War I. As such, IS presents a direct threat to Middle East governments at a time of growing social discontent. What could Arab countries offer the West to help contain this threat? Lower oil prices.

Brent weakness is now a thing - This little chart is becoming a major headache for the world’s biggest oil producers:So much so, in fact, there’s a bit of 2008 deja vu going on in certain quarters. First, there’s the return of the contango trade, albeit not in floating form just yet. Second, Russia is once again popping up in OPEC-related headlines as it strives to get the cartel to defend its interests, despite it not actually be part of the cartel compliance system. (Though as the Moscow Times reports, the official spin is that “the talk of closer cooperation with OPEC on prices have long been there”.) Third, Chinese demand, which was supposed to justify the $100 per barrel price, has been temporarily unhingedby the news that Chinese industrial production expanded at its slowest pace since the global financial crisis in August. Nevertheless, as Olivier Jakob at Petromatrix points out in his daily report, Russian crude oil is especially weak (trading around $94 per barrel) and if WTI continues to reduce its discount to Brent, then not only will the flow from the Midwest to the US coasts slow down, but Atlantic Basin crude oils will begin to be appealing substitutes for US coasts.

Obama delays key power plant rule of signature climate change plan - Barack Obama applied the brakes to the most critical component of his climate change plan on Tuesday, slowing the process of setting new rules cutting carbon pollution from power plants, and casting a shadow over a landmark United Nations’ summit on global warming. The proposed power plant rules were meant to be the signature environmental accomplishment of Obama’s second term. The threat of a delay in their implementation comes just one week before a heavily anticipated UN summit where officials had been looking to Obama to show leadership on climate change. In a conference call with reporters, the Environmental Protection Agency said it was extending the public comment period on the power plant rules for an additional 45 days, until 1 December. The delay follows heavy lobby by Republicans and industry lobby groups to delay the rule – or withdraw it outright. Fifteen governors had called on Obama and the EPA to withdraw the proposed regulations, which would cut carbon pollution from existing power plants. Some electricity companies had argued that the rules were extraordinarily complex, clocking in at about 1,600 pages, and they needed extra time to study the full implications. But a delay puts the EPA on an even tighter deadline to finalise the rule before Obama leaves office in 2016. Even before Tuesday’s extension, the initial comment period for the new EPA rule was already longer than the norm.

The Oil Industry Thinks The White House Will Raise The Biofuel Mandate To Win A Senate Seat - The oil industry accused the Obama Administration of using the country’s biofuel mandate as a political weapon last week — specifically, that the White House intends to hike up the mandate to help out a Democratic Senate candidate in Iowa. According to The Hill, the oil lobbying group the American Petroleum Institute (API) said that the Administration was likely to reverse its earlier plans to lower the required amount of biofuel for 2014, and instead keep it at 2013′s level. Because most biofuel in America is traditional ethanol made from corn, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) helps keep up demand and thus prices for the crop, which is big business in Iowa. API went on to claim the plans to maintain the RFS were part of a gambit to help Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) in his race against Republican Joni Ernst for the senate seat becoming vacant following the retirement of Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA). “There is a strong linkage to what’s going on in the Iowa Senate race,” said Bob Greco, the director of API’s downstream operations. “I think you are starting to see the political calculations. We are very concerned that the signals we are seeing from the administration is that the political calculations are outweighing sound fuels policy.” “You don’t have to be a political insider to see how the Iowa Senate race — and the White House’s fear they will lose control of the Senate — plays into this decision,” Greco continued.

US Power Plants World's Worst Polluters: Report: America's power plants are among the leading global sources of carbon emission than the entire economies of Russia, India, Japan or any other nation put together besides China, a latest report said today. "US power plants are polluters on a global scale," said Elizabeth Ouzts of Environment America Research & Policy Center which released the report "America's Dirtiest Power Plants," ahead of the next weeks United Nations Climate Summit in New York. "It's time to stop ignoring our largest global warming polluter, and start a major transition to clean power," she said, adding that the US power plants are world's third largest carbon polluters, edging out India. According to the report, in 2012, US power plants produced more than six percent of global warming emissions worldwide, more than any other industrialised nation except China and the US as a whole. The 50 dirtiest US power plants produced 30 per cent of all power-sector carbon dioxide emissions in 2012, the same as the entire economy of South Korea, the world's seventh-largest carbon emitter, it said. The 100 dirtiest US power plants produced 19 per cent of all power-sector carbon dioxide emissions, the same as Germany, the 6th largest carbon emitter.

Gas hungry China trims back shale goal — China has halved its 2020 goal for shale gas production. The country faces challenges ranging from difficult geology to shortage of technology in the area meant to quench its ever-growing energy needs. The country is only starting mass production of shale gas, which drastically changed the energy landscape in the US in recent years, with the extraction of 200 million cubic meters annually. In 2012, when Chinese shale gas production was virtually non-existent, Beijing eyed an ambitious goal of 60-80 billion cubic meters (bcm) by 2020, but the latest plans from the Ministry of Land and Resources on Wednesday lowered it to more conservative 30 bcm. A higher figure is possible, but conditional. "China aims to pump at least 30 billion cubic meters of shale gas by 2020. With proper drilling technology, output can increase to 40 to 60 billion cubic meters," Che Changbo, deputy director of the ministry's geological exploration department, said at a news conference in Beijing. Short-term prospects for shale gas production are more optimistic, according to the ministry. It will surpass the old government 2015 target of 6.5 bcm next year and hit 15 bcm in 2017. China has carved out 54 shale gas blocks spanning 170,000 sq km. Producers have drilled 400 wells, including 130 horizontal.

China expects shale to account for 20 percent of gas output - -- Though off to a slow start, the Chinese government said it expected gas production from shale will eventually make up about 20 percent of total output. Beijing said it expected to get at least 60 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from shale deposits by 2020. Production this year will be around 1.5 bcf, but could increase tenfold within the next two years. "If measures are appropriate, there is hope that production can reach 40 bcm - 60 bcm, accounting for roughly a fifth of total gas output," Peng Qiming, director of exploration of the Ministry of Land Resources, said Wednesday. The Chinese government said its consumption of natural gas should increase as it embraces a low-carbon economy. By 2020, Beijing expects the share of natural gas in the energy mix should be about 10 percent, about double the current footprint. An August briefing from the U.S. Energy Information Administration says China may hold the largest reserves of technically recoverable shale natural gas in the world. Technical and geological challenges, however, could impede full-scale development 

The Great Fracking Forward: Why the World Needs China to Frack Even More - Wired -- There are two main reasons behind China’s newfound zeal for gas. As Michael Liebreich, the founder of New Energy Finance, an energy market analytics firm now owned by Bloomberg LP, put it, “One is to feed the growth. There has to be energy and it has to be affordable in order to continue the growth machine. But the other one is that they’ve got to get off this coal.” Constituting a whopping 70 percent of China’s energy supply, coal has allowed the country to become the world’s second-largest economy in just a few decades. But burning coal has also caused irreparable damage to the environment and the health of China’s citizens. City officials have been forced to shut down roads because drivers are blinded by soot and smog. China’s Civil Aviation Administration ordered pilots to learn to land planes in low-visibility conditions to avoid flight delays and cancellations. Scientists wrote in the medical journal The Lancet that ambient particulate matter, generated mostly by cars and the country’s 3,000 coal-fired power plants, killed 1.2 million Chinese people in 2010. In late 2013, an eight-year-old girl in Jiangsu Province was diagnosed with lung cancer; her doctor attributed it to air pollution. And earlier this year, scientists found that up to 24 percent of sulfate air pollutants—which contribute to smog and acid rain—in the western United States originated from Chinese factories manufacturing for export.“The air quality in China has reached a kind of tipping point in the public consciousness,” 

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