During the last couple of days, I have listened to two lengthy reports on the impacts of fracking, a method of breaking up very deep shale formations to free up trapped fossil gas so that it can be profitably extracted if market conditions are favorable.
The first story about fracking comes from from DemocracyNow.org. It provides some dramatic video and the views of the creator of an expose movie called GasLand that won a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Independent Film festival. Josh Fox produced the video based on his travels across the country to interview people whose lives have been negatively impacted by the effects of lightly regulated extraction efforts.
The second story nearly qualifies as a smoking gun. It clearly links the top leadership of a major environmental group – the Sierra Club – with promoting shale gas, a direct competitor with nuclear energy in the electricity production market. Since Carl Pope does not mention nuclear directly, Pope cannot be accused of speaking negatively about it while selling gas, but failing to mention it at all in the context of providing electricity in a world worried about greenhouse gas emissions speaks loudly to me.
The fissures that shale gas is causing within the Sierra Club are almost as extensive as the physical fissures caused by hydraulic fracking. Here is an excerpt from the NPR program that should raise some hackles among those members who have joined together to protect their local natural habitats from the damage caused by many kinds of uncontrolled industrial developments.
Carl Pope – Sierra Club: We see it as the cleanest of the fossil fuels.
Elizabeth Shogren – NPR: He’s not surprised by the reaction of Sierra Club members who live above the Marcellus Field.
Pope: What’s happening with the new discoveries of natural gas is that parts of the country that historically didn’t pay any environmental bill for energy production because they didn’t produce any energy are going to start paying a bigger share of the bill and people don’t like that.
Update: (Posted on February 25, 2010 at 7:10 pm) This post has now officially become a smoking gun – one in which a fossil fuel industry spokesman or marketing professional takes clear aim at nuclear energy. (The Sierra Club receives large donations from natural gas interests and has clearly stated that its nation policy is to favor natural gas.)
Here is a press release issued in response to President Obama’s announcement of the Southern Company loan guarantee:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 16, 2010
CONTACT: Josh Dorner, 202.675.2384
Sierra Club Responds to President Obama’s Announcement of Nuclear Loan Guarantees
Washington, D.C.–President Obama today announced the awarding of some $8 billion in loan guarantees for the construction of two new nuclear reactors at an existing Southern Company facility in Burke, Georgia. The President’s Budget envisions the awarding of $54 billion in loan guarantees for the construction of new nuclear plants. The Sierra Club offered the following comments in response.
Statement of Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director
“We are pleased that President Obama reiterated the need to put a price on carbon and build a clean energy economy with more renewable energy and greater energy efficiency. While we remain wholeheartedly behind the president’s overall vision for America’s energy future, there are areas of disagreement and loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants are one of them.
“We need to prioritize the cleanest, cheapest, safest, and fastest ways to reduce emissions and nuclear power is neither clean, cheap, nor fast, nor safe. Putting taxpayers on the hook for billions, particularly when the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office puts the risk of default at over 50 percent, is not the best use of limited government resources. The $8 billion in loan guarantees announced today are unlikely to cover even half the final cost of the two reactors to be built. Retrofitting our homes and commercial buildings would result in significantly greater emissions reductions almost immediately–at far less cost– and would also cut energy bills in the long-run.
“Studies also show that investments in outdated energy sources like oil, coal, and nuclear power create far fewer jobs per dollar than investments in energy efficiency and clean energy.
“The loan guarantees announced today may ease the politics around comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation, but we do not believe that they are the best policy.”