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11 Comments

  1. Natural gas has managed to keep a low profile to date compared to other carbon-based fuels. Fracking has changed that, and I’m not sure the industry is ready for the backlash that is going to come from the inevitable incidents that will happen from this process. They are botching it badly up here in Eastern Canada, as they are facing a moratorium, yet they are failing to stop a leaking well, and trying to pretend that this is nothing to the press. Their problem is that no one is buying that story, yet they still persist.

  2. I dunno, I’m kind of split on this, because honestly I don’t know enough of the facts. But, I’ve heard some people respond that various agencies (state, maybe federal, don’t remember now) had investigated the complaints about the wells of some of the people interviewed in Gasland, and found that the contamination in their water didn’t come from the Gas Drillers.
    It’s a tough thing – there’s this bit about human psychology, where most people will take two facts: A) Some industrial process started nearby recently. B) Something bad happens (like my water gets contaminated). Then they jump to the conclusion that A caused B. The problem is, that while it is possible that A caused B, it’s also very possible that it’s complete coincidence – but you’ll NEVER convince these people it might be a coincindence.
    The flip side of that is, as far as I can tell, the Gas industry, right now, perhaps isn’t actually doing the greatest job of making sure their drilling doesn’t cause environmental problems? I dunno. I do know that the Gas industry got itself exempted from pollution regulations. Why would you need an exemption if you aren’t going to pollute (well, I suppose maybe to save some money on paperwork and extra regulatory burders which might not be necessary if you really aren’t going to be engaging in activities which *could* pollute).
    In any case, the reason I don’t think the Gas industry is too worried is that they don’t have to, too much. The way I see it, even if we started building nukes on an ambitious build out program, it would take something like 2-3 decades to get enough online to really start to displace Gas usage. In the meantime, the Gas industry basically has guaranteed demand – and the public (including myself, to a small extent), would rather see us engage in (hopefully responsibly conducted) Gas drilling, to try to reduce the growth in our energy imports, than to not drill, and keep buying all our fuel from everyone else. Individual companies might get into trouble over environmental practices, I suppose, but the industry’s in a pretty secure place, I think.

    1. @Guest – welcome.
      You wrote:
      But, I’ve heard some people respond that various agencies (state, maybe federal, don’t remember now) had investigated the complaints about the wells of some of the people interviewed in Gasland, and found that the contamination in their water didn’t come from the Gas Drillers.
      Really. Who told you that? It sounds suspiciously like the information that I have found on Energy in Depth, which has been frequently repeated in many different venues. Repetition works as a means to distribute almost any opinion, bit of information, or piece of propaganda – that is well understood in the world of communications. It is fairly simple to amplify any message with enough money, and the folks behind Energy in Depth are some of the wealthiest and successful enterprises in one of the most profitable industries ever developed by human society. They have plenty of means, motive and opportunity to tell the American public almost any story they want them to hear.
      From Energy in Depth’s “About Us” page:
      Who We Are
      America

      1. @Rod, that was me. I’m sorry – I had recently cleared my browser cookies to resolve a problem with a different website, and when you clear your cookies, you get logged out of every website you’ve ever logged into. I forgot I wasn’t logged in, hence the ‘guest’ post. I honestly don’t remember my source, but I remember them mentioning at least a Colorado dept involved in regulating the gas industry, that had done an investigation of at least one case (I think it was several, but I can’t swear to that), and couldn’t find fault with the drillers for water contamination.
        The point is, I don’t know if the Gas industry has or hasn’t caused environmental contamination, but sometimes people can fall into the trap of overly-simplistic analysis, which might be enough to convince a lot of people, but can actually be *wrong*. We have to be careful when seeing interesting correlations, to not assume that the correlation proves causation.
        As for the oil and gas industry, yes, they are large, successful, and rich. That, in and of itself, is not wrong, and is nothing to be ashamed of. Just because the gas industry is powerful, doesn’t mean they are wrong, or lieing about not polluting (though, certainly, the possibility exists).
        As an American, I’m happy if we have some large, successful, and rich businesses/industries, who provide a lot of money into our economy, taxes into our Treasury, and jobs. That said, if those businesses are polluting, I’m also interested in developing other businesses which don’t pollute. But success, in and of itself, is no reason to hate a business or industry.
        I can understand, from your several blog postings, why you are so frustrated at the Gas industry, because, I think you’ve made a pretty convincing case, are a major player behind retarding the growth of the nuclear industry. I agree, that’s frustrating, but as for claims of pollution by the Gas industry, I still need to be convinced that’s really as big of a problem as it’s lately been made out to be.
        I really am interested in the topic, and “Gasland” might be useful as a starting point for a public discourse about the environmental costs of the Gas industry, but I’d rather rely on more knowledgeable/authoritative sources for my opinions than a popular documentary (which, I admit I have not yet seen, but I plan to watch it when I can get it on Netflix – I’ll have to check, it might be up by now) which, from everything I’ve heard, is basically based on homeowners demonstrating pollution of their water. Their water is polluted, but that doesn’t prove that the nearby gas drilling actually is the cause.
        As a nuclear advocate, you should appreciate that this is a double-edged sword. How much grief has nuclear gotten from false environmental allegations?
        I will say this – “Gasland” notwithstanding, I do agree with the point you’ve made several times – even if Gas emits “less” carbon than Coal and Oil, it still emits a lot of carbon. Also, gas leaks release quite a bit of unburned methane into the environment which, if I remember correctly, I’ve read is quite a bit more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon mono/di-oxides. So, water/soil pollution aside, those are good reasons to not try to burn shale gas as fast as we possibly can, and to use nuclear instead.

        1. @Jeff – I have no problem with “large, successful, and rich businesses/industries.” However, those industries should be ready for criticism when it appears that their wealth and success comes from manipulation that tips the scales in their favor and results in pain in other parts of the economy. Business does not have to be a zero sum game where there are winners and losers. Engaging in free enterprise is one of the most creative and spiritually rewarding activities that humans can perform – it is a matter of seeing needs and figuring out ways to meet them in such a way that customers feel good about exchanging their money for the goods and services provided.
          It is destructive when a competitor, rather than investing in ways of making their own product better, invests their money in activities that harm their competitors and make the competitive products look worse. Would you admire a local jewelry shop that hired vandals to paint graffiti on the walls of a competitor on a different street in order to push customers off of that street and onto a street where they are more likely to shop at the unmarred store?

  3. Perhaps it would have been worthwhile if the market analyst had focused on financial issues? Shale gas output rose 47% in 2009, and companies are already complaining about low gas prices hurting exploration and production outlook. Many of these companies are carrying very high debt loads from fierce competition in sector to secure proven reserves:
    Chesapeake, which reported nearly $15 billion in long-term debt as of Sept. 30, 2010, has been aggressive in buying up properties in shale gas fields across the United States. But in response to persistent low natural gas prices, the company has vowed to shift its exploration focus away from drilling for gas in places like the Fayetteville Shale and to instead look for oil.
    Tweaking supply is one way they can impact the price of natural gas, another is to invest in storage technologies (which many are currently having difficulty doing now with prices so low).
    It seems like we made this mistake once before already. Invested in an energy technology where the marginal cost of fuel is very high, and the behavior of market participants directly impacts the price of commodity to consumers (as in a cartel among producers). And we’re leaving it to the industry to self-regulate and keep prospects rosy and affordable for our energy independent future? If shale gas is already an expensive process (despite low regulatory burden at the moment), it seems these pressures are only going to get worse in the future, and with new ones on top of it (unless we decide to lower environmental standards even further). I don’t see how this works out well for the consumer in the long run? Could we end up with lots of excess power plants just sitting idle because the future marginal cost of gas is just too darn high? Or are supplies as “fungible” as the industry tells us (at least for the next 50 years)? They certainly seem to be struggling to balance the equation of supply and demand at the moment.

    1. @EL – here is my recommendation for trying to make sense of the things that you are seeing in energy, but cannot quite understand. If you realize that businessmen often see near term profit maximization as their PRIMARY mission, with long term market domination as their secondary goal, you might start to understand the world’s market for heat. To a very good first order approximation, the world’s energy market is really a “heat” market with a variety of potential materials that can all be fungibly converted into British Thermal Units (BTU) – or any other measure of “heat” that you want to use.
      (Of all of the various energy options, the only ones that do not meet this simplification are moving water (hydro and tidal), moving air (wind), direct photo conversion of light (PV). All of those together account for less than 5% of the world’s energy and most of that is traditional large hydro.)
      When you see the world’ energy market as a somewhat fungible market for heat, you will understand that all of the various businesses associated with energy are really competing for a slice of the world’s hunger for BTUs. That market, in one way or another, represents somewhere between 15 and 30% of the world’s total economic activity, so it is a market worth fighting for, even if the fighting gets devious, sharp elbowed, and downright deadly.
      I am of the firm opinion that atomic fission of uranium, thorium and plutonium is the BEST heat source mankind has ever discovered and developed into a commercially viable and controllable source of heat. The second place source on objective measures would be difficult to plot on the same graph without using logarithms. However, fission came late to the party, and the suppliers of the established heat sources are the folks who think they control access. They have some big, burly bouncers and hundreds of yards of velvet ropes that can be used to fend off the interlopers.
      In my not so humble opinion, the current situation is a about as unstable as having an 82 year old “president for life” trying to control a population of 80 million people, only a tiny slice of whom have been invited into the inner circle. When people begin to realize how much better fission is than the established alternatives, and how many of the current heat markets can be infiltrated and then dominated by fission, the party will begin to break up and the folks who have controlled heat for so long will find that their carefully protected market has been overrun by a bunch of atomic geeks with figurative pocket protectors.
      I am mixing all kinds of metaphors here, but the energy market really will be a “revenge of the nerds”. That might happen far more quickly than most observers can imagine, partly because the controllers of heat have isolated themselves for so long that they have no real idea how unpopular they really are.

  4. We will get to witness the parallel of sticking shale wells practically everywhere in the US with the placement of iron smelters in every peasant village in China.
    A great leap forward, deuxi

  5. I watched most of the one hour and forty-two minute documentary “Gasland” and needed a break. There were several shocking revelations. This is not a sensationalist stretch-the-truth kind of film. Josh Fox speaks well and he clearly did a lot of hard work to speak to the people directly involved. The mass of evidence is so overwhelming that I’m sure the film maker had a huge amount of editing. I think he deserves an Academy Award from what I’ve seen.
    The most shocking thing to see is that the EPA is not allowed to investigate the damage being done because of laws passed under Dick Cheney’s rule. I was getting upset about interference from the EPA regarding the Nuclear industry and now seeing this where their power to investigate is nil makes me wonder why they exist. They can chase the nuclear and coal industry but not the natural gas industry.
    The map of the gas wells across the west have shown how huge areas have been destroying farmland and killing both wildlife and people. The nuclear industry makes the Natural Gas industry look like the dark ages. I am convinced that something is seriously wrong. The so called conspiracy theorists are right about this one. The corporations are raping the land. First it was strip malls now it’s natural habitat.

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