The fracker blogs are circulating a recently released report and spinning it as fracking is good for the environment. One such blog, Marcellus Drilling News (MDN) has the headline of “New Study: Marcellus Fracked Wells are Good for Environment”. *
MDN does a copy/paste from another blog “Science 2.0 (Jun 17, 2013) – Not Just Cleaner: Fracking A Good Energy Return On Investment Also”.
Science 2.0 blog, did a cut/paste from yet another site – PHYS.org’s post “How useful is fracking anyway? Study explores return of investment”.
The study is entitled “A Preliminary Energy Return on Investment Analysis of Natural Gas from the Marcellus Shale”, published in the June 2013 issue of the Journal of Industrial Ecology.
THE TALKING POINT
Science 2.0 blog begins by repeating the gas industry’s talking point of natural gas being cleaner than coal. While burning natural gas at the end user point may be cleaner than coal, getting the gas out of the ground and to the end user is actually dirtier than coal.
The cliché of “the operation was successful, but the patient died” seems to fit this talking point.
Additionally, nowhere in the paper’s abstract or cited quotes from Mike Aucott, the lead author, does it say natural gas is cleaner than coal. The “cleaner than coal” talking point is just that – a talking point with little basis in fact.
WHAT DOES AUCOTT SAY?
Aucott is quoted “Our analysis indicates that gas can be extracted from shale efficiently, from an energy perspective. “
KEYWORD: ENERGY PERSPECTIVE. Are any other perspectives taking into consideration?
“Our analysis indicates that gas can be extracted from shale efficiently, from an energy perspective. The energy return on (energy) investment ratio (EROI) does seem to be at least as favorable as coal,” said lead author Mike Aucott. “However, a comparison with coal is difficult. There appear to be large amounts of coal still available. Estimates of the amount of gas available from the shale plays vary widely. It is not clear yet whether there is anywhere near enough to rival coal over the long haul.”
“There are concerns about water pollution and other environmental impacts associated with shale gas production. With the assumption that these can be managed, and that production quantities remain consistent with initial production data, the favorable EROI suggests that shale gas will be a viable energy source for quite some time.”
Aucott hedges with words like “seems to be at least as favorable as coal”, and “Estimates of the amount of gas available from the shale plays vary widely. It is not clear yet whether there is anywhere near enough to rival coal over the long haul”.
The use of the word “PRELIMINARY” in the title of the paper indicates a first step. PRELIMINARY as defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “something that precedes or is introductory or preparatory”. As being PRELIMINARY, this is not definitive or very conclusive, and indicates further study is needed.
Assumptions are being made:
1. Assumes water pollution and other environmental impacts can be managed.
Can the pollution and impacts be managed? Perhaps, but more to the point WILL the gas industry “manage” it? The gas industry, their front groups and other supporters have often stated there is no environmental impact from gas drilling. As MDN’s spin states – fracking is good for the ecology.
So why did both blogs overlook Aucott’s acknowledgement that water pollution and other environmental impacts does happen. If it didn’t happen why would Aucott assume water pollution and other environmental impacts can be managed?
2. Assumes production quantities remain consistent with initial production data.
I have no idea what “initial production data” was used. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently slashed natural gas reserve estimates in the Marcellus shale:
The U.S. Energy Department cut its estimate for natural gas reserves in the Marcellus shale formation by 66 percent, citing improved data on drilling and production.
The estimated Marcellus reserves would meet U.S. gas demand for about six years, using 2010 consumption data, according to the Energy Department, down from 17 years in the previous outlook.
These are HUGE assumptions, but Aucott hedges with the word SUGGESTS – “…the favorable EROI suggests that shale gas will be a viable energy source for quite some time.”
Aucott further states: “It is not clear yet whether there is anywhere near enough to rival coal over the long haul”. So there might be, maybe, perhaps, or not??? Seems a wee bit fuzzy.
I am not going to comment on the entire report as it not available for free on-line; therefore I am unable to read it.
However, the “PRELIMINARY” spin based on “ASSUMED” talking points does “SUGGEST” the fracking blogs are attempting to make an ASS out U and ME.
* Marcellus Drilling News (MDN) is a subscription blog and full articles are only available to subscribers. HOWEVER, if you copy the title of the blog post, and paste it in a google search, you can access the entire blog for free.
©2013 by Dory Hippauf