Monday, August 29, 2011

Fracking Fallacies

I'm very glad there are people who's life work it is to protect our natural lands and beautiful spaces. I'm glad that there are people concerned about habitat loss and the effects of man's activities on the ecological diversity of a region. I belong to The Nature Conservancy and have visited probably 90% or more of the nation's national parks and many of our national wildlife refuges. But sometimes some of the people engaged in the work of insuring that our natural heritage is available for our descendents to enjoy give the impression that they're just a bunch of Luddites.

A case in point is the campaign to stop the use of a technology called "fracking" which is used to mine natural gas from subterranean rock. There may be good reasons not to "frack" but according to an article at American Thinker the objections some environmentalists have raised against the practice seem either trivial or dishonest. According to the AT article:
Hydro-fracking has a long history of success. First introduced in 1908, forty years later it became a commercially viable method to safely extract America's most abundant energy from bedrock strata. Over one million gas wells have been fracked without a single incident of environmental impact. This didn't stop Ian Urbina of the New York Times from citing a case from 1984 in an August 2011 article warning of tainted water and the possibility of benzene in fracking fluid.
Urbina's article was based on the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency requires that drillers file Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for every chemical used on the drill site. Benzene, as well as a lot of other chemicals, are used in the vehicles and machinery on site, but are not part of the fracking fluid.
Ninety percent of fracking fluid is water with 9.5% sand the other half percent the secret ingredients, common household chemicals we all flush daily into the municipal gray water system.

The AP sounded the alarm highlighting three compounds that appeared on the lists because of the risks they pose to human health -- naphthalene, toluene and xylene. Eco-activists had a field day claiming that deadly BTEX compounds (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene) in fracking fluid will poison the water, killing fish, flora, and fauna while releasing fatal concentrations of the green death into the atmosphere.

It was much ado about nothing. Scott Perry, the director of DEP's Bureau of Oil and Gas Management, accepted the blame because he provided the AP with the comprehensive list of all chemicals used at PA's well sites. Not just the chemicals pumped deep underground but also those stored or used on a well site, including fuel and brake fluid for vehicles. DEP spokesman Tom Rathbun, said of hydraulic fracturing fluids, that a fear that those chemicals will interfere with drinking water aquifers is misplaced.

"It's our experience in Pennsylvania that we have not had one case in which the fluids used to break off the gas from 5,000 to 8,000 feet (1,500-2,400 m) underground have returned to contaminate ground water," said John Hanger, former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
EPA bureaucrats, however, don't seem to care about inconvenient details. Residents in a Texas suburb had natural gas in their water wells for years before any fracking took place. The methane was a natural constituent of the town's water, but that didn't hinder the EPA from closing down the wells. Fracking was going on nearby, methane was in the water, ergo fracking must be responsible for the methane. The EPA shut down the drillers and put dozens of people out of work.

Little wonder that government bureaucracies and those who staff them, particularly the EPA of the Obama administration, are the butt of so much grass-roots mistrust and contempt.

Kill Bill and Al Qaeda Succession

There's a scene in one of the Kill Bill movies where a horde of Japanese swordsmen attack the Uma Thurman heroine pretty much one at a time. As they attack she mows them down seriatim with her own exquisite swordplay until there are none left to fight. I was reminded of that scene when I read the news that al Qaeda's number two man had come a cropper at the business end of an air to surface missile in Waziristan recently.

This is apparently as big a setback for al Qaeda as was the death of bin Laden because this guy, Atiyah al Rahman, was a serious talent in the al Qaeda network:
Brian Fishman of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point calls Rahman the communications glue of the organization and says that losing him will damage AQ as much as losing Bin Laden did. If you doubt him, take 30 seconds to re-read this post from last month.

Rahman was so important that Bin Laden appointed him as the group’s official emissary in Iran, which allowed him to arrange transit through the country for AQ operatives. Rahman was also Bin Laden’s point man on a plot to attack the United States on the anniversary of 9/11 this year, which is all you need to know about how far his ambitions extended.

This was not a guy who operated locally only, against U.S. troops in Afghanistan. He was thinking big. And judging by how frequently he communicated with Osama, he was clearly someone for whom the group had high hopes. Says Steve Hayes at the Standard, “If Atiyah Rahman is indeed dead, as it appears, [it's] hard to overstate how significant a blow that is for AQ. And win for us.” Indeed.
According to sources, there were two missiles fired. One at a house and one at a car carrying four suspected terrorists. Which missile took out al Rahman is unknown.

So what does this have to do with the scene in Kill Bill? It seems like every month another one of these top echelon chaps is sent to his reward and a successor rushes in to take his place, like the assassins attacking Uma Thurman, only to have himself promptly dispatched to his 72 virgins within days or weeks of assuming his new duties. Like the Japanese swordsmen, they're eager to rush into the fray, but it's hard to figure out why.

Just What We Needed

Hot Air's Green Room has us all excited about the President's new executive order:
Perhaps to counter claims that he is off vacationing while the country goes to hell in a hand basket, President Obama took time away from the golf links to attend to affairs of state.

So what matter was so important that it demanded the president’s immediate attention? Did he get sudden inspiration on ways to cut the deficit, or did he hit upon a strategy or two to add to his soon-to-be-announced jobs plan (demoted to an outline)? Nope. He signed an executive order calling for the creation of an Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

The goal of the plan, as described by Judicial Watch, is to “eliminate demographic group imbalances in targeted occupations and improve workforce diversity. To attain this, special initiatives have been created targeting specific groups, including Hispanics, African Americans, American Indians, women and gays and lesbians.”
Everyone but white males. Apparently there are already too many white males in a lot of occupations.

What this means of, course, is that this new bureaucracy will insure hiring on the basis of quotas and racial and gender preferences.

The President had this to say about his latest effort on the job creation front:
We are at our best when we draw on the talents of all parts of our society, and our greatest accomplishments are achieved when diverse perspectives are brought to bear to overcome our greatest challenges.
Actually, this is not true. We are at our best when the best people, regardless of ethnicity and gender, are performing the work, but it's perhaps too much to expect a man who himself rose to the nation's highest office with absolutely no qualifications or talent for the job to think that qualifications should matter for any other government position. If Mr. Obama was elected largely because of his minority status, well, why shouldn't others have the same opportunity?

It's a strange way to effect national healing and good feeling to tell qualified people that they're the wrong color or sexual orientation for the job they seek. It was unjust when such thinking worked against minorities and it's as unjust today when it works for them.