Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What's Not to Like?

Gary Jason is a philosopher and a senior editor of Liberty. In an essay at American Thinker he reviews the state of play between the EPA and the natural gas industry. He writes that after concerted attempts to limit or stop the use of fracking technology to drill for gas, the EPA seems to be backing off their earlier opposition. Here are a few of the important points he makes in the essay:
[The EPA] has withdrawn its lawsuit against Range Resources Corporation wherein, it had alleged that the company was polluting water wells near Fort Worth, Texas. Moreover, the EPA will now retest water in Wyoming about which it had earlier raised questions.

Add to this the fact that the Agency has tested well water in Pennsylvania, once found to be polluted, and now (like the state's own similar agency) declares the water to be safe, and you begin to sense that the EPA is being forced to retreat from its ... opposition to the new technology.

One good sign is that the extremist environmentalist groups are beginning to come down hard on the EPA, long considered an agency that belonged to them.

What is emerging here is a consensus among scientists that to the extent that gas from fracking gets into a water supply -- and that is relatively rare as it is -- the cause is not the fracking itself (i.e., the injection of water, sand, and small amounts of chemicals into shale to release the gas), but rather wells that are not properly constructed.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection recently worked with Chesapeake Energy to come up with a greatly improved well design....Chesapeake agreed to those improvements (which increase the drilling costs per well by about 10%, or half a million dollars) after one of its wells leaked natural gas into the water supply. But it is important to note that the leakage in this one well occurred before any fracking had been done.

Add to this the realization that the production of natural gas made possible by fracking should actually reduce atmospheric greenhouse gasses and it seems as if it would be environmentally foolish to stop it.
How does fracking reduce CO2? Jason explains: Fracking (and horizontal drilling) have led to a massive increase in the production of domestic natural gas, driving the prices dramatically down. In fact, from 2008 to the present, the price of natural gas has plummeted over 80% from $12 to $2.30 per million Btus (MMBtu). This has led to natural gas being used to generate power formerly generated by coal-fired plants, and burning natural gas emits less CO2 than does burning coal.

Summing up, Jason writes:
Fracking is ecologically safe, helps America achieve energy independence, provides great-paying jobs for blue-collar workers in an era of seemingly endless rates of high unemployment, and lowers greenhouse gas emissions.
If the first part of that really is true, and there are those who contest it even if the EPA is no longer among them, then what's not to like about it?

Well, it seems that the Obama administration is still not convinced.