Deroy Murdock; Fracking is 'greener' than environmentalists want to admit
A constant, mild hiss. That was my chief observation when I returned to Anadarko Petroleum's Landon Pad A, a natural-gas site in Lycoming County, Pa.
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#1 Dec 4, 2013
For the record, the numbers cited by Murdock for biodiesel are incorrect. While a specific reference is not given, my guess is that it comes from a back-of-the envelop calculation that was done by a DoE staffer in 2006. It was not peer-reviewed. It was not a comprehensive lifecycle analysis and contained many significant errors including incorrect assumptions about yield per acre, irrigation statistics, and coproduct allocation. Biodiesel can be produced using no water at all. However, common practice employs a water wash to purify crude biodiesel into finished fuel. On average, it takes about 4 gallons of water per million Btu to convert fats and oils into biodiesel. All of this water is treated before being discharged, so the water is not actually consumed, but is returned downstream in as-good or better quality than before. There is a significant difference between this use-and-return water use and the un-treated disposal of fracking wastewater.
It takes millions of gallons of water to develop a single fracked well. Contaminated fracking fluids are commonly injected underground as a means of disposal without treatment. While illegal in some states, the oil and gas industry enjoys an exclusion in the federal Safe Drinking Water Act that is the ire of many environmentalists. These millions of gallons of industrial pollution which are disposed of illicitly under our feet are not the only threat. The geology beneath our feet determines the quality and quantity of groundwater available for drinking water and other uses. In many cases, naturally impervious layers of shale and other rock formations are the protecting barriers between clean, fresh drinking water and chemicals or contaminants that would make it unsuitable for human use. Fracking is a permanent distortion of the geologic strata that. Just as fracking releases oil and gas into a well casing, it allows other fluids to move, now and forever through the cracks created below ground. So, when we consider the risks to our water resources from fracking, we cannot consider only the millions of gallons of polluted water discharged underground, but the added risk to entire regional groundwater supplies. Frankly, I do not trust that Mr. Murdock has fairly quantified the water use impacts of fracking. I know he has misrepresented biodiesel, because as the Director of Sustainability of the National Biodiesel Board it is my job to accurately quantify all the lifecycle impacts of our most energy-dense renewable fuel
I would like Mr. Murdock and the news service for which he works to clarify whether the writing, distribution, or research for this article were supported financially by the natural gas industry. It sure reads like a paid advertisement.
Normally, I would not lash out against an industry that is legitimately bringing cheap, domestic energy to American consumers. However, Mr. Murdock stretches the bounds of reality too far to suggest that gas is environmentally friendly. The gas industry may be slightly cleaner than coal in the short term, but both industries are still pumping methane and carbon dioxide on a one-way trip into our atmosphere. Fossil energy may appear to be inexpensive now, but the costs of climate change are likely to come back to haunt us. What we need, instead of more ways to extract fossilized carbon out of the ground, are more ways to capture solar energy and recycle carbon that is already in the atmosphere. That is what biodiesel does. Biodiesel and other renewable energy sources are far superior when it comes to environmental impacts that really matter.
The oil and gas companies understandably feel villainized by that environmental community which has been very vocal about the risks of fracking. That is no excuse to falsely characterize other alternative energy sources that are also bringing economic and energy security benefits to America while also delivering real environmental benefits.
#2 Dec 4, 2013
#3 Dec 14, 2013
Murdock can't get out of December, before more evidence that fracking is fracked(as Battlestar Galactica would script).
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