Blog Archive

Sunday, November 10, 2013

News on ALEC, fracking, earthquakes, carbon sequestration projects, oil & gas subsidies, coal gasification, msnbc fossil fuel "journalism"

from RJ Sigmund:

Study Shows Carbon Sequestration Can Cause Quakes - Two scientists have found evidence that underground carbon dioxide injection in oil and gas fields may cause earthquakes, a finding that suggests carbon sequestration projects could shake the earth, too. Carbon sequestration projects, also called carbon capture and storage, or CCS, projects, are thought to be one solution to reducing climate change-fueling carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants and other sources. Several such projects are currently being studied across the country. Though scientists have speculated that it's possible that injecting gas underground could cause seismic activity, there had been no hard evidence, until now. Seismologists Wei Gan of China University of Geosciences and Cliff Frohlich of the University of Texas-Austin investigated why a West Texas oil field experienced 93 earthquakes in 2009 and 2010, some of which were Magnitude 3 or greater, and they were surprised by what they found. Frohlich said he originally thought the earthquakes were caused by an oil production process called “waterflooding,” which involves the injection of large amounts of water into the ground to help move oil deposits into wells, increasing crude oil production.“I was surprised when I found the quakes in West Texas appear to be caused by carbon injection,” he said.

Carbon Capture and Storage Can Cause Earthquakes, Making It ‘A Risky And Likely Unsuccessful Strategy’ - New research suggests that carbon capture and storage (CCS) may be a far more limited climate solution than previously thought because it can induce earthquakes, which can cause CO2 leakage. We’ve known for a long time that underground injection of massive quantities of liquids or high-pressure gases can induce earthquakes. Indeed, recent research finds that fracking wastewater reinjection has caused “a rise in small to mid-sized earthquakes in the United States.” As Stanford researchers made clear in 2012: We argue here that there is a high probability that earthquakes will be triggered by injection of large volumes of CO2 into the brittle rocks commonly found in continental interiors. Because even small- to moderate-sized earthquakes threaten the seal integrity of CO2 repositories, in this context, large-scale CCS is a risky, and likely unsuccessful, strategy for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Even a very small leakage rate of well under 1% a year would render the storage system all but useless as a “permanent repository”. Seismologists studied why a Texas oil field had “93 well-recorded earthquakes occurring between March 2009 and December 2010,” some of which exceeded Magnitude 3. They found a close correlation between these quakes and large-scale CO2 injections into the field.  One expert who reviewed the study before publication said: “The bottom line here is … carbon dioxide injection under high enough pressures and with high enough volume could induce seismicity just like any other fluid at high enough pressures and with high enough volume. We see (quakes) fairly often with water injection. We know that that can often trigger seismic events and sometimes those can be quite large. So, it isn’t really a surprise that carbon dioxide injection does the same thing.”

Obama Administration Just Invested $84M In A Clean Coal Technology That Might Cause Earthquakes - The Obama Administration announced on Thursday that it has invested $84 million to reduce the cost of carbon capture and storage (CSS), a method of gobbling up carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants before they enter the atmosphere and storing the emissions underground. On the one hand, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz purports that CSS will help control climate change by allowing the country “to use our abundant fossil fuel resources as cleanly as possible.” On the other hand, the technology “hasn’t yet proven to be practical, affordable, scalable, and ready to be ramped up rapidly,” according to Climate Progress’ Joe Romm, citing a Businessweek report claiming the emissions from just one coal-fired plant would require an underground storage space the size of a major oil field.  What’s more, a report released just three days before DOE’s investment announcement found a correlation between 93 earthquakes at a Texas oil field and the fact that there had been large-scale CO2 injections there. The earthquakes generally had Richter scale magnitudes of three and larger.  The findings compliment 2012 research from the U.S. Geological Survey which found a strong link between earthquakes and injections of wastewater into deep underground wells. In addition, research by Stanford University in 2012 warned of a “high probability” of earthquakes triggered by large-scale CSS, calling it a “risky, and likely unsuccessful, strategy for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

11/4/2013 — Fracking Earthquake SWARM in Central Oklahoma - Over the past 7 days, we’ve seen a large increase in movement across the South to Northwest edge of the North American Craton. The transferred pressure (coming from the WEST), is having a ‘spillover’ effect, cascading small to moderate earthquakes across the defined edge of the North American plate.Oklahoma, already a weak spot, now further weakened by literally thousands of deep injection / extraction wells, which penetrate the cratons edge — attempting to extract natural gas from the shale deposits, also DISPOSING of waste water via old oil wells.   Add in a bit of carbon capture into the mix as well, all combining to form a “perfect geo-seismic storm”. We’ve seen this activity before, in OklahomaArkansasColoradoIllinois, and Texas.  First, we see single, moderate earthquakes in the 3.0M to 4.0M range occur at the fracking operations in OK, and AR.  Then, following the moderate movement, we usually see a series of individual smaller 2.0M quakes, subsequently followed by a swarm as we’re seeing now.  Ultimately, following the frack quake swarms, we usually see a few borderline 5.0M events occur anywhere along the edge of the plate, from the East coast through the south-midwest (OK and AR), all the way Northwest.

WSJ's Zuckerman: Fracking May Be Bigger than Housing Bubble, Tech Boom: Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is helping the United States surpass Russia as the world's biggest producer of oil and gas and its importance can't be understated, says Wall Street Journal reporter Gregory Zuckerman, author of the new book, "The Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters." "Fracking is the biggest boom since the housing bubble and even maybe the tech boom," he tells Yahoo. "It's affecting all kinds of cities and industries. It's changing geopolitics," giving the United States more freedom in its Mideast policy from Saudi Arabia, for example. While fracking may not be able to make the United States energy dependent, it can make us "energy secure," Zuckerman contends. He acknowledges there are safety issues surrounding fracking, but says it can be good for the environment, as it enables industry to shift from coal. To be sure, "it's only good if we're not emitting too much methane along with the natural gas," Zuckerman adds. "When done properly, it's really a benefit. But often they make mistakes."

this post is from economist Menzie Chinn, worth reading in its entirety for details on fracking employment and economic impacts: Great Expectations, Deferred - Still waiting for large, economy-wide job increases from the "shale revolution" From Goldman Sachs, "Is the Economy Gaining 'Fracktion?' ” (not online): There is little evidence of significant “induced” employment growth in downstream manufacturing industries. Similarly, cap-ex in energy intensive sectors that might be expected to benefit most from the shale boom has not outperformed cap-ex in other sectors during the recovery, although it did decline by less during the recession. On top of fears that the surge in unconventional oil and natural gas will not be enduring [1] [2] [3], there remains some doubt that the development of fracking will be the game-changer that many have claimed – at least with respect to macroeconomics. (Prominent studies include IHS (2012)McKinsey (2013).) Below I turn first to a discussion of employment growth in core oil and gas extraction. Then I discuss the extent (or non-extent) of spillover effects to the rest of the economy.

Pennsylvania: State Dirty Energy Money Analysis -  In recent years, the oil and gas industry has been on the march in Pennsylvania. Home of the Marcellus Shale formation and a historically productive coal state, Pennsylvania is a true battleground in the expansion of the fossil fuel industry. Analysis by Oil Change International shows that, since 2006, the fossil fuel industry has provided over $4.4 million in direct campaign contributions to members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. In that time, overall contributions have doubled, from roughly $800,000 during the 2006 cycle, to over $1.6 million in total giving during the 2012 election cycle. As you can see in the graph below, there is a large partisan split in contributions and it’s currently increasing. The oil and gas sector, in particular, has seen a marked and steady increase in political spending in recent years, more than doubling between 2006 and 2012. At the same time, Pennsylvania has seen a boom in natural gas production thanks to the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”). 

CASE STUDY: Senate Bill 259: Senate Bill 259 was a massive legislative win for the fracking industry. The bill, introduced by Senator Gene Yaw (R) (who has received $41,650 in money from the oil and gas industry since 2006) passed unanimously in the Senate and by a vote of 167-33 in the House. The bill guts decades-old law that helped protect landowners from predatory oil and gas lease practices. Analysis of the vote shows how successful the oil and gas industry’s investments in the Pennsylvania legislature have been. Senators and Representatives voting in favor of this bill have accepted a total of $4,137,533 in dirty energy money contributions since 2006. On average, each member of the Assembly and Senate that voted in favor of fossil interests received 5x more than those who voted against.

Handouts For Frackers: The Pennsylvania Plan To Give Drillers $1 Billion - Supporters of the fossil fuel industry like to portray expanded drilling as a free market triumph. But in Pennsylvania, taxpayers could have to pick up the tab for gas drillers to extract highly-valuable natural gas, to the tune of $1 billion over a decade.Pennsylvania’s Republican controlled legislature is considering bills to pay for a processing project, pipeline construction, compressed natural gas vehicles, and fueling stations, in addition to subsidies to convince a huge Royal Dutch Shell refinery to set up shop. The refinery alone could cost over $1 billion over 25 years. About one-fifth of the money handed out to energy companies would come from a $200 million-a-year drilling tax on the industry, but the other four-fifths would come out of taxpayers’ pockets. Of course, these welfare-for-drillers policies are nothing compared to the costs that the government and society bear from CO2 emissions and other pollutants emitted by burning fossil fuels. But none of this means drillers are going to stop whining about the government “picking winners and losers” when it subsidizes clean fuels without the negative externalities of burning hydrocarbons.

Oil Lobbyists Treated California Lawmakers To A $13,000 Dinner The Week Before A Major Fracking Vote - A major oil lobbying group spent $13,000 on a dinner for California lawmakers just one week before the state’s watered-down fracking regulatory bill passed the state Legislature, according to the state’s quarterly reports.  The Sacramento Bee outlined the heft of the oil and gas industry’s spending leading up to the bill’s vote, which was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on September 20. From July 1 to September 30, three oil and gas groups spent the most money lobbying out of all the interest groups in the state. Chevron spent $1,696,477; Aera Energy LLC spent $1,015,534; and the Western States Petroleum Association spent $1,269,478, $13,000 of which went towards a dinner for 12 state lawmakers and two staff members at “one of Sacramento’s poshest venues,” according to the Bee.

Texas Homeowner Battles $3 Million Defamation Lawsuit For Exposing Fracking Company’s Pollution - Steve Lipsky, a Texas homeowner, has found himself at the center of a $3 million lawsuit for defamation from an oil and gas company, after he exposed the company for contaminating his water supply with methane and benzene. Despite his attempts to avert the expensive legal entanglement, Julie Dermansky reports at DeSmogBlog that last month the Fort Worth Court of Appeals allowed the defamation case to move forward. Lipsky sued Range Resources originally in 2011, prompted by an Environmental Protection Agency order that Range Resources endangered Texas residents’ health. His case was dismissed, because the presiding judge claimed there was no jurisdiction, but Range Resources took the unusual step of countersuing Lipsky for libel. It alleged that Lipsky and others conspired to get “the EPA and the media to wrongly label and prosecute Range as a polluter of the environment.” The company said that his public video of Lipsky lighting on fire a methane-filled hose escaping from his water well was an unfair portrayal, even though Lipsky maintains he can still set the water on fire in a video from October.  “The hose was used in the interest of safety, not to deceive anyone,” Lipsky told DeSmogBlog, before lighting fire at the end of the hose again. But according to Range Resources and the judge who dismissed Lipsky’s lawsuit in 2012, Lipsky could not possibly light his water on fire. The video “was not done for scientific study but to provide local and national news media with a deceptive video, calculated to alarm the public into believing the water was burning,” the judge wrote at the time.

Is Fracking All We Have To Worry About? -- As demonstrations grow against “fracking” in the UK, another controversial gas extraction method has quietly been licensed. Underground Coal Gasification, or UCG, is the drilling of wells to set fire to underground coal seams and the channelling of the mixture of gas by-products including hydrogen, carbon monoxide, methane and large volumes of carbon dioxide up to the surface. Two well heads are required in the UCG process, one to inject air or oxygen down to the coal chamber and another to extract the resulting mix of gases produced by burning the coal underground. Water taken either from the surface, or from below the ground is also required for the UCG process (over and above the water private companies already want to use for “fracking”). Once the gas runs out in the initial well location, the well heads are moved to follow the coal seam. This process leaves behind underground caverns contaminated with toxic waste, as well as scarring the countryside further as the wellheads creep along. But scarring the countryside is the least of the environmental risks caused as a direct result of UCG gas extraction methods. Reports on onshore UCG trials from America in 1993Australia in 2011 and India in 2012 state UCG onshore trials had to be halted after groundwater was contaminated.  Contaminants included benzene – which can cause leukaemia and bone marrow abnormalities in humans and animals – and toluene, which can affect the kidneys, nervous system, liver, brain and heart as well as causing miscarriages.

Billion litres of coal-mine muck leaks into Athabasca River - Geotechnical engineers remained at the Obed Mountain coal mine Sunday trying to determine how one billion litres of murky water leaked from a containment pond into the Athabasca River. A barrier gave way on Halloween, allowing liquid containing coal dust, sand and dirt to flow through two creeks into the Athabasca, said Darin Barter, a spokesman for the Alberta Energy Regulator. “I haven’t seen this happen. Coal mine incidents and pit leak incidents are really rare,” he said. “I was surprised this could happen.” The Obed Mountain mine, owned by Sherritt International and now undergoing reclamation since operations were suspended last November, is about 30 kilometres northeast of Hinton. The dirty water travelled 25 kilometres to the Athabasca, forming a muddy plume now floating downstream, Alberta Environment spokeswoman Jessica Potter said. Department staff and Alberta Health Services were analyzing water samples to determine if anything in the sediment could cause environmental or health problems, she said. “There’s actually quite a noticeable change of colour (in the river),” she said. “It’s like muddy water … murky, muddy water.”

What You Read On Might Be Written By The Fossil Fuel Industry - MSNBC relaunched on October 30 with a pretty new website, an impressive slate of newly-hired progressive reporters, plus a couple of questionable “launch partners,” corporate sponsors who will write content for the site. General Electric (GE) and America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) will contribute “native advertisements,” meaning ads branded as MSNBC stories, to the news site in exchange for sponsorship.  GE owns 49 percent of NBC Universal, parent company of MSNBC. ANGA is a natural gas industry group that promotes increased natural gas exploration and drilling and discourages regulation. An ANGA spokesperson recently told the Los Angeles Times that using more natural gas “can substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” which is not true over the long term. It is as yet unclear what America’s Natural Gas Alliance will cover, though it will be featured in sponsored polls housed in a section focused on facts about natural gas. It is unknown whether that entire section will be an advertisement. GE’s will focus on the “Industrial Internet,” the “Brilliant Machines Innovation,” and how they are impacting our world.

Fossil Fuels Receive $500 Billion A Year In Government Subsidies Worldwide - Producers of oil, gas and coal received more than $500 billion in government subsidies around the world in 2011, with the richest nations collectively spending more than $70 billion every year to support fossil fuels.Those are the findings of a recent report by the Overseas Development Institute, a think tank based in the United Kingdom.  “If their aim is to avoid dangerous climate change, governments are shooting themselves in both feet,” the report, headed by ODI research fellow Shelagh Whitley, said. “They are subsidizing the very activities that are pushing the world towards dangerous climate change, and creating barriers to investment in low-carbon development and subsidy incentives that encourage investment in carbon-intensive energy.” While the report acknowledges there is currently no globally agreed definition of what constitutes a subsidy, it cites the World Trade Organization’s approach: “a subsidy is any financial contribution by a government, or agent of a government, that confers a benefit on its recipient.”

Fossil fuel subsidies 'reckless use of public funds': The world is spending half a trillion dollars on fossil fuel subsidies every year, according to a new report. The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) says rich countries are spending seven times more supporting coal, oil and gas than they are on helping poorer nations fight climate change. Some countries including Egypt, Morocco and Pakistan, have subsidies bigger than the national fiscal deficit. The new report calls on the G20 to phase out the payments by 2020. While there is no globally agreed definition of what a fossil fuel subsidy actually is, the report draws on a range of sources from the International Monetary Fund to the International Energy Agency. It details the range of financial help given to oil, coal and gas producers and consumers from national governments and through international development. What emerges is a complicated web of different types of payments in different countries. 

ALEC Agenda Reveals Anti-Renewable Energy Strategies for December Summit | EcoWatch: ALEC notes on the agenda that model policies are not official until passing its Commerce Task Force and national board of directors. Both groups have sessions scheduled before the EEA meets.  ALEC will introduce a new member on the final day of the event, America’s Natural Gas Alliance, which was partly founded by former Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon. Chesapeake Energy is also an ALEC member and known as one of the country’s largest fracking companies.

The Efficient Allocation of Rural Land in Upstate New York (portrays fracking opponents as upper class snobs and beneficiaries of fracking as hard working but dirt poor farmers).

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