The NY Dept. of Environmental Protection has weighed in on the shale gas issue that I first wrote about back in April. After studying the hydrofracing process, the NYDEP has called for the prohibition of shale gas production anywhere in the watershed that supplies NYC. Specifically, the NYDEP-commissioned study deems the risks of water contamination and infrastructure damage to be unacceptably high. I applaud this decision. As I’ve said many times before, hydrofracing is inherently risky, and we can’t allow a BP-magnitude hydrofracing disaster to comprise an even more precious and increasingly scarce resource: fresh water.
The fact that we are turning to shale gas – and tacitly accepting the associated risks and costs – to fuel the ‘clean’ energy revolution is evidence that natural gas production has reached the seventh fold. We can continue to produce natural gas and even increase production rates for some amount of time, but doing so requires that we take ever-greater environmental risks by pumping toxin-laced water into the ground in order to release hydrocarbons from the best carbon sequestration device known to man: shale. And this hydrofracing process not only increases our collective exposure to severe environmental risks, the process itself is more costly than we know. The costs of production are increasing not only in dollar terms (ROI) but in energetic terms as well (See my post on EROEI and net energy).
An energy revolution is needed, but is this the direction we want to go? I think not. Turning to shale is a mistake. From an energy generation perspective we have options like solar, wind, tidal, and hydro. But these alternatives won’t fill the gap. We need to match our push for alternative sources with even stronger conservation efforts. Unlike shale gas production, voluntary conservation carries zero negative externalities. In fact, it is a net benefit from all perspectives.
Thanks for reading,
Below the fold, you will find the slides and transcript from a presentation that I recently gave to the kind folks that comprise Sustainable West Seattle.
Thanks to fellow geographer, David Jensen (via Facebook), I am able to share this excellent 18 minute TED Talk given by climate scientist & oceanographer, Rob Dunbar. In his short presentation, Dunbar issues a compelling case for anthropogenic climate change via: 1) a very interesting analysis of sediments located beneath the Ross Ice Shelf, and 2) an equally interesting analysis of giant corals. He concludes with a discussion of ocean acidification, which is in my mind one of the horsemen of the apocalypse.
While I spend lots of time thinking about and explaining the evidence that we have reached the seventh fold of fossil fuel production – what I would call the gas tank side of the anthropogenic climate change issue – I spend comparatively little time thinking and writing about the exhaust side of the equation.
That said, Rob Dunbar does an excellent job of showing how the ability of oceans to support life in the face of rising atmospheric CO2 (which is absorbed by oceans causing them to acidify) has reached the seventh fold.
What Dunbar does not discuss is the fact that because we are reaching the seventh fold in fossil fuel production (oil, natural gas, and coal), we are collectively emitting more and more CO2 per unit of useful energy every day. This is due to the fact that EROEI is in irreversible decline.
As a consequence, the only solution to all of our seventh fold challenges is to be found in voluntary conservation and conscientious consumption.
Without further ado,
I have populated the ‘EROeI and Net Energy‘ page. I would like to send my warmest gratitude to my colleague George Mobus, Ph.D. for his help in writing the executive summary. George runs an excellent blog: Question Everything. I recommend that everyone read his enlightening entries!
So, I’ve decided to hold off on composing any content-rich blogs until I’ve populated the ‘Peak Oil 101′ page. This is difficult for me because I much prefer to blog about prescient issues and new things I’ve learned!
Cheers, and keep the rubber side down!