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,
If you want to send a quick message urging your elected representatives to pass the FRAC Act, take a minute to let them know what’s on your mind by following this link.
12/23 Update: For an update on the (un)economics of shale gas production go here, and for an update on the NY Dept. of Environmental Protection’s decision to prohibit hydrofracing, announced on 12/22 go here.
In my seventh fold posts, I focus on the nexus of the 3-E’s – energy, the environment, and the economy. After years of research, I’ve become convinced that a techno-fix to our 3-E problems simply will not scale up to meet the world’s growing energy demands, and that the best mitigation strategy is voluntary conservation. The problem, of course, is that while conservation preserves natural capital, conservation stifles the accumulation (and hoarding) of monetary wealth. Motivated to exploit nature for profit, energy companies have engaged a tactical marketing campaign in which the primary objective is growth at all costs (so long as they are not forced to pay these costs!). In this post, I hope to convince you that there is a significant risk that we cannot afford the long-term environmental and health costs associated with shale gas production. I hope that reading this post will help you see through the shale gas hype and motivate you to take a stand against the sinister and predatory practice of hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracing… pronounced hydro-frack-ing).
Let’s begin with the question, “What is shale, and why does it need to be hydrofraced?” Read more…