Referred to as the Setback Requirement for Oil and Gas Development, here is what Colorado voters will be asked to consider on November 6:

Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning a statewide minimum distance requirement for new oil and gas development, and, in connection therewith, changing existing distance requirements to require that any new oil and gas development be located at least 2,500 feet from any occupied structure in any area designated for additional protection and authorizing a state or a local government to increase the minimum distance requirement?

“Any area designated for additional protection” has been described as “sensitive areas”, such as “streams, intermittent streams, canals, and open spaces”. Current setbacks are 500 feet from homes and 1,000 feet from schools. Continue Reading Colorado Proposition 112: What’s the Fuss About?

wolfLast week we discussed why the EPA’s plan to limit methane emissions from existing oil and gas facilities is good. Now we will consider reasons why the plan is not prudent.

Will the rules be good or bad for America?

The President says good. Will it be as “good” as the ACA?  While you decide for yourself, consider these facts:

Methane is down

From 2005 to 2014 natural gas production increased by 33 percent and methane emissions from natural gas systems decreased 11 percent.  The EPA places the natural gas industry in third place on the list of methane emitters behind landfills and “enteric fermentation” (It’s Blazing Saddles, but with cows).

What’s wrong with the free market?

EPA’s last greenhouse gas inventory in April 2015 specifically credited a 38 percent drop in methane emissions since 2005 to voluntary efforts by producers.  Where is Friedrich Hayek when we need him?

Is it worth the cost?

Methane emissions from natural gas systems represent 3.4 percent of all the greenhouse gases emitted in the United States.  EID has done the math: Assume methane emissions every year from 2025 to 2100 are kept at the target of 45 percent reduction from 2013; that would impact global temperature by .004 degrees Celsius. Some would call that benefit de minimis compared to the cost.

Close enough for government work

In justifying new methane rules the EPA assumed substantially higher natural gas prices than did the EIA. Result: Faulty cost-benefit analysis. How has the agency has fared in other regulations? It estimated its new CAFE standards would save consumers a few thousand dollars on gas and add $948 to the cost of a new car. Three different groups have gauged the additional cost to be more like $3,800 even after fuel savings.

Crazies debunked

EID reports on the debunking of Bill McKibben’s fracking “facts”  Highlights (details in the links):

  • Several of his claims have even been rebuked by the IPCC, the international global-warming alarmist enterprise.
  • The IPCC considers the rapid deployment of hydraulic fracturing as an important reason for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The Harvard study allegedly showing the nation is leaking methane in “massive quantities” doesn’t point to shale gas production as its source.
  • The greatest methane increases have been in areas where there is no shale development.
  • Even the EDF agrees: Study after study shows that emissions are far lower than Ingraffea claims.
  • Gasland has proven to be a fraud.

A contrary look at the EDF study 

Several observations about last week’s EDF’s study:

  • Alex Trembath of the Breakthrough Institute explains that methane leakage is a minor factor in determining the benefit of coal-to-gas transition; such levels are within acceptable ranges.
  • Even after targeting the “super emitters”, the EDF study shows an overall very low methane leakage rate.

Mother’s Day is coming up.  How about a musical interlude for Mom!

truthinessTruthiness: A quality characterizing a “truth” that a person making an argument or assertion claims to know intuitively, “from the gut” or because it “feels right” without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination or facts.

Today we explore truthiness in action. Let’s start with the loftiest bully pulpit in the land. The Washington Post gave President Obama four pinocchios  for his justification for cancelling the Keystone XL Pipeline.

  • The Prez: Keystone oil “will bypass the United States and its products will end up in foreign markets”.
  • The Post: Most of the products to be refined at Gulf Coast refineries will be consumed the United States.
  • The Prez: Keystone was just for Canadian oil and we should be focusing on American infrastructure, American jobs and American producers.
  • The Post: 65,000 BOD will be moved from the Bakken; U.S. energy companies control 30% of Canadian oil sands production.

Propaganda disguised as truthiness

According to Energy in Depth, anti-fracking activists use lies to scare us, such as:

  • Fracking causes widespread water contamination,
  • Fracking causes earthquakes (specifically, all injection wells induce earthquakes),
  • Fracking causes climate change and increases air pollution (Really? See the Sierra Club article below),
  • Fracking negatively impacts health (especially in babies),
  • Fracking chemicals are not disclosed,
  • Fracking is not regulated,
  • The industry does not provide safety measures for workers.

See the article for details explaining why they are wrong.

Facts  

Michael Lynch in Forbes runs through 11 of what he calls myths about the economics of petroleum and labels them either wrong, misinterpreted, or irrelevant.

An Energy In Depth report quantifies the threat of earthquakes from injection wells. To summarize:

  • Percentage of U.S. disposal wells potentially linked to seismicity – 0.55%
  • Percentage of disposal wells operating without seismicity – 99.45%
  • Percentage of Class II injection wells potentially linked to seismicity – 0.15%
  • Percentage of Class II injection wells operating without seismicity – 99.85%

The numbers are similarly low in Texas.

Could go either way?

This could be truth or truthiness. Energy In Depth reports that the Sierra Club admits but downplays the contribution of cheap natural gas to the reduction in carbon emissions in the United States. Read the article itself and all the links and decide for yourself who is more correct. This one could be a matter of your point of view.

Why this blog uses cute pictures

A study examining truthiness was carried out by Eryn Newman of Victoria University of Wellington. Experiments showed that people are more likely to believe that a claim is true regardless of evidence when a decorative photograph appears alongside.

An interlude

Today we have a movie interlude. You will want to view this if college is in the present or future for you or someone for whom you are responsible.

As you probably know, the Denton City Council denied a petition signed by several thousand citizens to ban hydraulic fracturing within the city limits. The denial sent the question to the November 4 general election ballot.  Here is the proposition, its legalese in full bloom:

SHALL AN ORDINANCE BE ENACTED PROHIBITING, WITHIN THE CORPORATE LIMITS OF THE CITY OF DENTON, TEXAS, HYDRAULIC FRACTURING, A WELL STIMULATION PROCESS INVOLVING THE USE OF WATER, SAND AND/OR CHEMICAL ADDITIVES PUMPED UNDER HIGH PRESSURE TO FRACTURE SUBSURFACE NON-POROUS ROCK FORMATIONS SUCH AS SHALE TO IMPROVE THE FLOW OF NATURAL GAS, OIL, OR OTHER HYDROCARBONS INTO THE WELL, WITH SUBSEQUENT HIGH RATE, EXTENDED FLOWBACK TO EXPEL FRACTURE FLUIDS AND SOLIDS

The players

Supporters and detractors of the ban are divided into two predictable groups: Local and national environmentalists on the one hand and producers and local royalty owners on the other. Who’s who and what they say can be seen from their websites:

In support of the ban you have FrackFree Denton.

Against the ban you have Denton Taxpayers for a Strong Economy.

Dig a little deeper, say into campaign finance filings, and you can see whose money is behind the campaigns.  Here is the local Denton Record Chronicle on where the bulk of the money is coming from on both sides.

In the news

Want news on the election? The Denton Record Chronicle evaluates the claims of both sides.

Here is a report from StateImpact, a publication of National Public Radio member stations.

And a comprehensive and pretty fair article from the New York Times.

There is no shortage of opinions

Here is one from the Dallas Morning News.

In another, Eagle Ridge Energy presents a forceful case for the benefits of hydraulic fracturing. They have every reason to have an opinion. Eagle Ridge has been the target of litigation by homeowners and opprobrium by bloggers for their operations in the city limits.

Here is one from Energy in Depth, a non-local group with an interest in fracking everywhere.

The Texas Railroad Commission also has an opinion.

In the spirit of open debate, on these web sites you can read about the “evils” of fracking. I’m not of this mindset, but it’s helpful to know what the uninitiated are hearing.

One from “Texas Sharon“.

And from the environmental group Earthworks, which is working hard in Denton and worldwide to pass the  ban. (Disclaimer:  The photo is Earthwork-like in its extremism, but it is not from Denton.)

Let’s have a live debate?

A debate is scheduled in Denton between FrackNation Producer Phelim McAleer and environmental activist Calvin Tillman on Monday, October 27. Here is the link.

What does it mean?

If the ban passes, litigation.

Failure would be a retreat from overreaction, and maybe a debate about whether Denton needs more neighborhood-friendly drilling oversight.

In the spirit of universal suffrage …

Today’s musical interlude has nothing to do with the topic, unless it’s divine guidance you are seeking (in which case, why are you reading this blog?).  We all get to vote. How do you like your Amazing Grace, … Celtic, …  African, … or Country?

Special thanks to Tricia Davis of the Texas Royalty Council for her help on this post.

“What is it like to live inside your head with Peter Pan and the Easter Bunny?” So asks the sister in “Bridges of Madison County” after the brother wonders if the Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood characters had sex all those years ago.

And so it is from certain quarters in the hydraulic fracking debate who continue to insist, hysterically and despite the evidence, that the process is a threat to Civilization As We Know It. This post is a summary of several discussions.  Read the articles themselves for details.

Gas Flaring

According to Earthworks, gas flaring in the Bakken and Eagle Ford Shale is out of control and tons of greenhouse gases are being fired into the atmosphere; therefore, we should ban fracking. According to Energy in Depth, Earthworks fails to address that the flaring is significantly decreasing in the Bakken both in percentage of gas produced and actual volume, all as production increases. There is flaring because pipeline capacity hasn’t caught up with new gas production. Flaring will continue to go down as pipeline capacity comes on line. Does anyone seriously believe that the industry is not focused on finding a solution?

Methane Leaks

Speaking of inflammatory emissions, Bill McKibben points to methane leaks as one more reason to ban hydraulic fracturing, now and entirely. This is reported by the Energy Exchange, a publication of the Environmental Defense Fund. To its credit, the EDF disagrees, and also sees methane leaks as bad thing and lobbies for stronger, smart regulations.  Most people can go along with “smart”.

Lest you believe people like McKibben are not a menace to common sense and a safe, abundant and clean energy supply, Energy In Depth reveals the folly of his ideas and the bad “science” on which they are based. Among other points: Hydraulic fracturing has contributed the decrease in GHGs in the United States, a fact proclaimed by the IPCC, of all people, and surveys by McKibben and his colleague Ingraffea have been discredited by organizations such as the US IEA, MIT and other mainstreamers.

“Science” With a Political Agenda

And while we are on the topic of misleading “science”, the Hill published a reply by Isaac Orr of the Heartland Institute to an earlier piece by one Helen Slotttje, who wrote about the perils of fracking. (Preview: It’s Bush’s fault and FDR is on her side. I don’t have enough space here to unpack that point of view.)  Among her other errors is a report on the dangers of fracking by the Colorado School of Public Health that was repudiated by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.

A musical interlude to accommodate the dark vision  of the likes of Earthworks.

It’s been said that if you torture numbers, they will confess to anything. Perhaps we should call in a UN peacekeeping force to address the treatment of hydraulic fracturing in North Texas.

A University of North Texas study presented to the North Central Texas Council of Governments by student Mahdi Ahmadi, working with his advisor Dr. Kuruvilla John, concludes:

  • The study relied on 6 million data points from 16 monitors and divided the area into a “Fracking Region” and a ”Non-Fracking Region”,
  • there are 17,494 gas wells over a 5,000 square-mile area in 24 counties in North Texas
  • 11,774 gas wells were drilled from 2007 to 2013, 
  • those wells contributed to an increase in ozone, and therefore in smog and adverse health effects, in North Texas,
  • There were higher ozone levels in the “Fracking Region” than in the “Non-Fracking”. 

The report doesn’t characterize all the wells as producing from the Barnett Shale, but one would assume that comprises the majority. 

If you don’t want to read the report itself (entitled ” An evaluation of the spatio-temporal characteristics of meteorogically-adjusted ozone trends in North Texas”) here is a news report, and another one.

The UNT report seems to contradict a 2012 report by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which found no deleterious effect on the atmosphere caused by Barnett Shale drilling activities. I’m not aware of a TCEQ response to the UNT study.

David Blackmon of Energy in Depth concludes otherwise after analyzing the study’s methodology. Blackmon contends that the raw data shows:

  • An overall reduction in ozone across the region, 
  • the difference in ozone levels between the “Fracking Region” and the “Non-Fracking Region” were not meaningful, and
  • the study failed to take into several important factors, such as ozone levels associated with airport activities, which generate lots of ozone (three airports in the “Fracking Region” and one in the “Non-Fracking”), and the effect of heavier-than-usual snow on the ground in the more rural and more westerly “Fracking Region” during the last several winters (which tends to cause a spike in wintertime ozone levels).

I’m not automatically siding with Mr. Blackmon, and I’m not accusing the UNT reserchers of doing an Abu Ghraib on the data. Sounds like more analysis is in order.

Until then, maybe we should all lighten up and do as the Denton (home of UNT) band Brave Combo recommends.

Schizophrenia : A mental disorder characterized by a breakdown of thought processes and by impaired emotional responses. Common symptoms include delusions, such as paranoid beliefs; hallucinations and disorganized thinking.

Somebody is crazy, or at least very, very wrong, about the hydraulic fracturing debate.

Earthquakes and Fracking

In the controversy over “frackquakes”, brave small-town citizens are standing up to the rapacious oil drillers and their regulatory co-conspirators. Or, a outsiders are stirring up the locals and meddling in matters not of their concern.

Ecowatch sees it this way: Texans’ opinions about fracking are changing. The damage from “frackquakes” is “considerable”, including a 5.7 magnitude frackquake near Prague, Oklahoma. This turns fracking into a property rights issue and communities, even in Texas, have had enough. About 1,000 “concerned citizens” packed a public meeting about frackquakes near Azle. There was an “uproar” when the Railroad Commissioner holding the meeting announced a study of the issue but refused to answer questions. The leaders of the opposition are pleased that the local protestors are mad.

Meagan Baker in Energy in Depth sees it differently: “Fear and misinformation” are used to link fracking and earthquakes. Leading the protestors in Azle are national organizations such as Earthworks and Downwinders at Risk, funded by out-of-state “big money foundations”.  An essay by Cliff Frolich of the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics noted a correlation between injection wells and small quakes that are not harmful. A study by the National Research Council concluded that only a small fraction of injection and extraction activities have induced seismicity at levels noticeable to the public. These findings are similar to studies by the US Geological Survey, US Department of the Interior, and state geologists from Oklahoma and Colorado.

Water Use and Fracking

USA Today reports that in a recent study Ceres says the overuse of freshwater in fracking operations is a terrible threat to water-starved regions of the United States. Fifty-five percent of wells requiring hydraulic fracturing are in drought-stricken areas and half are in regions under “high or extremely high water stress”. The focus of the article is that the use of fresh water in fracking diminishes the availability for other uses. 

Triple Pundit  adds to the alarm by quoting huge volumes for use in fracking but none for other, more intensive, uses. (Where is the context?)   

Here is the entire Ceres report

In Forbes, David Blackmon questions Ceres’ point of view and impugns their motives. The report focuses on the threat on water sources imposed by fracking, without casting similar aspersions on other sources of water use.

Energy in Depth piles on, attacking Ceres as failing to take into account the effect onthe environment of  water use by chemical, mining, electric power, agriculture, food and beverage, textiles, semi-conductors and construction materials industries. Example: The amount of water used by fracking amounts to 1.3 percent of the amount used in carwashes.

So Who’s Crazy?

If you believe science trumps emotion and alarmism in these matters, you gotta figure the anti’s are the crazies. or are they, if their audience isn’t paying attentionto the details?  

It was 50 years ago this month that the Beatles first arrived in America, in a revolution as big as fracking. Not convinced? Compare the 1963 Beatles to the number 1 hit of  1962.

In the Book of Revelation, the really scary guys were the four horsemen. Now, as then, some would have you believe that the end times are upon us. This time it is because of fracking. Is it really? Absent from many discussions about oil and gas drilling are fairness and objectivity. In their place are the modern horsepersons of the anti-drilling movement. There are many, but let’s focus on four today:

Hysteria

The coddled Artists Against Fracking is at it again, this time with a video entitled Don’t Frack My Mother. Aside from the lamely Dylanesque structure (Daddy John would be ashamed), note the embedded misinformation, one example being the discredited fracking-caused fireball from the water faucet.

Listen to the video and then see the commentary from fuelfix.com revealing its shortcomings.

And acidizing is a new, untested, flora- and fauna-threatening scheme to poison the earth.   Here’s my offer:  A free ticket to Al Gore’s next speaking engagement to anyone who can find an engineer alive who remembers when acidizing was NOT used in the oil patch.  Even in California, where this story began.

Sloth

Graphics can be a lazy way to convey information. Money Magazine depicts a direct and short route for frac fluids to migrate from the shale to the fresh water acquifer.  And then ther is theheadline. The Los Angles Times summarizes a poll reflecting  Californians’ supposed “unease” with fracking in a misleading headline which, I believe you would agree, that conclusion is not supported by the accompanying graphic. Do the math.  Here is a report on these two examples of lazy journalism.

This one would fit prevarication if the articles weren’t from seemingly non-idealogical publications.

The Ad Hominem

In the spirit of equal treatment, here is one from Energy In Depth, an industry friendly news source, criticizing anti-drilling activist Bill McKibbben.  This one would fit prevarication if we were focusing on Mr. McKibben.

According to Gas2, Texans (and by extension, all producing states) are   “mental midget teabillies” and “mentally deficient”, and everyone who voted for Rick Perry is an “idiot”. (Come on, not everyone who voted for him is an idiot).  This one is a two-category winner, fitting nicely under prevarication.

Prevarication

Friends of the Earth stretches the truth in demanding a new State Department study of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

And there is the Austin Chronicle article featuring outrageous statements from populist former Texas Land Commissioner Jim Hightower, and a critique from Forbes.com 

The perfect musical interlude.

Noted scientists Yoko and Sean share their knowledge of fracking

Gasland II made its villainous debut this week on HBO.  It‘s more egregious than the first in that it not only repeats disproven scenarios, but adds new ones that are equally misinformed. I complain about these injustices as a hobby, so don’t take my word for it. Listen to someone who makes a living understanding and explaining these matters.      

Steve Everley of Energy in Depth reveals Gasland II‘s misstatements and exaggerations about Dimock, Pennsylvania; Dish, Texas; the Lipskys in Parker County, Texas; methane leaks and climate change; water quality in Pavillion, Wyoming (and the EPA’s testing malpractice); Deborah Rogers in Fort Worth; fracking and earthquakes; alleged well failures and casing leaks, and more.

To be fair to the many Americans who have formed a negative opinion about oil and gas exploration, movies like Gasland could be their only source of information on the subject. Those who haven’t heard the other side of the story can now be enlightened. Let them decide for themselves.