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Tue, 2011-10-04 14:54Carol Linnitt
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Senate Hearing on Obama's Fracking Panel Excludes External Testimony, Glosses Over Threats

When President Obama decided to include unconventional gas as a central pillar in his “Blueprint for a Clean Energy Future” he must have had an idea that this was going to create controversy. Some would say that a clean energy future and fracked gas are, to put it lightly, at odds with one another.  Perhaps that is why the President directed his Secretary of Energy Steven Chu to form a special advisory board to investigate the growing number of scientists, doctors, independent experts, environmental NGOs, and media outlets - DeSmogBlog included - concerned that fracking for unconventional gas threatens public health, the environment and the global climate.

Secretary Chu’s panel is officially known as the Natural Gas Subcommittee and is a project of the U.S. Energy Advisory Board. This panel, now often referred to as Obama’s Fracking Panel, has been formally discredited by a coalition of leading scientists and also by a collective of leading citizen and environmental groups. Most notoriously, the panel was called out for its strong financial ties to the gas industry.   
 
The panel was given 90 days to document their preliminary findings, which they released in a report on August 18th. Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing to examine those early findings.   
 
From the outset, the hearing looked like the perfect opportunity for the subcommittee to congratulate itself for its own work. 
Wed, 2011-09-28 14:04Carol Linnitt
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Dogwood Initiative Exposes BC's Dirty Coal Export Secret

British Columbia plays a special role in the pollution and warming of the atmosphere, according a new report from the Dogwood Initiative on BC’s rapidly expanding coal industry and its implications for the province’s contributions to climate disruption. 

The BC government plans to reduce emissions by 33 percent from 2007 levels by 2020. Yet BC is preparing to emit more than its fair share of climate threatening pollution due to the province’s steady increase in coal production and export.

As the Dogwood Initiative report shows, BC is outsourcing more than just dirty energy: the province’s carbon emissions are nearly doubled when you factor in BC coal burnt in other countries.

Tue, 2011-09-27 14:40Carol Linnitt
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World's Biggest Fracking Operations: CBC Covers the Shale Gas Boom in BC

Yesterday the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) announced their investigative series on fracking in British Columbia. The feature report will cover the rise of the shale boom in the province’s remote northeast corner. The CBC radio report, called Cornering Gas, presents an opportunity for people to voice their concerns about the controversial fracking process and take part in the growing debate over BC’s role in the country’s energy future.

As the CBC reports, shale gas in BC has ballooned into a multi-billion-dollar industry and is expected to transform the province’s remote regions into bustling boom towns. CBC host Robert Boane and reporter Betsy Trumpener traveled to Fort Nelson to conduct interviews within a 'boom no bust' atmosphere. Fort Nelson, a town of 4000, is expected to triple in size. 

Two of Canada’s most plentiful shale gas deposits are in the area where some of the largest fracking operations in the world are taking place. Kerry Guy, speaking on behalf of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), told the CBC they currently estimate more than a century’s worth of shale gas in the region.

But the shale gas boom in BC has brought a lot more in its wake than just short-term economic opportunity.

Fri, 2011-09-23 16:21Carol Linnitt
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"It Can't All Be True": Canadian Government Launches New Fracking Studies

According to Environmental Minister Peter Kent, the Canadian government is entering into the shale gas debate by launching two simultaneous studies of fracking and its impacts on the environment.  Environment Canada is pursuing an in-house review of the controversial fracking process, while the Council of Canadian Academies will lead an independent investigation to provide an expert assessment of the science and environmental impacts associated with fracking.

Both federal and provincial governments have traditionally supported the development of the country’s rich unconventional gas deposits. Yet growing opposition has led to civil discontent in some areas like Quebec, where concern over fracking’s environmental impact resulted in a moratorium while a more thorough scientific review is conducted.
 
Quebec’s cautionary approach has prompted others to ask why provinces like British Columbia, Alberta, and New Brunswick, where there is equal cause for concern, are not taking a similar science-based approach. But the federal government has met calls for independent investigations and environmental evaluation with silence.
Mon, 2011-09-19 13:01Carol Linnitt
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Counterpoint on Shale Gas and the Future of Fracking

Recently the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature published a ‘pros vs. cons’ piece on the production of unconventional gas from shale. The tête-à-tête, led by Terry Engelder on the pro side and Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea on the con side, weighs the risks and benefits of gas production as it relates to the economy and human and environmental health.

Howarth and Ingraffea, authors of the first peer-reviewed study on lifecycle emissions from unconventional gas production, are solemn in their assessment: “shale gas isn’t clean, and shouldn’t be used as a bridge fuel” to a clean energy future. Their recommendation is based on the risks involved with high-volume slick-water hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as it exists in its present form.
 
Although the industry claims to have performed over one million fracking operations since the 1940s, Howarth and Ingraffea counter that the current technology is still relatively new and has only been in operation for a decade. Modern fracking bears little resemblance to its historic counterpart and requires greater amounts of water and chemicals, deeper drilling and higher pressures. All these differences combine to make fracking an unavoidably dangerous process. Howarth and Ingraffea also claim that a switch to unconventional gas will not substantially alleviate global warming in the near future.
Wed, 2011-09-14 12:33Carol Linnitt
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Battle for Fracking Public Perception Lost, Says Gas Industry Insider

The gas industry has not done itself any favors by downplaying the risks associated with fracking, something the industry is apparently just realizing. Labeling affected citizens ‘fracktivists’ or ‘uneducated’ in order to delegitimize their complaints has only emphasized the industry’s callousness and inability to respond to real fears in a meaningful way. People trust the industry less than ever before, and with increased drilling across the globe, discontent is becoming even more widespread.

 
Now, after more than a decade of reckless drilling mishaps and a strengthening anti-fracking movement, the industry is willing to admit they’ve lost the public perception battle. From the outside this looks like a perfect opportunity for the industry to become more transparent and accountable. Instead this admission has only strengthened the industry’s resolve to up the communications ante

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