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.
Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future
The Natural Gas Subcommittee of the Secretary of the Energy Advisory Board released their draft report today, which outlines immediate actions to improve the health and environmental risks associated with hydraulic fracturing. The report, a culmination of 90 days of research, is a part of President Obama’s larger plan for unconventional gas in his “Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future.”
The panel, handpicked by Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, is directed to investigate the safety of shale gas development and to make recommendations for both improvements to the process as well as ‘best practice’ strategies that can act as recommendations to relevant agencies.
The 41-page report makes clear the conviction that the current state of distrust surrounding the gas industry is bad for business. The industry, the panel suggests, needs to become more transparent, well-regulated and engaged. “And industry response that hydraulic fracturing has been performed safely for decades rather than engaging the issues concerning the public will not succeed.”
Besides, the report goes on, modern hydraulic fracturing has really only been performed since 2002 or 2003 and not since the 1940’s.
Despite the panel’s recommendations to make the gas production process more transparent to the public, there is still a strong industry back-bone running throughout the report’s body.
Touted by industry as a “clean energy” panacea, unconventional gas is widely heralded as deliverance from air pollution to global warming to foreign energy dependence. It is clean, the drillers say, and there is plenty of it. Descriptions like ‘trillions of cubic feet’ and ‘more than a century’s worth’ are becoming commonplace, used to prop up the vision of a clean, affordable and homegrown unconventional gas future.
But like most things that sound too good to be true, unconventional gas is no exception, as DeSmogBlog pointed out in our own recent report “Fracking the Future.”
Now, continuing to dispel some of the most egregious misconceptions regarding the future of gas, Post Carbon Institute Fellow David Hughes recently released a new report entitled Will Natural Gas Fuel America in the 21st Century?
In his report, Hughes takes on three myths undergirding our gas ambitions: that hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have guaranteed our access to a century’s worth of fuel; that the price of natural gas, which has been historically volatile, will remain low; and that, from a global warming and public health perspective, natural gas is a clean and safe alternative to other fossil fuels.