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New Study Documents Air Pollution at Oil and Gas Fracking Sites Exceeding Risk Levels

This is a guest post by Caroline Cox, research director at the Center for Environmental Health.

Decades ago, when I was a graduate student, my advisor often said that our job as scientists was to put numbers on the obvious. Maybe it should be obvious that oil and gas production, including as it does the extraction, transport, and processing of enormous quantities of hydrocarbon mixtures, will result in air pollution, but studies that put numbers on this pollution have been rare.

The complexities of topography, weather, and the variability in the production processes themselves make such studies difficult. Today Environmental Health publishes a new study that “puts numbers” on air pollution near oil and gas infrastructure in five US states and finds sobering results.

The Environmental Health study is a collaboration between 15 local, state, and national nonprofit organizations. Our groups came together to conduct this study because we all share concerns about the potential but little studied health threats from the expansion of oil and gas operations, and in particular from hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

Disasters Linked to Climate Change Could Cost Insurance Companies Billions

By Kieran Cooke, From the Climate News Network.

Insurance is all about assessing risk, so you might expect companies in the sector to be intimately involved with one of the most potent risks facing the world – the possibility of catastrophic climate change.

Yet a survey by Ceres, a US not-for-profit group that lobbies for more environmental awareness in the business sector, has found a startling lack of action by most insurers on the issue.

In total, more than 300 insurers, a large proportion of them based in the US, were canvassed and then given various ratings associated with their response to climate change – ranging from “leading” to “minimal”.

“Most of the companies responding to the survey reported a profound lack of preparedness in addressing climate-related risks and opportunities,” the Ceres report says. “Only nine insurers, or three per cent of the 330 companies overall, earned a ‘leading’ rating.”

Methane Leaks Wipe Out Any Climate Benefit Of Fracking, Satellite Observations Confirm

This is a guest post by Joe Romm, republished with permission from the original on Climate Progress.

Satellite observations of huge oil and gas basins in East Texas and North Dakota confirm staggering 9 and 10 percent leakage rates of heat-trapping methane. “In conclusion,” researchers write, “at the current methane loss rates, a net climate benefit on all time frames owing to tapping unconventional resources in the analyzed tight formations is unlikely.”

In short, fracking speeds up human-caused climate change, thanks to methane leaks alone. Remember, natural gas is mostly methane, (CH4), a super-potent greenhouse gas, which traps 86 times as much heat as CO2 over a 20-year period. So even small leaks in the natural gas production and delivery system can have a large climate impact — enough to gut the entire benefit of switching from coal-fired power to gas.

Back in February, we reported that the climate will likely be ruined already well past most of our lifespans by the time natural gas has a net climate benefit. That was based on a study in Science called “Methane Leaks from North American Natural Gas Systems” reviewing more than 200 earlier studies. It concluded that natural gas leakage rates were about 5.4 percent.

The new study used satellites to look at actual “methane emissions for two of the fastest growing production regions in the United States, the Bakken and Eagle Ford formations,” between the periods 2006–2008 and 2009–2011. They found leakages rates of 10.1 percent and 9.1 percent respectively!

Clean-Tech Is Good For The Economy And Environment

Wind turbine in Wolfe Island, Ontario

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

What’s the fastest-growing sector in Canada’s economy? Given what you hear from politicians and the media, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s the resource industry, especially extraction and export of fossil fuels like oil sands bitumen and liquefied natural gas. But we’re no longer just “hewers of wood and drawers of water” — or drillers of oil, frackers of gas and miners of coal.

Although extraction, use and export of natural resources are economically important and will remain so for some time, we’re starting to diversify. According to Ottawa-based consultants Analytica Advisors, clean technology, or clean-tech, is the country’s fastest-growing industry.

The firm’s “2014 Canadian Clean Technology Report”, found direct employment by clean-tech companies rose six per cent from 2011 to 2012, from 38,800 people to 41,000, with revenues increasing nine per cent to $11.3-billion. According to Industry Canada, mining and oil and gas sector revenues grew just 0.3 per cent in the same period, manufacturing 1.9 per cent and the construction industry 3.9 per cent.

Josh Penry and Kristin Strohm: First Couple of Colorado Fracking Front Groups

This is a guest post by Jesse Coleman, originally published at Huffington Post.

A Greenpeace investigation has uncovered close ties between a Colorado political couple and at least six oil and gas industry front groups that have been fighting state regulations designed to protect the health of its citizens and the environment.

The husband and wife team are ex-state senator and onetime Republican gubernatorial primary candidate Josh Penry and his wife, founder of Republican PR and fundraising firm Starboard Group, Kristin Strohm.

Colorado has emerged as a key battleground in the national debate over shale drilling and fracking. The state's oil and gas industry has over 50,000 hydraulically fractured wells, and plans to drill many thousands more every year into the foreseeable future. These wells have caused severe water and air pollution problems, and have sparked a grassroots movement against drilling and fracking across the state.

Concern over pollution from fracking culminated in a series of local laws to ban or regulate fracking, efforts that sent shockwaves through the shale industry. To combat the growing threat of local control over drilling practices, the shale industry began funding political strategies to undermine local action against drilling.

Enter Penry and Strohm, who who helped develop the shale industry's sophisticated astroturf campaign strategy that was created in concert with legal strategies to override popularly-supported local drilling restrictions.

Ice Loss Sends Alaskan Temperatures Soaring

This is a guest post by Alex Kirby originally published by Climate News Network.

If you doubt that parts of the planet really are warming, talk to residents of Barrow, the Alaskan town that is the most northerly settlement in the US.

In the last 34 years, the average October temperature in Barrow has risen by more than 7°C − an increase that, on its own, makes a mockery of international efforts to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2°C above their pre-industrial levels.

A study by scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks analysed several decades of weather information. These show that temperature trends are closely linked to sea ice concentrations, which have been recorded since 1979, when accurate satellite measurements began.

The study, published in the Open Atmospheric Science Journal, traces what has happened to average annual and monthly temperatures in Barrow from 1979 to 2012.

In that period, the average annual temperature rose by 2.7C. But the November increase was far higher − more than six degrees. And October was the most striking of all, with the month’s average temperature 7.2C higher in 2012 than in 1979.

Commissioner’s Report Shows Canada Must Do More For Environment

David Nanuk

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

Canadians expect to have our environment protected, and to know how it’s being protected. A report from Canada’s Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development shows we’re being short-changed.

In many key areas that we looked at, it is not clear how the government intends to address the significant environmental challenges that future growth and development will likely bring about,” commissioner Julie Gelfand said of the report, which used government data, or lack thereof, to assess the government’s success or failure to implement its own regulations and policies.

Subsidy Spotlight: Paying the Price of Tar Sands Expansion

This is a guest post by Anna Simonton, on assignment with Oil Change International.

Carolyn Marsh was in her living room watching television on a Wednesday night in August when she heard a loud boom from somewhere outside. Having lived in the industrial town of Whiting, Indiana––just south of Chicago––for nearly three decades, she wasn’t terribly shaken. “There’s a lot of noise constantly,” she explains.

But when the news came on an hour later and reported an explosion at the nearby BP refinery, Marsh was incensed. It was the second serious incident since the recent completion of BP’s Whiting Refinery Modernization Project, which Marsh had fought to prevent.

In December 2013, after six years of community pushback, court battles, Environmental Protection Agency citations, and ongoing construction in spite of it all, BP’s $4.2 billion retrofitted facility came fully online.

Judith Curry is Back Advocating Climate Inaction in the Wall Street Journal

This is a guest post by Climate Nexus.

Judith Curry’s latest op-ed in the Wall Street Journal touts her new study co-authored with Nic Lewis. The takeaway of the piece - that the need for emissions reductions is “less urgent” than policymakers assume – is not even supported by her own study, much less the scientific mainstream. 

Curry provides a highly biased and skewed overview of climate sensitivity studies, which makes sense for publication in the Wall Street Journal. In reality, the IPCC sensitivity estimate remains the most reliable and comprehensive expression of the state of knowledge on the topic, and scientists agree that this sensitivity range implies an urgent need for climate action.

  • Curry’s study doesn’t reveal new information that would affect IPCC estimates.
  • She examines only a small group of studies that agree with her conclusion, while the IPCC took many additional methods and factors into account.
  • Even low climate sensitivities still carry an urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.
  • Curry has growing ties to denier groups and her consulting business serves fossil fuel companies.

GWPF Funder Lord Leach - Relying on Unreliable Global Warming Information

DeSmog UK has found that libertarian banker Lord Leach is a funder of the anti-climate political advocacy group the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). Lord Leach gave a long speech in Parliament detailing his beliefs about global warming, writes Dana Nuccitelli (pictured). 

The speech was full of inaccuracies, myths, and misinformation. Known as a Gish Gallop, the sheer number of false claims in the speech would require tremendous effort to debunk. Most telling were the sources that Lord Leach relied upon to support his statements. For example…

READ MORE AT THE GUARDIAN

READ AND FISK LEACH SPEECH

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