By Megan Darby for Climate Home News
Between 2011 and 2016, fracked oil and gas wells in the U.S. pumped out record-breaking amounts of wastewater, which is laced with toxic and radioactive materials, a new Duke University study concludes. The amount of wastewater from fracking rose 1,440 percent during that period.
Over the same time, the total amount of water used for fracking rose roughly half as much, 770 percent, according to the paper published today in the journal Science Advances.
That was fast. Just two months after the Democratic National Committee (DNC) unanimously prohibited donations from fossil fuel companies, the DNC voted 30-2 on Friday, August 11 on a resolution that critics say effectively reverses the ban, The Huffington Post reported.
The activists holding a growing number of protests against oil pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure projects from coast to coast are winning some courtroom victories.
For example, a federal appeals court recently struck down two key decisions allowing a natural gas pipeline to cut through Virginia’s Jefferson National Forest, just days before a three-judge panel nixed two permits for another pipeline intended to transport natural gas in Virginia because it would compromise efforts to protect endangered wildlife. At the same time, Oregon’s Supreme Court declined to revisit a lower court ruling that let Portland’s prohibition of big fossil fuel export projects stand.
Just like when activists refuse to leave their treetop perches to stop oil companies from axing an old-growth forest or when they lock their bodies to bulldozers to prevent the machine from making way for a new coal mine, these legal challenges are part of a coordinated strategy I have studied for years while researching the movement to slow down and address climate change.
The Environmental Protection Agency in August announced a plan to freeze fuel economy standards and revoke the ability of California to set more stringent rules than the national ones, prompting a legal showdown between the state and the federal government.
The proposal, which would keep fuel economy at planned 2020 levels, is the most significant step to halt the rise on the mileage standards of the U.S. passenger vehicle fleet in decades.
But how did fuel efficiency even become mandated? After all, manufacturers go to great lengths to analyze the consumer marketplace and build in the most tantalizing features to create top sellers, whether it’s great acceleration or a deep bass sound system. One feature is different, though: Carmakers are legally bound to innovate more efficiency into their vehicles.
In the climactic final scene in There Will Be Blood — arguably the greatest movie about the oil industry — the main character played by Daniel Day Lewis explains how he sucked the oil from a neighbor’s land by using horizontal drilling. To help his neighbor understand what has happened, he explains it by saying he took a very long straw and “Drank your milkshake!”
Well, guess what is happening with the fracking revolution built on the concept of horizontal drilling? Not only are oil producers drinking each other’s milkshakes, they are drinking their own, and in the process losing even more money and raising the odds of dangerous environmental risks.
And unlike in the movie where the main character knew what he was doing, the modern fracking industry really has no clue what to do about the problems caused by the combination of horizontal drilling and greed.
In the race against the increasingly widespread and devastating consequences of climate change, solutions tend to focus on products and technologies. Renewable energy, electric vehicles, biofuels, carbon capture and storage, and geoengineering get much of the attention, in part because they lead us to believe we can continue acting as usual. Those technologies must be part of the solution, but we must also consider our wasteful behaviors.
Conserving energy means consuming less, which isn’t a hallmark of our consumption-based economic system. Technology also comes into play with cutting energy use. Many experts argue that energy efficiency could play a major role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, especially in industrial nations like Canada and the U.S., where we tend to waste a lot. Others point to a paradox whereby climate gains from efficiency are offset by reduced costs that increase energy demand.
By Steve Horn and Martha Pskowski
The Costa Azul liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal sits on an isolated stretch of the Pacific Coast north of Ensenada, Baja California, in Mexico. When Sempra and its Mexican affiliate IEnova sought to acquire the land in 2002, the site’s remoteness worked in their favor. It was only frequented by fishermen, a few surfers, and a handful of beach-front property owners.
“That was the last stretch of coastline between Tijuana and Ensenada that was pristine and undeveloped,” Bill Powers, a San Diego-based energy engineer and founder of the Border Power Plant Working Group, told DeSmog. “There was just a little fishing village.”
After breaking ground in 2005, the Costa Azul LNG plant opened in 2008. Despite Sempra’s messaging strategy that the U.S. was running out of gas, the terminal has imported limited amounts of natural gas since. Now, San Diego-based Sempra hopes to build an LNG export facility at the same site.
China threatened to slap U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports with a 25 percent tariff on August 3, escalating a trade war by threatening an industry closely allied with President Donald Trump and potentially benefitting a $55 billion Russian gas pipeline project.
The $60 billion in proposed retaliatory tariffs, which are also aimed at the metals, lumber, and agriculture industries, could have significant impacts for U.S. LNG export plans — and for the domestic shale gas industry, which has struggled to turn a profit and which has staked its hopes for years on hopes of selling gas from wells drilled and fracked in the U.S. to buyers abroad at higher prices.
Aside from the conference’s fanatical devotion to fossil fuels, the line-up includes the usual pushers of junk science who are sure that every major science academy in the world is wrong about the dangers of adding CO2 to the atmosphere.
Gathering at the conference will be “hundreds of state and national elected officials, think tank leaders, and policy analysts.”
Front and center in New Orleans will be Fred Palmer, a veteran coal industry lobbyist who was behind what was probably the very first fossil-fuel funded attacks on the science linking coal burning to dangerous climate change.
After more than 30 years with the Western Fuels Association and then coal giant Peabody, Palmer now spends his time as a senior fellow at the Heartland Institute.
San Diego-based Sempra Energy has spearheaded the launch of a group called the Global Natural Gas Coalition to promote exports of gas obtained via fracking (hydraulic fracturing) to the global market. Sempra is a natural gas utility giant and liquefied natural gas (LNG) export and import company.
Announced at a June 25 gathering at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., the Global Natural Gas Coalition features other participants such as the American Petroleum Institute (API), LNG Allies, the American Gas Association, American Chemistry Council, and others, according to its event page on the website Eventbrite. The RSVP information for the Press Club event features the contact information for Paty Mitchell, a spokeswoman for Sempra, and the company's representatives consisted of eight out of the 78 attendees of that event, according to the Eventbrite page.
Also attending the event were officials from several agencies in the Trump administration. They included Mark Menezes, Elise Atkins, Christine Harbin, Jessica Szymanski, and Sara Kinney of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE); Deaver Alexander, William Thompson, and Stephen Morel of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (a federal agency focused on helping “American businesses invest in emerging markets”); Scott Condren of the U.S. Export-Import Bank; and John McCarrick of the U.S. Department of State.