Back in the day, his parents staged a “bed in” to protest the Vietnam War, so it’s not much of a surprise that Sean Lennon would use his celebrity to engage in a publicity event for a cause in which he believes. While it’s doubtful that his foray into the wilds of Pennsylvania will have any more success putting a stop to hydraulic fracturing than John and Yoko’s stunt did to stop the Vietnam War, it was a good photo op for someone whose career has been something less than stellar.
Fracking for natural gas has been the subject of a lot of attention recently: While the buzz around the 2010 anti-fracking documentary “GasLand”' had died down a bit, the 2012 Hollywood release of “Promised Land” stirred things up again. Then recently, independent filmmakers Philem McAleer and Ann McElhinney were inspired to make "Frack Nation", a response to the anti-fracking films. You Tube corporate has even entered the fray, warning McAleer and McElhinney that a complaint was filed about a "potential privacy violation" in a trailer for their documentary.
And, as New York considers lifting its 4 ½ year ban on fracking, both the environmentalists and drillers are flooding the legislators with reams of documents. Representatives of the gas industry are saying that all of the additional environmental requirements that have been piled onto the proposal from 2011 that would permit fracking will make it very difficult to drill in New York, while environmentalists say there are not enough safeguards.
As is the case with so many issues, the truth is probably somewhere in between the two extremes, but it would be so much better in this humble writer’s opinion if scare tactics and rhetoric would be left behind and actual scientific evidence could be presented without emotion.
In a brochure on one anti-fracking website aimed at Pennsylvanians, this point is raised:
To open a small business in your neighborhood, you would be required to do an Environmental Impact Study, but none has ever been conducted for any of these hydro-fracking operations.
It is a provocative statement. The problem is; it is not true. In a brief and enlightening conversation with Travis Windle of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, I learned exactly how many hoops operators must go through in order to drill. I’m attaching the document HERE for easy reference, but here are just some of the studies that must be done when planning a well site:
- Review for presence of Threatened & Endangered Species
- Historical & Archeological Resource search
- Erosion & Sediment Control Plan/Permit
- Well Access Road Permitting
- Pre-drill Water Sampling
- Wetland Crossing Permitting
- Stream Crossing Permitting
- Pollution, Prevention & Contingency Plans
- Municipal Zoning Ordinances/Approvals (noise, building, setback, etc.)
Examples of misinformation abound, even with respect to the emissions coming from well sites. A study by MIT showed that the extraction of shale gas through hydraulic fracturing emits only a fraction more methane into the air than conventional gas drilling. The study reads:
"Taking actual field practice into account, we estimate that in 2010 the total fugitive (greenhouse gas) emissions from US shale gas-related hydraulic fracturing amounted to 216 (gigagrams of methane). This represents 3.6% of the estimated 6002 (gigagrams of methane) of fugitive emissions from all natural gas production-related sources in that year … Thus under a goal of GHG reduction it is clear that increased efforts must be made to reduce fugitive losses from this system. However, it is also clear is that the production of shale gas and specifically, the associated hydraulic fracturing operations have not materially altered the total GHG emissions from the natural gas sector."
We know that engineers and manufacturers of valves, pumps, actuators and controls and the operators who use them work very hard to meet and exceed emissions standards, so this finding is not too surprising to the industry. However, you will never see this acknowledged by opponents of fracking who claim its methane emissions are dramatically higher than those that occur during conventional natural gas drilling.
The dramatic claims by opponents continue, including flammable water, exploding well shafts and poisoned cows, but positive news is ignored. A case in point: oil- and gas-field companies from are working on converting the huge diesel pump engines used in fracking to burn the very gas they are being used to extract. That would cut down on the sooty exhaust from diesel while also cutting costs.
Do you think if we send them a link, any of the opponent websites or blogs would mention this?
Many people, including farmers leasing their lands, waiters in diners in the shale gas regions and valve technicians are making better livings because of the shale gas boom. It would be really interesting to see how many activists, including Sean and Yoko, would get involved to help them if all of this went away.