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Thu Jun 27, 2013, 09:56 AM

Unnatural Gas: How Government Made Fracking Profitable


from Dissent magazine:


Unnatural Gas: How Government Made Fracking Profitable (and Left Renewables Behind)
By J. Mijin Cha - June 27, 2013


In his much-anticipated speech on climate change, President Obama proposed smart, modest policies that would help decrease greenhouse gas emissions through support for renewable energy development and increased energy efficiency measures, prepare the country for the climate change that is already occurring, and lead international climate efforts, including phasing out fossil fuel subsides and stopping funding for new coal plants overseas. While he stopped short of proposing anything groundbreaking, such as a carbon tax, the measures would be an improvement over the current climate stalemate.

Yet the president’s continued embrace of natural gas development threatens to counteract any of his proposed climate initiatives. In the speech, Obama continuously mentioned that we are the leading producer of natural gas and proposed advancing production of oil and gas in the Bakken formation (a rock formation beneath parts of Montana, North Dakota, and Canada)—code words for expanding hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operations. Unfortunately, fracking is not the energy panacea its supporters claim it is. The environmentally destructive nature of the process negates any net greenhouse gas benefit from natural gas. Estimates of the amount of available gas that can be tapped economically widely vary, as highlighted in Timothy Mitchell’s article in Dissent. And while fracking may release deposits of oil and gas that were previously unavailable, there will ultimately still come a time when the finite fossil fuel resources run out.

Moreover, it is only after decades of development and government support that fracking operations are now seen as cost-effective. In contrast, the support for developing renewables has been erratic and only a fraction of that given to fossil fuel industries. Renewable energy sources are often dismissed as expensive and incapable of meeting the country’s energy demands. Yet looking at the history of energy development, it is clear that political and corporate interests deliberately impeded the development and expansion of renewable energy. Fracking is a clear example of how direct government research and consistent support turned an impractical, expensive process into one that is now seen as the key to domestic energy independence.

The Role of Federal Support in Fracking

Oil and gas companies are extremely profitable and have been for several decades. Yet much of their current success was the result of not just favorable tax incentives and subsidies but also direct federal research. Federal energy subsidies began in 1916 and focused almost exclusively on increasing the production of domestic oil and gas until the 1970s. Over the following three decades, the Department of Energy invested roughly $137 million in direct gas research, in addition to federal tax credits for drillers that totaled $10 billion between 1980 and 2002. .............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/unnatural-gas-how-government-made-fracking-profitable-and-left-renewables-behind



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Reply Unnatural Gas: How Government Made Fracking Profitable (Original post)
marmar Jun 2013 OP
Champion Jack Jun 2013 #1
northoftheborder Jun 2013 #2
Buzz Clik Jun 2013 #3
limpyhobbler Jun 2013 #4
Champion Jack Jun 2013 #5

Response to marmar (Original post)

Thu Jun 27, 2013, 09:58 AM

1. K and R to read later

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Response to Champion Jack (Reply #1)

Thu Jun 27, 2013, 10:01 AM

2. ditto

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Thu Jun 27, 2013, 10:06 AM

3. Some little errors here and there in the article, but this is the salient point:

 

In the case of fracking, regulatory exemption allowed the industry to grow as rapidly as it has. In 2003, President Bush and Vice-President Cheney backed a sweeping national energy bill that exempted hydraulic fracking from EPA drinking water regulations, despite the large volume of water used in fracking and the proximity of fracking operations to drinking water supplies. In 2005, fracking was exempted from the Clean Water Act, and in that same year states started seeing oil and gas booms. These exemptions do not mean that fracking is safe—in fact, the opposite is likely true. They do show how the regulatory system can contribute to industry development, despite serious health and environmental consequences.

This must stop. Because the industry is not heavily monitored nor seriously regulated, they are allowed to contaminate far more than just about any industry.

Fracking will continue, but we must push very hard for tighter regulations!

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Thu Jun 27, 2013, 12:23 PM

4. Thank you this is very interesting and important essay on the subject. Government continues to

coddle this vile industry in many ways. Frackers are exempt from many clean water and clean air regulations. They derail or delay official studies that could be used as evidence against the industry. As usual the profits are all private, while they push the costs off onto the public via health costs, destruction of common spaces like parks and lakes, harm to animals who live around there, municipal infrastructure costs for roads and water pipes to handle the damage caused by the big trucks and shaking earth, stealing our fresh water just as water is becoming more of a scarce resource, economic disruption of communities via skyrocketing rents as foreign workers are being imported to frack sites and renting houses and apartments.

The government is clearly picking winners and losers. And the frackers have been selected as the winners. The people are the losers. Billions of dollars are being invested developing physical infrastructure to advance this vile dirty energy. Every dollar spent toward developing this energy is a theft from the future and an attack on the American people. The government should immediately seize the bank accounts and physical plant of this industry, redirecting 100% of it's profits into conservation, adaptation, and renewable energy.

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Response to limpyhobbler (Reply #4)

Thu Jun 27, 2013, 09:48 PM

5. Well said

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