Posted by: ericgrimsrud | April 11, 2016

Even Obama and Clinton’s thinking is fatally “fracked”

President Obama and his former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, have been very pleased with the new American technique of “fracking” by which large deposits of coal and shale are essentially exploded underground thereby opening seams through which entrapped natural gas can escape and be harvested at the surface. Over the last few years these techniques have made the USA the number one supplier of low-cost natural gas and have enabled the USA to reduce its CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants. Using natural gas instead of coal in those power plants results in about one-half as much CO2 emitted per energy unit produced.  Thus, the Obama administration has been able to boast about reducing CO2 emissions while simultaneously improving our economy.  With the assistance of our State Department and fossil fuel corporations, fracking techniques are now spreading to other countries as well.

Other than the fact that natural gas (largely methane) is also a fossil fuel – the use of which will eventually also have to be eliminated – what’s wrong with this picture? The answer is: a very great deal is wrong with this picture as is now being clarified by ongoing scientific studies and measurements.  Most importantly, a very recent study by Harvard scientists has shown that emissions of methane gas have greatly and uniquely increased over just the USA and all of this has occurred since the development of its fracking methods. These measurements indicate that roughly half of the total global emissions of methane are now coming from the USA’s relatively small portion of the total surface of the Earth.

This is exceedingly bad news with respect to the greenhouse gas warming expected in the upcoming next few decades. This is because, on a molecule-to-molecule basis, methane is at least 100 times more effective in trapping the Earth’s heat as is carbon dioxide over that several decade period.  Thus, if we can make the seemingly obvious assumption that methane emissions are being significantly increased by fracking techniques, it appears that fracking is negating any gains we are making via CO2 reductions.  It is even possible that fracking is making greenhouse gas warming worse than it was before its discovery and application.

This is a huge setback for politicians, such as Obama and Clinton, who have favored and boasted about “all of the above” approaches to energy production and especially about gas production via fracking. Going forward, we can only hope that they change their view very quickly.  When one gets down to the core of the matter, it becomes progressively clearer that “all of the above” attitudes must be changed to “only the alternates” which do not result in CO2 or CH4 emissions.

Only a stiff and annually increasing carbon tax can accomplish this – in spite of the best intentions of Obama and Clinton to address the climate change issue in a manner that does not require substantial changes in the business-as-usual forces that have defined our fossil-fuel-saturated lifestyles. It has been noted by this writer that of all of the candidates for the US Presidency in 2016, only Bernie Sanders has promoted a stiff carbon tax and the termination of fracking techniques.  If , as expected, Bernie does not win the Democratic nomination, I hope that he will at least manage to educate Hillary on this most important detail.  It has also been noted how very far the discussions among Republicans have been from this level of detail concerning the causes of climate change.  In short, they don’t have a clue about the science involved.

For more information on this topic, see Bill McKibbin’s recent article entitled “Global warming’s terrifying new chemistry” at http://www.thenation.com/article/global-warming-terrifying-new-chemistry/ This issue concerning methane leakage from fracking facilities is exceedingly important and might even surpass the effect of increased CO2 on global temperatures over the next few decades.


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