America’s Fracking Boom Looks More Like a Blip According to European Study
By Sharon Kelly
So, how much has the economy benefitted from this drilling surge?
Not much, according to a report presented to the European Union Parliament last month, which found "no evidence that shale gas is driving an overall manufacturing renaissance in the U.S.”
The shale boom’s economic contributions are very narrow, inflating local economies in places where drilling is intense but generating little impact on the country’s overall economic growth, the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations, a French think tank, concluded.
Although natural gas prices have fallen from their highs in 2008, benefitting consumers, those low levels are unlikely to be sustained and the U.S. is still expected to remain heavily reliant on importing crude oil, the researchers found.
Even using very optimistic assumptions, the report said, the industry’s cumulative long term effect on America’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will be less than one percent. “Despite very low and ultimately unsustainable short-term prices of natural gas, the unconventional oil and gas revolution has had a minimal impact on the U.S. macro-economy,”
That’s not the amount that shale gas will add to the economy each year, the researchers said. Instead, the industry will make up no more than 0.84 percent of total GDP between 2012 and 2035—the years when the shale boom is projected to be at its height. To put that in context, the personal care products industry (hair styling, cosmetics and the like) contributed 1.4 percent of GDP in 2010—nearly double the impact that the EU report found the shale gas rush could have.
Although shale gas promoters have promised a rebirth of American manufacturing thanks to the drilling frenzy, the European analysts found that the benefits have mostly been felt by a small slice of the chemical industry, the petrochemicals industry.
The analysis also threw cold water on the idea that natural gas will help decrease America’s carbon dioxide emissions or help combat climate change. “Absent further policies, the U.S. shale revolution will not lead to a significant, sustained decarbonization of the U.S. energy mix nor will it assure U.S. energy security,” the researchers wrote.
Although projections showed that policy change could potentially drive a shift from coal to natural gas, such a plan also “locks the U.S. in” to a carbon-intensive infrastructure. And if current policies remain in place, emissions will be “stagnant at current levels out to 2040, clearly insufficient for a reasonable U.S. contribution to global climate change mitigation.”
The costs of the drilling boom have been well documented. State regulators have struggled to keep pace with the oil and gas industry, and the country is now dotted with sites where land or water were contaminated by spills and other accidents, where gas wells, trains or pipelines have exploded, or where locals say air and water pollution has left them with a range of health problems.
But the new and woefully under-reported European study undermines the two major upshots that proponents of drilling have put forward—economic gains and a lower carbon footprint.
The European report only focuses on one greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, and does not touch on the impacts of a second, more potent greenhouse gas: methane.
Although natural gas produces carbon dioxide when it burns (about 50 to 60 percent as much as coal), scientists have warned that the harm to the climate done when unburned natural gas, which is primarily methane, leaks out into the atmosphere could decimate climate benefits from switching away from other fossil fuels and burning natural gas instead—especially when the effects that will be felt within our lifetimes are concerned, since methane’s global warming effects are at their strongest during the first few decades after it leaks to the atmosphere.
The shale boom’s marginal economic benefits come as little surprise to some analysts. “[D]ue to the size of the U.S. economy, it has always been unrealistic to expect shale gas to move the needle much,” said Bill Powers, energy investor, analyst, and author of the book, Cold, Hungry and in the Dark. “Since so much of our economy is service-related, tech, finance, healthcare and education, I have always been very skeptical of the claims of large economic impact.”
There are profound policy implications if the shale gas rush can generate only small economic benefits. The hope that the fuel could help bring back factory jobs to the U.S. has fed the Obama administration’s support for the shale gas rush. “Businesses plan to invest almost a hundred billion dollars in new factories that use natural gas,” President Obama said in his State of the Union address as he praised shale’s contributions to the economy.
But researchers from the International Monetary Fund say that chemical company investment plans have less to do with the shale gas rush, and more to do with a bounce-back from the 2008 market crash, dropping currency exchange rates and the downwards pressure on American wages. "You had so much slack in the labor market in the recession," Prakash Loungoni, head of commodities research at the IMF told National Geographic. "Work wage demands are pretty moderate in the [United States.]"
In other words, even if shale gas does help bring back some manufacturing jobs, don’t expect those jobs to be high-paying.
Shale industry supporters often cite the sheer number of jobs created by the boom. But the estimates that politicians cite often turn out to be overblown. Gov. Corbett (R-PA) recently found himself in hot water for his claim that drilling has created 200,000 jobs in his state. A recent analysis found that only 30,000 jobs could be directly linked to his state’s Marcellus shale rush, and that despite Gov. Corbett’s drill-baby-drill policies, job growth from Marcellus development has fallen roughly a third between 2010 and 2013.
“The amount of jobs created by the gas boom has been grossly overstated,” explained Powers.
The impacts are even less striking when the ripple effects from drilling are taken into account. “[E]very gas-related job that was created in Texas, Louisiana and Pennsylvania and other states has probably resulted in a coal-related job that has been lost,” Powers added. “More importantly, the shale gas boom has greatly hampered job growth in the renewable sector.”
Prospects for shale gas in the European Union look even bleaker, the European researchers concluded.
The researchers honed in on the uncertainty surrounding exactly how much shale gas lays beneath European countries, noting that the continent has seen little drilling compared to North America, and so oil and gas companies know relatively little about Europe’s shale formations.
Using middle-of-the-road assumptions, the researchers concluded that shale gas could potentially supply between three and 10 percent of Europe’s natural gas, meaning that the continent would still be heavily dependent on imports.
This means that shale gas will be no panacea for Europe. “To solve its energy, climate and manufacturing competitiveness challenges, the EU thus needs a broad strategy of energy efficiency, innovation, low carbon energy sources and a stronger internal market.”
That may prove to be a much more reliable plan than staking the future on shale gas, whose promised benefits increasingly seem like mostly smoke and mirrors.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
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By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.
1. Fragrance – Avoid It<p>One of the fastest ways to narrow down your product options is immediately eliminating any product that promotes a fragrance, or parfum. That scent of "fresh breeze" or lemon might initially smell good, but the fragrance does not last. What does last? The concoction of various undisclosed and unregulated chemicals that created that fragrance.</p><p>Many fragrances contain phthalates, which are linked to many health risks including reproductive problems and cancer.</p>
2. With Bleach? Do Without<p>Going scent-free should have narrowed down your options substantially – now, check the front of the remaining packaging. Any that include ammonia or chlorine bleach ought to go, as these substances are irritating and corrosive to your body. While bleach is commonly known as a powerful disinfectant, there are safer alternatives that you can use in your home, such as sodium borate or hydrogen peroxide.</p><p>While you're at it, check if there are any warnings on the label – "flammable," "use in ventilated area," etc. – if the product is hazardous, that's a red flag and should be avoided.</p>
3. Check the Back Label<p>Flip to the back of the remaining contenders and check out that ingredient list. Less is more, here. Opt for a shorter ingredient list with words you recognize and/or can pronounce.</p><p>You may notice many products do not have ingredient lists – while this doesn't necessarily mean they contain toxic ingredients, transparency is key. Feel free to look up a list online, or stick to products that are open about their ingredients.</p>
4. Ingredients to Avoid<p>We already mentioned that cleaners containing fragrance or parfum, and bleach or ammonia should be avoided, but there are other ingredients to look out for as well.</p><ul><li>Quaternary ammonium "quats" – lung irritants that contribute to asthma and other breathing problems. Also linger on surfaces long after they've been cleaned.</li><li>Parabens – Known hormone disruptor; can contribute to ailments such as cancer</li><li>Triclosan – triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals are registered with the EPA as pesticides. Triclosan is a known hormone disruptor and can also impact your immune system.</li><li>Formaldehyde – Causes irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; studies suggest formaldehyde exposure is linked with certain varieties of cancer. Can be found in products or become a byproduct of chemical reactions in the air.</li></ul>
Cleaning Products and Toxics: The Bottom Line<p>Do your research. There are many cleaning products available, but taking these steps will drastically reduce your options and help keep your home toxic-free. Protecting your home from bacteria and viruses is important, but make sure you do so in a way that doesn't introduce other health risks into the home.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649054624#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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Twenty-five years ago, a food called Tofurky made its debut on grocery store shelves. Since then, the tofu-based roast has become a beloved part of many vegetarians' holiday feasts.
By Jessica Corbett
A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
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Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.