“To address the huge threat posed by global warming, I believe it is essential to move as quickly as possible away from natural gas towards renewable energy resources, and to not further develop shale gas unless major (and expensive) steps are taken to greatly reduce methane emissions.”
—Cornell U. Professor Robert Howarth, May 31, 2012, testifying before the House of Representatives
“On July 28, 2012, we invite community members and organizations everywhere to join us in Washington, D.C. for a rally at the Capitol to demand no more drilling that harms public health, water and air ... Elected officials and public agencies must insist that the industry stop all drilling that is dirty and dangerous, and put communities and the environment first, starting by removing special exemptions and subsidies for the oil and gas industry. Join community leaders, celebrities and policymakers and add your voice to the call for a clean, fossil fuel free energy future.”
—Call to Action at www.stopthefrackattack.org
There are two energy-related issues that have generated significant popular movement over the past year: the movement in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and tar sands oil extraction, and the movement against hydraulic fracturing of deep-underground shale to extract natural gas.
The stop-the-pipeline movement won an historic temporary victory, with the final decision still to be made. The stop-fracking movement has also won victories, among them many-months-long fracking moratoriums still in place, but not permanent, in New York, New Jersey, Maryland and the Delaware River basin area. However, fracking is taking place in 20 or so other states.
The stop-the-pipeline movement organized two major actions in Washington, D.C.last August and November that had everything to do with the temporary victory. In the first action, 1,253 people were arrested at the White House over a two week period. In the second, on Nov. 6, more than 10,000 people encircled the White House, with plans announced for demonstrations at a number of Obama re-election offices three weeks later. Not by coincidence, on Nov. 10 the White House announced that a decision on the pipeline would not be made until sometime in 2013.
The stop-fracking movement, up until recently, has been much more local- and state-oriented as far as its efforts. It is truly a people’s movement, made up long-time activists but also a large number of people who have never before been activists. They have become active because of the impact of fracking on their water or air quality, sickness and illness caused by nearby gas wells, the death of farm animals, or other direct impacts of the industry on their daily lives.
There are also a growing number of environmental groups who are joining the stop-fracking movement. Some of them formerly supported natural gas as a “bridge fuel” between our present fossil fuel industry-dominated energy system and the clean jobs-creating, renewable energy-based system which we absolutely must transition to as quickly as possible. More and more groups which used to take that “bridge fuel” position are backing away from it as they see the environmental damage caused by the gas industry’s fracking operations.
But it more than that. It is becoming abundantly clear that when you do a life-cycle comparison of fracked natural gas to coal, generally seen as the dirtiest and most harmful fossil fuel, as far as its effect on the climate, fracked natural gas is likely as bad and probably worse than coal. This is the case because of significant leakage of gas into the atmosphere, at the drilling site and elsewhere before it is burned, and because, over a 20 year period, vented natural gas, composed primarily of methane, is between 72 and 105 times as powerful a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide.
Can the U.S. and other countries dramatically expand gas production, strengthen regulation and, as a result, correct the serious environmental and climate impacts of fracking? I doubt it. You can have the best regulations in the world, but if you don’t have people on the ground to enforce those regulations, does anyone think that ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, Chesapeake Energy and all of the other companies doing fracking are going to follow the law if it means additional costs or inconveniences? And how likely is it that, any time soon, new regulations on fracking, if passed, would provide for a sufficient number of enforcement agents given the strength of the pro-fossil fuel lobby and we-love-fossil-fuels conservative ideology?
Fortunately, right now there’s a glut of natural gas because of the fracking “gold rush” of the last several years. There’s a slowdown in the number of wells the industry is drilling. But they have a solution: build pipelines and export terminals and ship gas overseas where the prices are higher. That will eventually decrease the U.S. supply and drive up prices here, but, hey, that’s the way capitalism works, right?
Getting off fossil fuels, all of them, as soon as possible, is an absolutely essential, immediate requirement. It is on the agenda of history. It is an idea whose time has come. Let’s make July 28 so big, so powerful, that its political impact reverberates for months and years.
Ted Glick is the National Policy Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
As protests are taking place across our nation in response to the killing of George Floyd, we want to acknowledge the importance of this protest and the Black Lives Matter movement. Over the years, we've aimed to be sensitive and prioritize stories that highlight the intersection between racial and environmental injustice. From our years of covering the environment, we know that too often marginalized communities around the world are disproportionately affected by environmental crises.
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Researchers at the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly announced yesterday that it will start a trial on a new drug designed specifically for COVID-19, a milestone in the race to stop the infectious disease, according to STAT News.
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With more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus, physicians face unprecedented challenges in their efforts to keep Americans safe.
They also encounter what some call an "infodemic," an outbreak of misinformation that's making it more difficult to treat patients.
When Leaders and Doctors Spread Misinformation<p>When people in charge of towns, cities, states, and countries spread misinformation, the potential for belief in misinformation to result in policies can have harmful effects.</p><p><a href="https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/find-a-doctor?q=Bruce+E.+Hirsch%2C+MD&insurance=&location=&query_type=provider&physician_partners=false&default_view=list&gender=&language=&sort=relevancy" target="_blank">Dr. Bruce E. Hirsch</a>, attending physician and assistant professor in the infectious disease division of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, says an example of this is when President Trump informed the public he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.</p><p>"To approach this enormous challenge, we need some intellectual honesty and clarity, and to disregard expertise and to make decisions and model decisions based on hunches is inviting us to handle challenges on the basis of rumor and uninformed opinion. The magnitude of that error is epic," Hirsch told Healthline.</p><p>Stukus agrees, noting that the harm of this proclamation is documented.</p><p>"Early on when the president touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, people started to hoard this medicine, and state boards had to shut it down because they were getting so many prescriptions for this unproven therapy that it was not available for those who truly needed it, such as those who have lupus and autoimmune conditions," Stukus said.</p><p>He adds that calls to poison control centers increased after the president suggested using disinfectant to prevent contracting the new coronavirus.</p>
Listen to Science, Even When it Changes<p>When recommendations change or evidence flip-flops, skepticism may arise. However, Stukus says change is the beauty of science.</p><p>"That shows us that we can evolve, and if the evidence shows that our prior thoughts were incorrect, we need to be able to change our recommendations and advice based upon the best quality of evidence at the time," he said.</p><p>Pierre agrees.</p><p>"Science is an iterative process, whereby we arrive at facts and truth through repeated and controlled observations. That means that it's inherently self-correcting as we revise conclusions based on ongoing research. Scientific facts aren't immutable dogma chiseled on a tablet. They change based on the best available evidence we have at a given point in time," he said.</p><p>Because research of COVID-19 has only been underway for 6 months, information is evolving rapidly, and new information may contradict old.</p><p>"There's still much we don't know about exactly how [COVID-19] spreads, what effects it has on the body, or how to best treat it. That means that the best available evidence is preliminary, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore it or turn to other sources of information or opinion as if they're just as valid," Pierre said.</p><p>He explains that conspiracy theories based on mistrust lead to vulnerability to misinformation.</p><p>If people mistrust science because it sometimes "changes its mind," Pierre said, "that shouldn't be used to embrace other opinions based on no evidence at all, which are typically selected based on confirmation bias: what we want to believe rather than what the objective evidence supports."</p>
Where to Find the Best Information<p>Stukus says to start with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html" target="_blank">CDC</a> and <a href="https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus" target="_blank">NIH</a>. Then check with your local health officials, because COVID-19 guidelines may vary depending on where you live.</p><p>If you can't find information you need or have questions specifically related to you, call your primary care doctor.</p><p>"Your personal doctor should always be a resource for individual specific questions because they know best how to apply all the nuances retaining to your health, and how to incorporate all the other general [COVID-19] recommendations," Stukus said.</p><p><a href="https://www.eehealth.org/find-a-doctor/b/boyd-laura-b/" target="_blank">Dr. Laura Boyd</a>, primary care physician at Edward-Elmhurst Health Center in Elmhurst, Illinois, says her clinic receives a lot of calls about COVID-19.</p><p>"Most doctors' offices are receiving calls and answering questions, and doing phone or video visits to help clarify and/or order testing over the phone based on patients' symptoms. It is always best to call your doctor's office first instead of worrying about symptoms and waiting too long to seek treatment," she told Healthline.</p><p>If your primary care doctor has limited testing, she suggests looking on your state's public health website for available testing sites.</p><p>With a lot of unknowns related to this virus and disease, Boyd says many patients are feeling overwhelmed and anxious for a treatment.</p><p>"Unfortunately, there is no specific medication recommended for COVID for outpatient. There are a lot of ongoing studies with various drugs going on within the hospital setting. Patients should always contact their doctors about their specific symptoms as they can treat the symptoms that go along with COVID, but there is no cure," Boyd said.</p><p>While we wait for treatment and a vaccine, Hirsch, who treats patients hospitalized for COVID-19 complications on a daily basis, says everyone can do their part by washing hands, wearing a mask, and staying 6 feet apart.</p><p>"As an infectious disease doctor working in the hospital, I see the damage of the pandemic and the worst cases of what's happening. We are trying to get the best possible outcome and confronting this overwhelming biologic reality of this terrible epidemic the best we can," Hirsch said.</p><p>Everyone at home can help in the fight too, he adds.</p><p>"Follow information that is science- and evidence-based, and avoid that which is not," he said.</p>
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