Fracking Industry Aims to Export Natural Gas While Touting False Claims of Energy Security
A new report released today by the national consumer advocacy organization Food & Water Watch takes aim at the oil and gas industry’s claim that fracking and drilling for natural gas and tight oil will deliver U.S. energy security. U.S. Energy Insecurity: Why Fracking for Oil and Natural Gas is a False Solution reveals that as of Oct. 26, the Department of Energy has received 19 proposals to export liquefied natural gas. If approved, these projects would allow the oil and gas industry to sell huge amounts of natural gas overseas—as much as 40 percent of current U.S. consumption.
“The hype over fracking is giving Americans a false sense of energy security,” said Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter. “The industry is making empty promises about U.S. energy security to prolong America’s destructive dependence on fossil fuels. At the same time, it is laying the groundwork to sell natural gas overseas to maximize profits. The gas will go wherever it can fetch the highest price—and right now that’s not the United States.”
The report’s release comes as the oil and gas industry is aggressively pressuring New York State government to allow fracking by pouring millions of dollars into campaign accounts and lobbying efforts. Meanwhile, opposition to fracking in New York State has mobilized thousands throughout the state to participate in actions to demonstrate to Governor Cuomo that New Yorkers are not willing to jeopardize public health, the environment and the state’s economic prosperity by allowing the dangerous practice.
Business owners, medical professionals, scientists, faith leaders and residents of New York have joined with the diverse coalition of New Yorkers Against Fracking to push for a ban on fracking in New York, a call driven by the science that shows it cannot be done safely and supported by more than half a million people through petition.
“The gas industry’s claims that fracking will allow us to become more energy independent are as dishonest as its claims that fracking can be done safely,” said David Braun of New Yorkers Against Fracking. “This report shows the industry’s true motivations—to enlarge their short-term profits by exporting gas to other countries at the expense of New York which would be left with the resulting long-term economic, environmental and health problems.”
According to the report, the industry is also misrepresenting U.S. natural gas and tight oil supplies. Its claims rely on uncertain estimates of shale gas resources and on allowing the oil and gas industry to drill not just throughout the Marcellus Shale and other shale plays, but also all along the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Even if the industry’s vision holds true, Food & Water Watch calculates that plans to create increased demand for U.S. natural gas translate to a supply of just 50 years and would require drilling hundreds of thousands of new shale gas wells.
"Gas exports would require the use of dangerous and destructive fracking. It's that simple,” said Bruce Ferguson of Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy. “It is critically important that the Obama Administration continue to suspend licensing of gas export terminals, because once they are built, global trade will only raise the pressure for more and more export, and more and more fracking to meet that demand."
As for tight oil, Food & Water Watch argues that no amount of conceivable production will lower the prices American consumers are paying at the pump. This is because the price of oil is set on a global market. Even so, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that there are 33.2 billion barrels of recoverable tight oil—enough to last the U.S. just under five years based on 2011 consumption.
Reduced oil consumption is the only way to protect the American economy from the consequences of increased global demand for oil as conventional supplies decline. Meanwhile, proven energy efficiency and conservation solutions, coupled with renewable energy technologies, avoid the environmental or public health costs of fossil fuels and promise a foundation for sustained economic growth.
Food & Water Watch instead urges local, state and federal governments to:
• Enact aggressive energy conservation policies, including large public transportation investments and widespread energy efficiency solutions, to reduce energy demand
• Establish ambitious programs for deploying and incentivizing existing renewable energy technologies to increase clean energy supplies
• Modernize the U.S. electrical grid so that it caters to distributed renewable power generation
• Invest in research and development to overcome technological barriers to the next generation clean energy solutions
• Terminate public funding for the fossil fuel industry.
Using natural gas to displace oil to fuel transportation and coal to generate electricity is suppressing the promise of renewables and keeping us dependent on fossil fuels. The potential expiration of production tax credits, generally low electricity demand due a struggling economy and the currently low prices of natural gas are combining to threaten the domestic wind industry.
“Gas is no bridge fuel, and investing in the infrastructure to support this would make the U.S. dependent on dirty fossil fuels for several more decades and would sacrifice our health and communities to the industry’s thirst for profits. We need to ban fracking and remake our energy system now,” concluded Hauter.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
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