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US Energy Panel Cautiously Endorses Fracking

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the like-they're-the-fracking-experts dept.

Earth 294

Hugh Pickens writes "The Christian Science Monitor reports that a U.S. Energy Department advisory panel has endorsed fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, a promising technology that injects a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals underground to fracture rock and release shale gas previously thought unretrievable, paving the way for tens of thousands of new wells. If fracking can be done safely, it could be a major source of domestic energy over the next century. Shale gas makes up about 14 percent of the U.S. natural gas supply today, but is expected to reach 45 percent by 2035. But first, serious environmental concerns must be addressed. Earlier this year, a Duke University study of 68 private groundwater wells in Pennsylvania and New York state found evidence that shale-gas extraction has caused them to become contaminated with methane. One key recommendation by the panel is a call for transparency regarding the use of chemicals in the extraction process. Drillers say they would like to keep the exact formula of the chemicals they use secret because it represents a competitive advantage."

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Christian Science (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37066892)

Yeah, I'm going to read an article from a "Christian Science" publication. Whatever that is.
Skipping this one.

Re:Christian Monitor (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37066904)

Maybe "Christian Science Monitor" should be understood as "Christian Monitor of Science" and not "Monitor of Christian Science" ?

Re:Christian Science (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37066930)

Because ad hominem attacks show such a depth of character and wisdom...

Re:Christian Science (0)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#37066978)

Because ad hominem attacks show such a depth of character and wisdom...

Way to go Judas.

Re:Christian Science (5, Informative)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 2 years ago | (#37066938)

Actually, I'd encourage you to give the Christian Science Monitor a look. It is a well respected newspaper, certainly in the same league as major daily papers such as the NY Times and Washington Post, and has been around for about as long. Personally I think it beats the hell out of cnn.com and the like. You don't have to be Christian to like it. But judge for yourself.

Re:Christian Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37067012)

At least you know which bias you're getting force fed. That's got to count for something.

Re:Christian Science (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37066956)

What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;

You are objecting to the word Christian in a news publication.

I take it you object to the idea of a guy named Christian in politics too?

http://www.csmonitor.com/About/The-Monitor-difference

Then if the Monitor's news is basically secular and for everybody, why is "Christian Science" in its name?

It's about honesty and purpose. We do not hide the fact that the Christian Science church has stood behind this publication for more than 100 years. While some might argue that not having those words would give it wider appeal, to remove them would mislead people about the organization that supports the Monitor. Eddy knew this from the outset. She insisted, against strong opposition from some of her advisers and church officers, that the words “Christian Science” should be in the paper’s name.
According to one of her biographers, Robert Peel, to Mrs. Eddy, "the designated title was an identification of the paper with the promise that no human situation was beyond healing or rectification if approached with sufficient understanding of man’s God-given potentialities. Nor did the "good news" of Christianity involve the prettification of bad news, but rather, its confident confrontation" (witness Monitor correspondent David Rohde’s Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting in 1995 on alleged massacres by Bosnian Serb forces).

great post, compare with Washington Times (-1, Offtopic)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067262)

which is run by the sun yung moon cult.

You're a fucking idiot. CSM is extremely reputable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37066958)

You're a fucking idiot. The CSM is one of the better news sources out there, and I'm a raving atheist. The religious content is extremely minimal, and they otherwise provide some of the most level-headed, objective, non-sensationalist reporting around.

Mod Parent Up! (4, Insightful)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067002)

CSM has amazing articles and unlike most of the drivel coming out of places these days is actually well written and researched. The "Christian" part throws a lot of people but it shouldn't.

Re:Mod Parent Up! (1, Offtopic)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067252)

Interesting how the title exposes the biases of the potential readership, isn't it?

Re:Christian Science (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37066988)

"Christian Science", as a religious movement, is approximately equivalent to other not-too-foaming-at-the-mouth strains of Protestantism, with the exception of its rather peculiar disinclination toward not availing itself of modern medicine.

For whatever reason, though, their newspaper does almost no water-carrying for the mothership, and is broadly considered respectable even by those who find the parent organization's doctrines silly in the extreme...

Re:Christian Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37067040)

CSM is just an ordinary newspaper. The contents of the newspaper have little to do with the Christian Science church although they do carry some CS material that are published in the opinion sections, strictly separated from the news reports. Actually I find their coverage of science news better than average "science journalism" found online.

Re:Christian Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37067180)

If you were standing close to me, I'd bitch slap you just because you are such a fucking moron.

WTF? (3, Insightful)

Syberz (1170343) | more than 2 years ago | (#37066898)

The U.S. Energy Department endorses this horrible process?!? All of the places where this technology was used has resulted in contaminating the neighboring population's water.

Oh wait, it also resulted in the harvesting of gas... well that trumps everything then.

Re:WTF? (5, Informative)

drunkahol (143049) | more than 2 years ago | (#37066926)

Fracking is just another tool in the arsenal of getting hydrocarbons from the ground. Doing it too close to underground wells, on the other hand, is a completely different matter. I would suggest that these cases come down to negligence on the part of the individual drilling company rather than an systematic failure of the process as a whole.

Re:WTF? (5, Insightful)

Syberz (1170343) | more than 2 years ago | (#37066990)

I'm not saying that the process doesn't work, I'm saying that whenever it's used it also contaminates the ground water. Even if you're careful, it's more than likely that you will contaminate the water so unless the odds improve, this tech should not be approved for use, even far from civilization as water is a more important resource than gas.

Re:WTF? (1)

Gr33nJ3ll0 (1367543) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067226)

And how do you heat your home in the winter?

Re:WTF? (2)

Syberz (1170343) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067344)

Currently, via electricity produced by hydroelectric dams. Yes, flooding large swatches of land is a bad thing, but it's cleaner energy than coal, shale gas or oil. My province (Quebec) is also currently working on adding cleaner sources such as wind and tides. Fracking was also proposed, but the outcry from the population put a break on that endeavor and the government decided to invest in cleaner forms of energy (energy companies here are owned by the government).

Re:WTF? (5, Funny)

Zerth (26112) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067580)

And how do you heat your home in the winter?

Open the taps and light a match?

Re:WTF? (2)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067600)

Nuclear? It's still more manageable than fracking. These chemicals are usually carciogens. Just look up burning tap water, and the health statistics in the affected regions.

Re:WTF? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37067046)

Fracking is just another tool in the arsenal of getting hydrocarbons from the ground. Doing it too close to underground wells, on the other hand, is a completely different matter. I would suggest that these cases come down to negligence on the part of the individual drilling company rather than an systematic failure of the process as a whole.

I would suggest that most people commenting it don't know much, if anything, about the subject except for what they've heard on the news.

I'm from Oklahoma, where the wells are almost exclusively very deep wells. I recently traveled to Pennsylvania for work in the oil field. The thing is, Pennsylvania is where the Drake well was drilled. Oil was discovered there first because it's easy to get to, it's extremely shallow oil and gas. The shale drilling is happening below all of these existing formations that have been produced for a hundred years. There is a creek there named oil creek.. it's named oil creek because the oil production companies used to dump oil into the creek with troughs running straight from the wellheads, then skim the oil at a refinery downstream.

I'm not a petroleum engineer, and I don't know everything about this stuff.. but I've traveled to four major shale plays now and EVERY ONE OF THEM is deep below plays that have been produced for at least 50 years. If someone wants to be sure that it's the shale drilling that's causing methane gas in water supplies, they need to do a before/after study of a shale play that is on land that has not been produced for 50 years with questionable recovery practices already.

Just to note.. when a well is being fractured and there is a leak, it causes very noticeable, problematic events in the equipment that is fracturing the well. A little leak turns into a big leak very fast due to the sheer velocity and pressure of gas escaping through the leak. There is a surface casing of concrete extending down well past the water table. This is why people in the oil industry think that people babbling about it after hearing it on the news, mis-pronouncing the names of the shale plays are all full of FUD.

Re:WTF? (3, Insightful)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067484)

The thing is, Pennsylvania is where the Drake well was drilled..... There is a creek there named oil creek.. it's named oil creek because the oil production companies used to dump oil into the creek with troughs running straight from the wellheads, then skim the oil at a refinery downstream.

Yow. I have to say, that does not give me good feelings about how conscious the oil and gas companies are about the environment.

"We'll drill the gas out now, and some time in the future, after we've made our profits, other people can clean up any teeny little mess we might have made-- they can worry about that later."

Re:WTF? (2)

S.O.B. (136083) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067064)

Fracking is just another tool in the arsenal of getting hydrocarbons from the ground. Doing it too close to underground wells, on the other hand, is a completely different matter. I would suggest that these cases come down to negligence and/or greed on the part of the individual drilling company rather than an systematic failure of the process as a whole.

FTFY

Permission-- for a secret process? WTF? (5, Interesting)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067414)

Drillers say they would like to keep the exact formula of the chemicals they use secret because it represents a competitive advantage.

And they should be allowed to keep their formulas secret.

However, if they do, they shouldn't be allowed to inject them into the environment.

(COMPANY: "I need approval to make a chemical release into the environment." EPA: "OK, what chemical?" COMPANY: "We can't tell you, it's secret." EPA: "OK, here's your permit."

WTF?

Re:WTF? (2)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067638)

President Muffley: General Turgidson! When you instituted the human reliability tests, you assured me there was no possibility of such a thing ever occurring!

Buck Turgidson: Well, I, don't think it's quite fair to condemn a whole program because of a single slip-up, sir.

Re:WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37067026)

"What The Frack"?

Re:WTF? (1, Troll)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067124)

The technology is still new and the full environmental impact isn't known. Trying it out in a controlled method as they ramp up to more is reasonable. This method is no worse then other energy extracting methods such as drilling for oil or coal mining. We need smart environmental laws that realize that some things do have a cost however the benefits out weight the costs. It seems like environuts are booing every idea that has a negative impact on the environment, forcing us to stick to the old end even more environmental damaging methods, Oil Drilling, Coal Mining...

Re:WTF? (1, Troll)

Syberz (1170343) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067280)

I agree that better methods are needed and that current methods aren't great, but fracking has been proven to be a problem and the benefits definitely do not outweigh the cost. This documentary provides quite a bit of info on the subject [gaslandthemovie.com] .

Re:WTF? (1)

Teun (17872) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067702)

There's nothing new about hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas reservoirs.

As a matter of fact I'm this very moment involved in one.

The reservoir is 3,500 m. down, the salt dome that for in excess of 250 million years has prevented the gas to seep up has by the frac process not been affected in any way and continues to contain the valuable energy till the reservoir has been depleted by the investing company.
This is not to say oil or gas recovery can't cause serious issues when regulations aren't followed. The problem is a USofA one where ruthless companies were able to 'convince' greedy politicians that regulation is a bad thing as it gets in the way of making short term money.

In the mean time the civilised world continues extracting hydrocarbon energy from safely fractured wells without causing any ill effects to the environment.

Re:WTF? (1)

ZonkerWilliam (953437) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067348)

There's more to it, methane and water do not mix, yes methane can flow into underground water wells, they often do naturally. If one wanted to, some entrepreneurial person could easily come up with something to separate the water and methane out of ground. Then people who own this device gets methane to heat/power/cook with for free. Another major factor about "fracking" it has been around for decades since 1947 for gas and oil, the first official use is dated to 1903, Why worry about it now? Sounds like media scare tactics.

It already is a major, massive source of energy (5, Interesting)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#37066902)

There are already thousands and thosuands of wells all over the United States, that was the whole point of part of Cheney's energy plan.

Please see GASLAND by Josh Fox.

Fun fact - the people who own those mineral rights probably don't care about the environmental damage, they are getting massively rich. if you could somehow spread out the wind-power profits to tens of thousands of people you might see more political support for wind farms.

Re:It already is a major, massive source of energy (1, Troll)

cowboy76Spain (815442) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067032)

Fun fact - the people who own those mineral rights probably don't care about the environmental damage, they are getting massively rich. if you could somehow spread out the wind-power profits to a few hundreds of wealthy people you might see more political support for wind farms.

There, fixed that for you.

Re:It already is a major, massive source of energy (4, Interesting)

Gideon Wells (1412675) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067098)

I live near State College, Pa. Knew several people who went wind farming as in this state there is a group that will pay you if you generate surplus energy. I've heard nothing from complaints about single digit pay outs. Your wind farm idea won't work here.

Marcellus Shale? There are the people who don't want it due to environmental reasons and the people in rural communities who have $28,000 average house hold incomes thinking this is he best golden era for the state since the coal mines and lumber clear cutting. The area needs money badly.

Not just drilling is helping us. Businesses that were shut down due to the economy have reopened and retooled to M.S. support. General metal fabricators are now reopening as dedicated parts crafters for well pads. Welders are producing storage tanks. Cash strapped municiplaties are selling water to be used for fracking. There are roads that were once paved, deteriorated into gravel that were repaved by the Shale Drillers in order to have good roads for their trucks. Locals are now being hired for 2-4x the average salary for the area. There are even talks in several communities of building frack water treatment facilities.

Jobs, money, etc. are being created by shale when green energy such as the ethanol plant a county away is shutting down. I just wish it was all being done by something without such negative impacts.

Additional Fun Facts:
* Mineral rights != Shale rights in PA. We also have a thing called gas rights.
* Well drillers can drill on your property if you want it or not if your neighbors sell their rights but your property is the only one around that can support a well.

what happened with the coal? (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067476)

it ran out. there are other places we can get it cheaper.

what will happen to the gas?

same thing.

your fossil fuel ideas wont work here.

Re:It already is a major, massive source of energy (3, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067534)

Small scale alternative energy can only work when there is net metering, where you get paid per kWh what you pay to consume it. Where there is net metering (e.g. Germany) small, distributed, eco-friendly power generation is going up like a mofo. Of course, they are spending some tax money to subsidize this, but actually having sufficient power generation is a worthy goal.

However, the goal here in the USA is to permit corporations to control every power plant and every source of clean water. If they can ruin your drinking water, you are now vastly more likely to buy bottled water for more per gallon than gasoline. If you can't get paid for your excess power they're betting you won't put in any of your own power generation and you will remain at their mercy.

They also want to be the sole source of food, but we can talk about that later.

Re:It already is a major, massive source of energy (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37067624)

Same bullshit argument, different day.
I grew up in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. The lion's share of the town's economy was tied to the forest products industry. The timber barons got rich, the rivers and streams got silted and polluted, the old growth forests were destroyed (and won't be back for centuries), and "the jobs" so loudly touted by those industry barons are long gone. On the whole, I'd say that was a lousy trade. The argument that the temporary economic boon is welcome despite the risks is laughable. That deal will make a few folks rich, and will eventually leave the community worse off than it is now (jobless and

poisoned. Think harder.

Re:It already is a major, massive source of energy (1)

Tomato42 (2416694) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067182)

You mean the same one that "forgets" to mention that there were federal audits of water sources done in the beginning of last century that found "high concentrations of hydrocarbons" in that same area?

It more and more looks like the Anthopogenic Global Warming and Al Gore's Hockey Stick.

It's always about money.

Re:It already is a major, massive source of energy (1)

ZonkerWilliam (953437) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067244)

GASLAND?? You mean the one where they showed that the methane gas in the water wasn't from fracking but naturally occurring seepage into the water reservoir, and the fact that it wasn't even in the same place or state the film was supposed to be filmed in?? That Gasland? ya right....

no, i mean GASLAND (5, Insightful)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067300)

the film that causes gas industry PR people to shit bricks, because it shows several people, on film, setting their water on fire, and because it has interviews with people who have had the gas companies pay for their new water supplies (trucked in periodically), and because Josh Fox has discussed what happened to those people for daring to talk to him - the gas companies shut off their supply of water.

initimidation and persecution are not the tactics of an group that has the facts behind their cause.

Re:no, i mean GASLAND (4, Interesting)

Tomato42 (2416694) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067394)

Thing is, it's not because of gas companies that there is methane in water. It's a natural process that was happening for at least few hundred years.

It's not like they are without fault, but I give credit where credit is due.

all human processes are natural (1, Flamebait)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067518)

its also natural for people with lots of money to hire PR flacks to spread lies to attack anyone who threatens their power.

that has been happening for at least a few hundred years.

Re:It already is a major, massive source of energy (2)

sdinfoserv (1793266) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067336)

No, it wasn’t naturally occurring. People who lived by fracked wells had FINE water. Post fracking, animals lost hair and died, the local EPA told them to stop drinking water and their water LIGHTS ON FIRE!!. SO SOMEHOW the “component chemicals’ of Haliburtons frack mixture shows up in water sources??? You have a agenda to fool the public. Truth tells the opposite of what you write. YOu're just another energy lobbyist.

Re:It already is a major, massive source of energy (3, Informative)

ZonkerWilliam (953437) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067492)

No, it wasn’t naturally occurring. People who lived by fracked wells had FINE water. Post fracking, animals lost hair and died, the local EPA told them to stop drinking water and their water LIGHTS ON FIRE!!. SO SOMEHOW the “component chemicals’ of Haliburtons frack mixture shows up in water sources??? You have a agenda to fool the public. Truth tells the opposite of what you write. YOu're just another energy lobbyist.

I wish I was an energy lobbyist, could use the money, just a mild mannered physicist. You don't have to take what I said, look here;

http://www.energyindepth.org/2010/06/debunking-gasland/ [energyindepth.org]

quoted passage;

From GASLAND; “In 2004, the EPA was investigating a water contamination incident due to hydraulic fracturing in Alabama. But a panel rejected the inquiry, stating that although hazard materials were being injected underground, EPA did not need to investigate.”

* No record of the investigation described by Fox exists, so EID reached out to Dr. Dave Bolin, deputy director of Alabama’s State Oil & Gas Board and the man who heads up oversight of hydraulic fracturing in that state. In an email, he said he had “no recollection” of such an investigation taking place.

* That said, it’s possible that Fox is referring to EPA’s study of the McMillian well in Alabama, which spanned several years in the early- to mid-1990s. In 1989, Alabama regulators conducted four separate water quality tests on the McMillian well. The results indicated no water quality problems existed. In 1990, EPA conducted its own water quality tests, and found nothing.

* In a letter sent in 1995, then-EPA administrator Carol Browner (currently, President Obama’s top energy and environmental policy advisor) characterized EPA’s involvement with the McMillian case in the following way: “Repeated testing, conducted between May of 1989 and March of 1993, of the drinking water well which was the subject of this petition [McMillian] failed to show any chemicals that would indicate the presence of fracturing fluids. The well was also sampled for drinking water quality, and no constituents exceeding drinking water standards were detected.”

* For information on what actually did happen in Alabama during this time, and how it’s relevant to the current conversation about the Safe Drinking Water Act, please download the fact sheet produced last year by the Coalbed Methane Association of Alabama.

Time for workers revolution (0)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | more than 2 years ago | (#37066906)

Folks, capitalism is turning our world into an uninhabitable, war-torn hellhole. We need communism now!

Re:Time for workers revolution (2)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067084)

Folks, capitalism is turning our world into an uninhabitable, war-torn hellhole. We need communism now!

Yes, because the communist countries of the world have historically been such good stewards of the environment. I believe Chernobyl is a fine example.

Re:Time for workers revolution (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067346)

Not to mention China's little environmental issues.

Fracking drillers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37066914)

We should set the cylons on them...... Go frack yourself.. now endorsed by Gov

Cynics and skeptics are right. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37066916)

"In our judgment, they should disclose the entire suite of chemicals," except in "very rare" instances in which chemicals are judged to be truly proprietary, John Deutch, chairman of the Shale Gas Subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, told The Associated Press.

Always giving them a loophole.

But the panel also said the industry's stock reply that fracking has been performed safely for more than 60 years won't succeed in convincing a skeptical public.

Of course the public is skeptical. I'm a cynic - industry will always lie to protect their profits even if it harms public health. There are no exceptions.

And continuing with my cynicism:

The panel said it "shares the prevailing view" that fracking poses a low risk to drinking water supplies because thousands of feet of earth separate fracking chemicals from groundwater.

The panel was "lobbied" by industry and was "pressured" by the politicians to say that - to put it nicely.

Magic Formula (5, Insightful)

atheos (192468) | more than 2 years ago | (#37066924)

"Drillers say they would like to keep the exact formula of the chemicals they use secret because it represents a competitive advantage" Good luck with that. Food and beverage manufactures were required to list their "ingredients", and they sky didn't fall.

Re:Magic Formula (1)

Ries (765608) | more than 2 years ago | (#37066970)

It is properly toxic like hell. Ask one of them to drink a cup of it :)

Re:Magic Formula (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 2 years ago | (#37066998)

Like coke, you mean? You can just put `flavourings` and it seems to keep the various pointless government bodies happy.

Re:Magic Formula (1)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067058)

Coke actually had their formula revealed in a court case several decades ago. You can look it up if you want to.

Of course, it doesn't really matter that much to soft drink manufacturers, since the cost of analysis is trivial. Pepsi could make Pepsi exactly identical to Coke, but it's a bad business model.

Re:Magic Formula (1)

Arlet (29997) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067138)

Pepsi could make Pepsi exactly identical to Coke, but it's a bad business model.

It may be a bad business model for Pepsi, but it would a good business model for a cheap supermarket brand.

Re:Magic Formula (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37067332)

My understanding is that merely having the formula won't give you Coke. You have to have their suppliers, too. For example, if you're using vanilla extract from someplace else, it won't taste the same. I imagine this is why cheap supermarket brands aren't doing exactly as you suggest (or maybe they are but the results are as expected.)

Re:Magic Formula (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067724)

I wouldn't be astonished if the stores actually made more money selling the coke.

(The expensive packages of coke retail for ~$0.7 per ounce, their portion of that is more than the $0.0125 per ounce they get for a 12 ounce can with a retail cost of a $0.15. That's the most favorable example for my statement, but a 2 liter bottle at $1 still retails for more per ounce than that can.)

Complete list (3, Funny)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 2 years ago | (#37066940)

Here's the complete list of the things the US Energy Panel has Cautiously Endorsed this week
        * Shooting for oil
        * Bristols for oil
        * Peeving for oil
        * Fracking for oil
        * Berkeley Hunting for oil
        * Cork-sinking for oil
        * Motherfracking for oil

Re:Complete list (1)

royallthefourth (1564389) | more than 2 years ago | (#37066992)

Farting for gas, not oil

Incomplete news title (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37066960)

US Energy Panel Endorses Fracking WHAT?

Fracking editors, man.

Being tried in UK too (2)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 2 years ago | (#37066968)

It didn't last for very long though. The process was halted back in June after multiple earthquakes, and the UK is pretty stable geologically - earthquakes strong enough to be felt usually make the national news - so a connection seems highly likely. Coverage at the BBC [bbc.co.uk] , FT [ft.com] and Independent [independent.co.uk] .

Still, it is good for a chuckle every now and again if you are a Galactica fan since journos keep using headlines starting with "Fracking Protesters..." until someone gets it changed. :)

Re:Being tried in UK too (2)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067000)

Now all we need is a process called "Frelling" and I'll be happy. Preferably have frelling be somewhat related to fracking so I can see both words used in the same sentence.

Re:Being tried in UK too (1)

lazybeam (162300) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067066)

I'm pretty sure you'll end up with lots of dren.

Re:Being tried in UK too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37067068)

There's already something like that called voting, you vote for something but get fucked instead.
Democracy, isn't working so well, and we don't have a better alternative ...

Re:Being tried in UK too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37067034)

Small earthquakes would actually be a good thing. They release pressure between plates and can prevent large, dangerous earthquakes.

Re:Being tried in UK too (1)

slyrat (1143997) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067256)

It didn't last for very long though. The process was halted back in June after multiple earthquakes, and the UK is pretty stable geologically - earthquakes strong enough to be felt usually make the national news - so a connection seems highly likely. Coverage at the BBC [bbc.co.uk] , FT [ft.com] and Independent [independent.co.uk] .

NPR reported on the same sort of thing happening in Faulkner County, Ark [npr.org] . I think they later stopped the drills for a period to see if it stopped the small quakes and found that the quakes did stop.

Re:Being tried in UK too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37067424)

Yes, it is possible for fluids injected at high pressure to trigger earthquakes, however, if they occur at all the earthquakes will be small and will dwindle away with time when the injection ceases. These won't be the kind of earthquakes that flatten cities. At worst they might be ones that briefly rattle the dishes, and in most cases there wouldn't be any noticeable effect at all. I mean, seriously, magnitude 1.5 and 2.3? Sheesh. That's hardly enough for people to notice without instruments -- it would feel like a truck passing by on the road, if that much. There are probably "quakes" stronger than that around the UK every day due to explosives used in blasting in quarries. Usually quakes have to reach a magnitude of 3 on the Richter scale before they can be felt, and remember that it is a log scale, so that's a lot stronger than 2.3.

Have other independent bodies endorsed fracking? (4, Insightful)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 2 years ago | (#37066974)

I personally tend to agree with this cautious endorsement, but because I live right on top of the Marcellus shale, my otherwise sane friends are freaking about about hydrofracking. I'd love to have an independent and evidence-based source to help me make sense of this. Don't tell me about Gasland and other anecdotal accounts. I'm finding that even I and other educated people don't have much of an idea just how typical Gasland-style anecdotes are, how much gas is won for each such case of methane leakage, and just how bad it is to get methane in your well water? Is this the sort of thing for which we have a filter?

Re:Have other independent bodies endorsed fracking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37067104)

Methane will pass straight through water filters. As to the other chemicals, who knows? This is why they won't come clean.

Re:Have other independent bodies endorsed fracking (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067270)

They actually make filtering mechanisms specifically for methane. Since it will come out of solution when the pressure drops, you need to remove it so it doesn't build up in your house.

GASLAND has citations you know (0)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067324)

you can go to the website and read them, if you really want to know.

oh, and of course, plenty have endorsed it (3, Funny)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067360)

the national association for the advancement of civilization,

the companies who love birds and squirrels and bunnies alliance

the patriotic america loving job creation coalition

the brilliant people who hate losers organization

the anti-baby-killing league of mothers committee

and many many other independent groups, none of whom receive 100% of their funding from the oil and gas companies

Old King Coal had a jolly old troll (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067006)

Horizontal drilling is a lot easier now than it used to be so fracking isn't the cheap and nasty option any more - merely the nasty option that isn't really needed.
In most parts of the world pretending it's a secret mix of chemicals will not get you anywhere near a drilling permit. Parts of the USA are of course special and business can do whatever it likes so long as the words "trade secret" are used, but this method is no longer the vastly cheaper option so expect it to die out even where environmental problems are considered not as a cost to business but something governments clean up at taxpayers expense.

Re:Old King Coal had a jolly old troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37067400)

You are wrong, fracking is used very well in horizontally drilled wells. In North Dakota the horizontal drilling and fracking is used to great effect. One well pad can have 8 or more wells radially spread out horizontally and the fracking opens up routes for the oil to come to the wells. One pumping site with all the wells in one location is very economical to run too.

Re:Old King Coal had a jolly old troll (1)

ginbot462 (626023) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067590)

There are other benefits to horizontal fracking.

Such an unfortunate name (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37067022)

I almost misread that.

Too fracking bad (5, Insightful)

calzones (890942) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067024)

"Drillers say they would like to keep the exact formula of the chemicals they use secret because it represents a competitive advantage."

Too fracking bad.

Besides, there's no need for secret competitive advantage when it comes to energy. They all rake in billions regardless. It's a natural resource and it's up to us to monitor how it's used. If you don't want to be in the lucrative energy business because you dislike the transparency that needs to accompany it, then you need to find another business to be in.

Easy solution: molecular tagging (5, Insightful)

mcelrath (8027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067042)

Here's an easy solution: require oil companies to put trace additives that are uniquely identifiable into the chemicals they inject. (e.g. custom molecules that identify the oil company/well). Then if these chemicals are found in drinking water, lakes or streams, you know where they came from, and can issue a massive fine to the oil company and well owner. This way they can keep their fracking formula secret, and will self-police themselves to some extent as long as the fines are sufficiently large that it destroys any profit from breaking the rules.

There have to be a few chemists, oil guys, and political wonks reading. Do it.

Re:Easy solution: molecular tagging (1)

omglolbah (731566) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067128)

A significant portion of the pollution is not caused by the injected material though. It is caused by the hydrocarbons being released in the wrong place.

Some of the components of the underground deposits are fairly nasty... benzene, hexane, heptane and various other things.

Re:Easy solution: molecular tagging (1)

mcelrath (8027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067162)

And the released hydrocarbons wouldn't mix with the fracking material?

Re:Easy solution: molecular tagging (4, Informative)

omglolbah (731566) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067338)

That depends entirely on the trace material used to 'tag' the well.
The trace molecules would also have to be stable under high pressure, high temperature and in the presence of all the OTHER chemicals used in the fracking process.

I like the idea of tagging the chemicals like this but calling it an 'easy solution' is a bit misleading. It is an easy concept, but not that easy to implement in practice :(

Re:Easy solution: molecular tagging (1)

mcelrath (8027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067572)

I'm not a chemist, so I can't evaluate how "easy" this is. But yes, one would need to identify a compound (or more likely a set of related compounds) that is biologically inactive, soluble in both water and hydrocarbons, and not naturally occuring. Perhaps some organic molecules with strong bonds and something odd, like a metal bound to it. Or hell, buckyballs with some metal inside and some OH groups on the outside.

This idea should probably apply universally to all industries releasing materials into nature. I would bet you would be hard pressed to find any environmental contaminant that could not be tagged. One would also need regulatory agencies to police that the wells actually do contain the tagging chemicals, so oil companies don't just cheat on adding them.

Methane contamination? (1)

cowboy76Spain (815442) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067050)

While I understand the issue with other chemicals, why should it be bad if water is contamined with methane? Wouldn't it just "precipitate" (in a gaseous form) when the water gets to the surface?.

Re:Methane contamination? (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067284)

It boils out at atmospheric pressure, leaving you with water + an explosive gas.

Re:Methane contamination? (1)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067312)

So you're smoking a cigarette near the sink and pour yourself a glass of water. Next thing you know you're 300 yards away sitting in a huge pile of rubble that used to be your house!

Re:Methane contamination? (2)

Jack Malmostoso (899729) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067398)

According to Wikipedia, Methane has a solubility of 35mg/L in water at 17C. Back of the envelope calculation tells me that's about 5% in volume.
That is a whole lot of methane that you would be ingesting day after day of drinking contaminated water.
And probably wouldn't simply make for more spectacular farts.

Re:Methane contamination? (2)

kannibal_klown (531544) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067606)

There are some videos out there of what happens when a Fracking operation messes up. Your water faucet might as well be pumping out gasoline, you can ignite what comes out. Some of the fireballs coming out are quite impressive.

Think "Carbonated Water" only instead of caron dioxide it's a flamable gas.

"Transparency"... And its limits... (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067052)

While transparency in public policy(and the contents of one's water supply) is generally better than the alternative, there is a very, very, important caveat:

Without accountability, and without means of redress(at least sufficient to be useful in practice, ie. typically not civil court for anybody who doesn't have substantial resources, and ideally sufficient to restrain, rather than merely punish, wrongdoing), transparency is basically just a PR stunt.

If it is wholly legal, or de-facto legal because nobody can afford to sue and wait a decade while the lawyers hash it out, to expose my water supply to fracking chemicals, it barely matters whether I get to know what is in them or not. If I do, writing that retrospective paper for the Journal of Epidemiological Toxicology will be a lot easier for some researcher. If I don't, I'll just have to live with the suspicion that my water's observable properties are alarming, and the local cancer rates seem high.

Short form: Impunity renders transparency irrelevant.

it could help doctors (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067374)

when they are trying to treat all the diseases caused.

Battlestar Galactica (1)

simoncpu was here (1601629) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067142)

In the world of BSG, fracking is always a good thing.

Re:Battlestar Galactica (1)

Gr33nJ3ll0 (1367543) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067286)

Just like RL, it depends on who you're fracking, how they feel about it, and what the side-effects are.... :-)

Re:Battlestar Galactica (1)

slyrat (1143997) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067392)

In the world of BSG, fracking is always a good thing.

Interesting, I always associated it with Netrunner [wikipedia.org] . It was in the flavor text of a few cards and in the names of a few too.

This is where we need leadership... (1)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067166)

One key recommendation by the panel is a call for transparency regarding the use of chemicals in the extraction process. Drillers say they would like to keep the exact formula of the chemicals they use secret because it represents a competitive advantage.

Article I, Section 8 gives Congress the ability to grant time-limited monopolies on technologies to advance the public good. Congress could easily pass a law granting them a monopoly for 5 years on the use of the technique if they will open it up to public scrutiny. They could even build in a grace period where the 5 years don't even begin until the US DoE has finished its inquiry and that no one is allowed to reduce to practice the ideas exposed.

As a quasi-libertarian on economics, that is an uncomfortable pill to swallow, but the fact is that the constitution provides a mechanism that would satisfy most of the major political factions which is ultimately more important than doctrinaire capitalism.

why should you get a 5 year monopoly on (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067418)

something that has been going on for something like 10 years already?

Re:This is where we need leadership... (2)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067556)

The industry might not like that. Two big risks:

  1. What if analysis of the problem leads to the conclusion that it's unsafe? The practice might get banned, or they might have to pay for the externality instead of getting the subsidy they're currently getting. Shifting water-cleanup costs to people who drink water is a damn sweet deal.
  2. What if all the competing companies are basically all using the same trade secret? Turn it into more of a patent thing, and then There Can Be Only One. And that's great it you're The One but kinda sucks if you're one of the rest, who Congress just said has to go out of business in order to support your former competitor's monopoly.

Fracking has been done for over a hundred years .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37067174)

Am I missing something ..... This is not news or even remotely new. We have been fracking wells for over a hundred years now using nitro-glycerine, dynamite, high explosives, etc. It seems like sand and hydraulic pressure is a significantly easier on the environment than C4 frankly. Whoever made this out to be a big deal to begin with doesn't know anything whatsoever about the history of this industry.

its different (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067412)

the new stuff is using a lot of innovative chemical combinations.

you can read the articles to see the arguments, there is plenty of knowledge of history found therein.

Shale gas, the right wing's wet dream (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37067514)

I've been following a bunch of sites that are skeptical that CO2 can control the climate. They are almost all politically right wing. They are generally excited about shale gas.

If you aren't worried about CO2, you think that burning fossil fuels is OK.

The skeptic community thinks that wind and solar are the biggest boondoggles in the history of mankind. They see shale gas as the path to ending this enormous waste of our treasure.

You don't have to worry about conservation if you think there is an ample supply of gas far into the future.

The skeptics think the alarmists are trying to use the fear of catastrophic global warming to bring about (in their view) totalitarian world government. They think Al Gore is the anti-Christ. Shale gas can save freedom.

Do I personally think any of the above holds water? Watching the rising price of oil over the last few years, I was seriously looking at the possibility of converting an old pickup truck to electric (it's been done and well documented by others). When I found out about shale gas, conversion to natural gas seemed to make a lot more sense.

Don't. (1)

mmcuh (1088773) | more than 2 years ago | (#37067536)

Just leave the gas down there. Do these people never learn from their mistakes?

Yep, and if I was a unicorn... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37067630)

If fracking can be done safely, it could be a major source of domestic energy over the next century.

Yep, and if I was a unicorn I could shit rainbows. Neither one is likely to happen...

Industry Problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37067744)

There are so many things wrong with this industry that it's hard to write a concise response; but I will try.

  • No oversight from SDWA/CWA--the Halliburton Loophole allows for the practice of Hydraulic Fracturing without the need for the oversight provided by these regulations.
  • PA has cut the DEP budget to pre-1997 levels. They do not have the money (or enough inspectors) to insure the safe operation of the wells currently in operation.
  • Forced Pooling---my neighbors have sold their mineral rights, so mine are sold by 'default', whether or not I want to sell them. Sure I get paid, but that's not the point--it's a direct violation of my Private Property rights.
  • Huge pools of these 'frack fluids' (the exact chemical compositions are industry secrets--we know what they are, just not the mix or concentrations.) that are exposed to the elements, to significant rainfall amounts, heck to even joe squirrell or Bambi who happens along and can drink the fluids. Most of the chemicals are known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors or simply poisonous to life in general. ( visit TEDX [endocrinedisruption.com] for more information.
  • Frack Fluids themselves--the 'recycling' process involves trucking vast quantities of them from well site to well site. Each well requires around 5-10 million gallons of fluids, mostly water drawn from local streams, rivers, lakes, etc. somewhere between 0-90% of the fluids stay in the ground, but the rest is being 'recycled' by trucking it to other well sites. .The chances of an accident are HUGE.
  • How about just the habitat destruction caused by the creation of each well pad? These are vast wooded areas--and mountainous terrain. Soil Erosion is a very real possibility. Plus, many of the creeks and streams are considered 'high quality' or 'pristine' resources--used by fly fishermen from all over to enjoy the outdoors and catch wild trout.
  • How about the very real noise pollution? Increased traffic on two-lane (and even one-lane) roads; with truckers who often do not care to provide right of way to locals traveling the same small roads who they meet head on.
  • How about the social ills caused by the fact that rental units in the area have skyrocketing prices? People are being made homeless because they don't earn the amount of money that the wells pay, but their greedy landlords are increasing rents 200% or more; forcing them out of their rental units?

The actual 'fracking' may or may not be the culprit---maybe it's the drilling process itself that releases toxins into the groundwater. The drilling process releases hundreds of elements--ranging from Radon to Barium and other radioactive material from underground where it has lay dormant for eons. The fluids themselves are poisonous--flaws in the cement casing around the drill holes can allow the fracking fluids to leach into the ground water. There is also no true 'guarantee' that the rock above the shale layer will hold the fluids (which are still under immense pressure) underground.

Then, let's talk about the 'Marcellus Shale Commission', who's responsibility it was to produce a report for the Corbett Administration on 'recommendations' for the industry. This 'neutral' body was made up of 13 members of the Oil and Gas industry (coincidentally these 13 companies provided 1.4 million dollars to Corbett's campaign, as well as being the companies with the most violations for Marcellus Drilling), several administration and/or staffers who were appointed directly (or indirectly) after Corbett was elected, some local government staff from affected areas, and four environmental or health groups, with only one (Chesapeake Bay Foundation) that you could truly call an Environmental group. No Public Health representation, btw..

While I would love to see a ban on Fracking (as has been done in other countries for various reasons), I'm sane enough to know the $$$ talks, everything else walks. We need safe practices, with sufficient oversight to ensure that accidents are minimal. We need trained emergency teams that can deal with well blowouts in hours; not waiting three days to get flown to Philly from Texas then driving 200+ miles at 45 miles an hour (because of their equipment) to deal with a well blowout of the type that occurred in April near Towanda. In short--we need a short term ban on new wells until the EPA report is done in 2013. In the meantime, we can educate and train the people in PA to do the work that is being transplanted in from out of state (and who don't pay state income taxes), so we can train our own emergency teams (and local responders) for well problems and accidents; and just so we can take a breather and figure out how best to protect the environment and be good stewards of the resources.

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