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EPA Report That Lowers Methane-Leak Estimates Further Divides Fracking Camps 127

Posted by samzenpus
from the good-and-bad dept.
gmfeier writes "The EPA has significantly lowered its estimate of how much methane leaks during natural gas production. This has major implications for the fracking debate, but puts the EPA at odds with NOAA. From the article: 'The scope of the EPA's revision was vast. In a mid-April report on greenhouse emissions, the agency now says that tighter pollution controls instituted by the industry resulted in an average annual decrease of 41.6 million metric tons of methane emissions from 1990 through 2010, or more than 850 million metric tons overall. That's about a 20 percent reduction from previous estimates. The agency converts the methane emissions into their equivalent in carbon dioxide, following standard scientific practice.'"
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EPA Report That Lowers Methane-Leak Estimates Further Divides Fracking Camps

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Take the article seriously because hearing "the fracking debate" makes me think someone from the BSG is arguing.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I can't take anything about this technology seriously because it's firmly in the realm of the political, not technological.

      It could be perfectly safe and it wouldn't matter. Or, more likely, it could be a safe and effective option when done properly, that just needs typical industry oversight and regulation.

      But it doesn't matter, people would just claim it's all a corporate conspiracy and the only thing to do is put all our collective efforts into [insert other technology here].

  • by jasnw (1913892) on Sunday April 28, 2013 @01:12PM (#43575149)
    They stopped counting methane released by all that fracking flatulance from the industry's employees.
  • They should take all their fracking gear, fracking sell it, and build some fracking wind turbines, solar towers, and solar panel arrays. That's really the only camp out there, assuming everyone allowed to go camping has a basic understanding of chemistry and the atmosphere.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Don't worry. The economics of solar and wind will crush gas, natural gas and coal.

      • Don't worry. The economics of solar and wind will crush gas, natural gas and coal.

        But the portability and current infrastructure of petroleum energy is tough to beat. I'd like to see hydrogen do it, but there's still the infrastructure cost to ameliorate -- with the next generation of infrastructure tools likely coming out before the first widely used generation is paid for. It's a tough problem, only easy when you handwave the real concerns (or throw in massively improbable solutions like "we just need to change society", the ultimate universal solvent of non-practical discussions).

        • But the portability and current infrastructure of petroleum energy is tough to beat. I'd like to see hydrogen do it, but there's still the infrastructure cost to ameliorate

          Infrastructure is not the problem - thermodynamics is. Hydrogen is not a source of energy, since there isn't any of it laying around that we can use.

          Pick one: fission, fusion, or "Little House on the Prarie" standard of living. Wind and solar fall into the last category, by the way.

          • Infrastructure is not the problem - thermodynamics is. Hydrogen is not a source of energy, since there isn't any of it laying around that we can use.

            Pick one: fission, fusion, or "Little House on the Prarie" standard of living. Wind and solar fall into the last category, by the way.

            Or you can use your nice fission, fusion or orbital solar conversion (which does *not* fall into that last category), and make hydrogen. Why? Because then you have a transportable energy... as opposed to transmittable energy, a la power lines. Vehicles, especially those pesky planes, do poorly with extension cords.

            To reproduce modern tech with a new energy source, you need to have a transportable energy "fuel". If you have a solid source of power, you can generate hydrogen and carry it from here to the

            • Or you can use your nice fission, fusion or orbital solar conversion (which does *not* fall into that last category), and make hydrogen.

              That's exactly what I was talking about.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yes, let's heat millions of tons of metals and run heavy industry on wind and solar power!

      • Re:What 2 camps? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Dutchmaan (442553) on Sunday April 28, 2013 @02:54PM (#43575707) Homepage

        Why does everyone assume that renewable energy is an all or nothing thing. Think about when the Wright brothers first flew, you'd have people out there saying things like:

        "Yes, let's just transport thousands of people around the world daily on your little flying contraption!" /sarcasm

        The *goal* is to make a system that doesn't rely on depletable resources, especially with a population that is continually expanding... you have to start somewhere.

        • by Pecisk (688001)

          ""Yes, let's just transport thousands of people around the world daily on your little flying contraption!" /sarcasm"

          Sarcasm or not, that's how awfully lot of people (including some really smart scientists) saw flying in Wright brothers time :)

    • But you can't store the power delivered by those turbines, towers and panels. Can't run a truck on it. Nor can you even use the power you get when suddenly wind power dumps a lot of electricity, close to their max power (which is rare btw) whereas the hour before you were getting squat shit from it.

      Barring some ill-defined or expensive solution, all these "renewable" energies require near-line power plants that burn, you name it, frackin' natural gas.

      • Re:What 2 camps? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by mellon (7048) on Sunday April 28, 2013 @02:04PM (#43575423) Homepage

        Of course you can store the power. What an absurd assertion. We may not have the storage set up right now, but it is eminently storable. You can't run a truck on it, but you certainly _can_ run trains on it.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          It's imminently storable, but it's not eminently storable. You have no concept of the magnitude of power used in the western world. It's just not plausible with current technology to store enough solar energy for use overnight. There are also some severe scale problems with replacing diesel vehicles with electricity. Large numbers are a bitch, and physics still wins.

          • Actually, it IS storable. Pumping water between a high and low reservoir can easily store enough energy. Keeping the pumps reliable and high-volume enough is the challenge.
          • Moving to solar will likely mean moving to less of a 24/7 economy. We'll have to cut back on nighttime activity. We'll have some nighttime power from wind so the world won't go completely dark at night. As for energy for home heating, storage is a solvable problem. Put a bank of rocks under your house, heat them during the day when energy is available, and use the stored heat to keep the house warm at night. Another energy storage technology - carbon nanotube ultracapacitors - is under development and cou
            • by mellon (7048)

              This is kind of ridiculous. Just insulate and seal your house properly and use a heat recovery ventilator, and you won't need fancy heat storage systems, because your house won't cool off as much overnight. If you're going to do a big engineering project, you might as well actually _save_ energy rather than putting in a huge energy storage system and bleeding all that energy out into the night through your poorly insulated, badly sealed walls.

              I live in a Passive House in southern Vermont; we spent about

      • by snowjest (638941)
        Yes you can store the power. All you need to do is convert the energy into some other form when the sun is shining and release that energy when it is not. Something like the Dinorwig power station in North Wales, UK. Whilst that was built for something very different, (to supply power for short surge demands), the principle holds for storing renewable power. The reason it isn't currently done for renewable power is because the generators get more money from replacing fossil fuel based power generation, than
  • by mspohr (589790) on Sunday April 28, 2013 @01:23PM (#43575197)

    From the AP article:
    "The EPA said it made the changes based on expert reviews and new data from several sources, including a report funded by the oil and gas industry. But the estimates aren't based on independent field tests of actual emissions, and some scientists said that's a problem."
    So... the industry produced a report which claimed it has really cleaned up its act... and we should believe them?

    • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Sunday April 28, 2013 @01:26PM (#43575221)

      "The EPA said it made the changes based on expert reviews and new data from several sources, including a report funded by the oil and gas industry.

      Note the "several sources" and "a report funded by the oil and gas industry".

      So, no, it's not just an industry report behind this. It might be *gasp* actual science.

      • by mspohr (589790)

        No, not science... just speculation.
        They specifically said that they didn't measure actual field emissions (that's the science part).

        • by jamstar7 (694492) on Sunday April 28, 2013 @02:05PM (#43575425)

          No, not science... just speculation. They specifically said that they didn't measure actual field emissions (that's the science part).

          The EPA didn't. They took somebody's word that they did the measurements and accepted the results on face value. Considering the main thrust of this is from an industry-backed report, I find it very suspicious.

        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          You accept AGW based on nothing but scientific wild ass guesses in a computer model, why not this?

      • by jamstar7 (694492)

        "The EPA said it made the changes based on expert reviews and new data from several sources, including a report funded by the oil and gas industry.

        Note the "several sources" and "a report funded by the oil and gas industry".

        So, no, it's not just an industry report behind this. It might be *gasp* actual science.

        Those sources were 'expert reviews' of unnamed experts. Where are the peer-reviewed articles? Where are the links that show somebody, anybody did real live science on this instead of an industry-backed report and 'expert reviews'? If it's not peer-reviewed, it's not verifiable.

        For instance, I could claim I built a flying saucer in my back yard, complete with working antigravity thrusters and a ftl drive. Without peer review, it would be proper to call me a fake until I proved my work to physicists.

      • by HiThere (15173)

        It doesn't sound like science to me. Still, a lot can frequently be done with proper reanalysis of the data.

        Unfortunately, there have been a few too many similar examples where the "science" turned out to be psychology, sociology, or political science rather than the purported specialty. One thinks, e.g., of Elsevier publishing a Journal that was totally funded by one of the major durg companies, and where all the reviewers worked for that company. It took several years for that one to come to light.

        So I

      • by nametaken (610866)

        So, no, it's not just an industry report behind this. It might be *gasp* actual science.

        Fracking is a bullshit political issue now, not a technology issue. Nobody is interested in real information anymore... only rhetoric.

  • by danaris (525051) <danaris AT mac DOT com> on Sunday April 28, 2013 @01:34PM (#43575285) Homepage

    So there's less methane being released. OK, that's good and all--but it still doesn't address the several other really important problems with fracking.

    Like the fact that the toxic chemicals they use to force apart the shale layers are a) basically unknown, b) often left down there, and c) known to be contaminating groundwater in some instances. Or the fact that the gas companies come in, tear up the countryside, create an ecological disaster, make vast amounts of money, and then, when they decide it's no longer worth their time--they just pack up and leave. And the local communities get to deal with the mess for the next 100 years or so.

    The basic problem is that there's insufficient regulation here. Preventing companies from exploiting natural resources for tremendous profit while leaving behind a horrific environmental mess--and, in general, preventing privatized profits with socialized costs--is precisely what regulation is best for. The market not only will not deal with these issues, it cannot. It has no way of taking account of the externalities associated with hydrofracking.

    Put in place some good common-sense regulation of hydrofracking, with enough teeth to make it actually mean something, and then we can talk about allowing it to happen within 100 miles of my house.

    And yes, I live in the northernmost extension of the Marcellus shale in upstate NY, so this issue does affect me personally.

    Dan Aris

    • Ground water for human consumption comes from the upper 100 meters or so. Gas is produced fro a depth of more than 2000 meters. The water down there is undrinkable toxic brine. Adding some more salts to it makes no big difference and it stays down there, it is not produced to the surface.
      • by rtb61 (674572)

        Fracking produces unpredictable fracturing of the ground and when you talking about tens of thousands of wells, avoiding mixing is impossible. Want the proof, quite fucking simple. That is exactly why the legislated to exempt fracking from water pollution controls. They knew 100% with out doubt they would be polluting the environment, they wanted the profits and to fuck over everyone else who has to clean up the mess.

        Don't think so 'THEN WHY THE FUCKING LAWS GRANTING THE POLLUTION EXEMPTIONS FOR FRACKING

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...whether in the fracking or anti-fracking camp, both groups are in it regardless of the outcome or truth. There is no reasoning that is ever accepted today to end a matter. Everyone is out for himself. There is no integrity left anywhere in the world.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Exactly this.

      Fracking obviously comes with a short list of things that could be harmful. But these are things you can certainly mitigate, just as we do with everything else.

      Rules like, "Ok fine, but you can't use [highly toxic substance] in the fluid." Not even at the ridiculously minimal concentrations it's normally used. Or, "Here are the steps that needs to be performed to minimize potential issues with methane..."

      In a sane world, we'd just insist that those things are done, and go on with our lives.

  • by Ol Biscuitbarrel (1859702) on Sunday April 28, 2013 @02:45PM (#43575647)

    Gas has been flared in parts of Nigeria for over 40 years, 24/7/365. [justiceinnigerianow.org] I've wondered how that stacks up against the more intensive drilling going on in NA. The energy industry does some remarkably odious things outside of the jurisdiction of the developed world.

    I also see that plans are underway for Nigeria to reduce gas flaring to two per cent by 2014 [oilreviewafrica.com], and supposedly they've already gone from 30% in 2010 to only 11% now, so they're on their way to making this a moot point/non-issue - supposedly. I wonder how the rest of Nigeria's notoriously awful fossil fuel extraction is coming along, assuming this isn't all propaganda/lies.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Aside from NOAA and NASA, can anyone name a federal agency that hasn't yet been purchased by private corporations? The FBI conducts raids for the MPAA and RIAA. The EPA is laughable. The FCC is run by telecoms. Our laws are delivered to our legislators by lobbyists. We know where the CIA gets a good chunk of its money from. I wouldn't be surprised to find out the NSA does whatever McAfee tells them to. What happened to a government that was supposed to represent people? It's nothing but a bunch of corpora

    • It basically sounds to me that you believe every government agency who doesn't toe the same line that you do clearly must be privately owned for that reason and that reason only.

      • Yeah because there's no proof that industry writes legislation that's passed in Congress *eye roll*...Google ALEC sometime....
  • Here in Australia a recent report showed that Coal Seam Gas exploration in this country was waved past all the usual environmental checks-and-balances by over-eager Government departments promised literally thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue.

    And when I say "waved past" for example there was a specific case of an "environmental impact study" which *completely dopped* an entire chapter (er, the only chapter) evaluating contamination of the water table, which (oddly enough) was actually THE
    • Some people will complain about anything.

      The coal seam gas is already down there. Taking it out can only REDUCE the contamination of the water table.

      Ditto with the stupid complaints about producing oil from tar sands. The tar sand produciton in Canada is the world's lagest environmental cleanup operation, and people still complain.

  • The gas producers have no reason to leak anything. The whole purpose of gas production is to sell it.
    • The gas producers have no reason to leak anything.

      They do if it's not worth their while fixing what to them may be a minor leak.

  • EPA Report That Lowers Methane-Leak Estimates Further Divides Fracking Camps

    (EPA Report That Lowers Methane-Leak) Estimates (v.) Further Divides Fracking Camps - nope...
    (EPA Report That Lowers Methane-Leak Estimates (n.) Further) Divides Fracking Camps - maybe...
    (EPA Report That Lowers Methane-Leak Estimates (n.)) Further Divides Fracking Camps - could be that too...

  • Where the oil magically disappeared from the gulf.....

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