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By Robert Rapier on Jan 26, 2012 with 27 responses

R-Squared Energy TV: Episode 9 – Energy Tradeoffs with Palm Oil & Fracking

In this week’s episode of R-Squared Energy TV, I answer questions on palm oil and hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

Some of the topics discussed are:

  • The EPA decision to exclude palm oil from qualifying as renewable biomass under RFS2
  • The Chinese influence over the palm oil trade
  • The issue of trade-offs in our energy choices
  • Agendas in the fracking debate

After I recorded the clip, I did some research on exactly how the EPA treats palm oil (I should have done it before recording the clip), and they say that “oil palm plantations would have to meet the criteria for existing agricultural land in order for their fruit and crop residue to qualify as renewable biomass under RFS2.” I am not sure about the requirements for qualifying as existing agricultural land, but that was my point in the video: There needs to be a mechanism to allow palm oil from previously existing plantations to qualify. And it sounds like there is such a mechanism.

Readers who have specific questions can send them to ask [at] consumerenergyreport [dot] com or leave the question after this post (at the original source). Consider subscribing to our YouTube channel where you’ll be able to view past and future videos.

Link to Original Article: R-Squared Energy TV: Episode 9 – Energy Tradeoffs with Palm Oil & Fracking

By Robert Rapier

  1. By Tim C. on January 26, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    I hope you’re getting lots of viewers for these webcasts, Robert. You explain complicated issues in a straightforward, objective way.

    Interesting that while palm oil does not qualify as a renewable feedstock, natural gas and coal might ( http://www.ethanolproducer.com…..y-for-rfs). The concept of a “Renewable Fuel” is gradually becoming meaningless as a regulatory goal.

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  2. By Raindog on January 27, 2012 at 9:52 am

    Robert -great site. I appreciate your realistic take on these issues. I know quite a bit about the Marcellus Shale and fracking and while your coverage is quite level headed, there are still some misconceptions that have crept into your analysis. This is not your fault as the media coverage on this issue has been atrocious.

    In the case of Dimock, PA, no frack fluids were ever found in anyone’s water. The problem there was with methane migration. It’s a complex subject. There is a lot of naturally occurring methane in the area’s aquifers. This is because the aquifers are commonly in sandstones. These sandstones have gas in them just below the aquifer. So many people in the area could light their faucets on fire before drilling began.

    That said it is still possible that drilling could cause increased methane content in people’s wells. The methane contamination occurs when companies drill through that shallow sandstone later (thousands of feet above the marcellus) and then when they set casing the cement job is not good enough to keep the gas from that shallow sandstone from migrating up between the casing and the ground (casing is a steel pipe they put in the well for those who don’t know). The increase in gas is commonly temporary but in some cases it has continued to be a problem. It has been a problem in about 1% of the wells drilled. This all happens before the drill bit ever reaches the Marcellus and before the wells are fracked.

    Fracking will not contaminate groundwater when the target formation is thousands of feet below the fresh water. There is a case in Wyoming where this may have occurred, but the wells were very poorly constructed and they were essentially fracking the aquifer as the gas was just below the fresh water in the same formation there. This is a very different scenario than all the shale gas plays currently underway.

    People are deathly afraid of fracking because of the environmental groups you mentioned who fan the flames of fear to increase donations and due to the atrocious media coverage. These groups count on people being uninformed and do their best to keep then uninformed or misinformed. Many newspapers only want stories that end up with shale gas possibly being the worst thing that ever happened to us.

    Ironically shale gas came out of nowhere to help significantly reduce carbon emissions and to put the worst of peak oil off for a decade or two so we have more time to get our act together.

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  3. By rrapier on January 27, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Raindog said:

    In the case of Dimock, PA, no frack fluids were ever found in anyone’s water. The problem there was with methane migration. It’s a complex subject. There is a lot of naturally occurring methane in the area’s aquifers. This is because the aquifers are commonly in sandstones. These sandstones have gas in them just below the aquifer. So many people in the area could light their faucets on fire before drilling began.


     

    I report on this in the book, so I double-checked what I wrote. I didn’t say “fracking fluids” in the book, I said that they were fined for contaminating the wells.

    But, having said that, there are reports that other things were found in the water besides just methane.

    Although the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection fined Cabot $120,000 for numerous violations and Cabot supplied drinkable water to local residents for a few months, the water has since become even more contaminated, not only with methane but also with dangerous levels of cancer-causing arsenic, as well as glycols and barium in at least four wells.
     
    As AllGov reported last September, groundwater toxicity because of fracking is a growing problem, with EPA ordering residents of Pavillion, Wyoming (pop.: 165) to avoid the water because it had dangerous levels of benzene, lead, phthalate, nitrate, 2-butoxyethanol phosphate, petroleum hydrocarbons, methane and sodium.

    I don’t know the specifics, but there are enough reports that it isn’t surprising that some people — specifically those who aren’t benefiting from royalties — do not want fracking in their immediate vicinity.

    But, I also agree that the misinformation on this subject has been quite extraordinary.

    RR

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  4. By Raindog on January 27, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Arsenic is not included in frack fluids. Arsenic isn’t even used as a component of any fluids used for drilling and/or completing a well. Here is a USGS report on Arsenic in groundwater

    http://water.usgs.gov/nawqa/tr…../gw_v38n4/

    The arsenic in the sample from the EPA is almost certainly naturally occurring. Time will show that this was an overzealous EPA employee who did not do his homework.

    This is a good report that outlines what is found in people’s water naturally there.

    http://www.rural.palegislature…..11_rev.pdf

    They show that manganese and sodium are also present in people’s wells prior to drilling and that the values that the EPA found in Dimock are common. Three of the four homes who are having water shipped in have high levels of manganese and sodium and this is the only problem with their water. Apparently 40% of the wells in rural PA are not up to EPA drinking water standards for one reason or another. The irony is that areas where Marcellus development occurs will probably end up with cleaner drinking water than they had before because everyone’s water will be tested and many will find out that their water is of poor quality and take action to improve it.

    The glycols were at such low concentrations that the EPA did not recommend that those people have water shipped in. The company says that they did not use glycols which also occur in anti-freeze and in other products. The glycols did not come from fracking.

    The Pavillion case is different as I outlined above. In that case the gas reservoir is at 1100-1200 feet depth. The fresh water goes down to 800 feet and is in the same formation. The wells were not even cased all the way to the base of fresh water. So they were basically fracking straight into the aquifer. This was not shale gas but tight sands. This is apples and oranges from shale gas.

    In all shale gas resevoirs the interval of interest is at least 2000 feet down and more typically >5000 feet below the surface and thousands of feet below the fresh water. There is a thick column of low or impermeable strata between the shale and the fresh water. Wells are cased all the way down to the shale and in many cases have triple casing and cement. The laws of physics prevent fractures from being induced that extend from the shale to the fresh water and there is very little chance that the frac fluids would make it up to the fresh water through all that casing and cement.

    I have never seen an issue so rife with misinformation.

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  5. By rrapier on January 27, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Raindog said:

    Arsenic is not included in frack fluids. Arsenic isn’t even used as a component of any fluids used for drilling and/or completing a well. Here is a USGS report on Arsenic in groundwater


     

    No, I wouldn’t have thought so.

    I have never seen an issue so rife with misinformation.

    The Keystone Pipeline debate might give it a run for the money. I mean, you have pipelines crisscrossing the area now, farmers dumping chemicals every year on top of the aquifer, cities built on top of it — but the pipeline is a pollution risk? As soon as someone does a documentary on how the pipeline will destroy the U.S., then I will consider the issues to be equal. :)

    RR

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  6. By Seth P. on January 27, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Thanks for the episode. Can anyone comment on the disposal of the fracture fluids? I read that in Ohio there were earthquakes associated injection of fracture fluids disposal because the fracture fluids hit a fault line? Is it possible/do injection companies use seismic techniques or logging tools to determine where these natural faults are? I also understand that fracture fluid flowbacked from Marcellus Shale contains large amounts of salts that make it hard to recycle/use in subsequent fracture jobs, is this accurate?

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  7. By Raindog on January 27, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    I loved what you wrote about the Keystone XL pipeline.  I learned a lot from you on that issue.  You were dead right. If the pipleline is blocked the canadians will simply build a pipeline to the pacific coast, load the oil onto ships and send it to China. The net impact will be worse for the environment due to the added shipping and lower environmental standards in China.  The public has no idea what we currently do to meet our energy needs.  It is therefore very easy to scare them about something new, even if it is basically what we are already doing or, as is the case with shale gas, signficantly better than what we are already doing. Little do most people know, but shale gas is a huge net win for the environment. Without it we would be doing a lot more mountaintop coal mining and coal burning.

    I had a similar problem with Joe Romm by the way.  He has put a few of my comments up recently, but most of them sit there in “your comment is in moderation” limbo. His hatred of oil companies supercedes his concerns about global warming.

    They commonly have posts on that site about oil company gouging at the pump and high gas prices.  Of course, there is little that causes decreases in consumption and GHG emissions than high prices.  So they should be strongly FOR high gasoline prices if global warming is their main concern.  They show with those posts that being against oil companies is of greater concern to them than climate change.

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  8. By Raindog on January 27, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Seth P. said:

    “Can anyone comment on the disposal of the fracture fluids? I read that in Ohio there were earthquakes associated injection of fracture fluids disposal because the fracture fluids hit a fault line? Is it possible/do injection companies use seismic techniques or logging tools to determine where these natural faults are? I also understand that fracture fluid flowbacked from Marcellus Shale contains large amounts of salts that make it hard to recycle/use in subsequent fracture jobs, is this accurate?”


     

    Companies are moving toward 100% recycling. Most of the water that flows back out of the wells is recycled. Some companies already claim 100% recycling. It is easier to do that during the development stage when they are drilling one well after another in the same location than it is during exploration. 

    Deep brine injection did cause relatively small earthquakes in a well in Ohio.  Most of the old faults in that part of the country are inactive and have little stress on them.  In some cases however there may be some stress built up on a fault. Pumping fluid into the fault in or near the zone where the stress has built up can trigger an earthquake.  Intersetingly they intentionally pump fluids into active faults in some parts of the world in order to induce small earthquakes. They do this to avoid a later large earthquake. 

    It is easy to see faults on FMI logs, but not easy to tell if they are stressed or not.  It probably will be protocol at some point not to pump fluids into wells that penetrate faults near the zone where the fluids will be injected.

     

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  9. By mac on January 27, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    Fracking.

    Interesting topic. I remember when Robert posted the “scandulous” report that Geo-thermal fracking had caused an earthquake in Geneva, Switzerland.

    The truth is that Oil company “fracking” causes minor earthquakes just as the Geneva geothermal incident did. It’s just not reported in the press. I wonder why ?

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  10. By Raindog on January 27, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    Fracking causes tiny microseismic events that typically measure -1 on the Richter Scale. Most people can’t feel earthquakes that are less than a +3 on the Richter scale. From wikipedia: “In all cases, the magnitude is a base-10 logarithmic scale obtained by calculating the logarithm of the amplitude of waves measured by a seismograph. An earthquake that measures 5.0 on the Richter scale has a shaking amplitude 10 times larger and corresponds to an energy release of √1000 ≈ 31.6 times greater than one that measures 4.0.[1]”

    So a 2 is 1/10 of a 3, a 1 is 1/100 of a 3, a 0 is 1/1000 of a 3 and a -1 has a shaking amplitude of 1/10,000 of a 3.0 which is the smallest earthquake that can typically be felt.

    To go back to Wikipedia, a 3.0 (which is the smallest that can be felt) is the equivalent of 480 kg of TNT and 2 GJ of energy. A 0 is the equivalent of 15g of TNT or 63kJ of energy. So a -1 is probably around 1.5g of TNT (a firecracker?) and 6.3 kJ of energy.

    There may be extremely rare occurrences of fracking causing minor earthquakes if the well penetrates a fault that is stressed.

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  11. By rbm on January 28, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    Raindog said:

    RBM

    It says something that you have never heard that there is naturally occurring methane in that area – not about you but about how this story has been reported. Far more people have naturally occurring methane in their water in PA than have it due to gas drilling operations.

    Here are some signed affadavits from people describing lighting their tap water on fire

    http://www.cabotog.com/pdfs/Tab1.pdf

    Here are some good references on naturally occurring methane in the area

    http://www.rural.palegislature…..11_rev.pdf

    http://www.ogj.com/articles/pr…..er-p1.html

    That one is especially interesting as it shows a link between surface topography and naturally occurring methane. Water wells in valleys have much higher naturally occurring methane than water wells on hills.

    One interesting case is from the movie Gasland. In that movie, perhaps the most memorable scene is of a guy lighting his tap on fire.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…..RZ4LQSonXA

    Mike Markham is his name and he claims that his water is flammable due to fracking of a well nearby. As it turns out he knew at the time (and I assume director Josh Fox knew) that the gas in his well was biogenic and came from the four coal seams his well penetrated and had nothing to do with oil and gas operations. The Colorado State Oil and Gas Commission analyzed his water and gave him the report before the movie was ever made. Here is their statement on the movie:

    http://cogcc.state.co.us/libra…..%20DOC.pdf


     

    The discussion on biogenic and thermogenic finger-printing is one I have read of at The Oil Drum. I have not seen actual data as per your links.

     

    Thanks for those.

     

    What I am lead to believe, per your links, is there is no case of thermogenic methane in a well post-drilling within a 1000 foot distance. In addition there have been suggestions of such cases in wide-spread reportage, unfortunately.

     

    While the following is mentioned, I see no cause identified:

    “In some cases, the COGCC has found that the well contains thermogenic methane linked to oil and gas development..”

     

    What is the explanation for those cases ?

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  12. By rbm on January 27, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    So many people in the area could light their faucets on fire before drilling began. – Raindog

     

    Got a link ?

     

    You are the first I’ve heard make this assertion, so I’m skeptical of your claim.

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  13. By cynic on January 27, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    Fracking … you shoud stick to subjects you know something about.

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  14. By rrapier on January 27, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    cynic said:

    Fracking … you shoud stick to subjects you know something about.


     

    Says the guy whose two postings here have been snide one-liners that added zero to the discussion. Waste people’s time much? Is there something you need to get off your chest? Did you have something you wanted to contribute? If not, there are plenty of other boards that you can go troll on.

    RR

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  15. By moiety on January 27, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    mac said:

    Fracking.

    Interesting topic. I remember when Robert posted the “scandulous” report that Geo-thermal fracking had caused an earthquake in Geneva, Switzerland.

    The truth is that Oil company “fracking” causes minor earthquakes just as the Geneva geothermal incident did. It’s just not reported in the press. I wonder why ?


     

    Perhaps

     

    But one would note that the difference in horizontal fracking and conventional fracking as RR point out are very different. If you can tell me the similarities betwee n geo frac and horz frac (which I bet absolutely you cannot); then I am sure there is a Caol Ila waiting for ya.

    Indeed living in Holland, sakes are not often but, noticed (as a foreigner)

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  16. By Optimist on January 27, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    Fracking … you shoud stick to subjects you know something about.

    Sorry to hear you’re not getting any. Then again, with that tone, it’s not a complete surprise…

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  17. By Chris Salmon on January 28, 2012 at 7:22 am

    @RBM “So many people in the area could light their faucets on fire before drilling began. – Raindog

    Got a link ?

    You are the first I’ve heard make this assertion, so I’m skeptical of your claim.”

    There are plenty of studies showing this assertion is true. I have some links for you, including this one, where a 2006 paper (BEFORE Marcellus drilling) showed 1 out of 12 water wells in West Virginia had flammable amounts of Methane:

    http://www.cst.net/web-links/4…..nnsylvania

    “The prevalence of methane in water wells in
    Pennsylvania is unknown. A survey of 171
    groundwater wells in West Virginia found detectable
    amounts of methane gas in 77 percent, but
    dangerous concentrations only occurred in about 8
    percent of the wells. “

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  18. By rbm on January 28, 2012 at 9:00 am

    Sorry for my sloppy post, to clairify  – I know about well menthane in general, I’m asking about those that didn’t have the symptom before drilling and had it after.

     

    @Chris

    Thanks for the link; if your link addresses the above issue, I’ll dig into the link.

     

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  19. By Raindog on January 28, 2012 at 11:26 am

    cynic said:

    Fracking … you shoud stick to subjects you know something about.


     

    I wrote a long post about methane, sent it and it disappeared!

    RBM – here are some good links on methane
    This one shows before and after data drilling on water wells in PA:

    http://www.rural.palegislature…..11_rev.pdf

    this one shows that, among other things, naturally occurring methane is more common water wells in valleys than on hills – an interesting result

    http://www.ogj.com/articles/pr…..er-p1.html

    This is interesting.  This scene is perhaps the most memorable from Gasland:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…..rnnQ17SH_A

    Interesting because that guy already had been told by state scientists that the gas in his water was naturally occurring and came from the coal seams his well penetrated.  IT had nothing to do with fracking our oil and gas drilling.  

    http://cogcc.state.co.us/libra…..%20DOC.pdf

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  20. By Raindog on January 28, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Robert Rapier said:

     

    It got caught by the spam filter. Sometimes that happens when there are a lot of links in a post. I just fished it out and approved it. If you ever post something and it doesn’t show up immediately, that’s almost always the culprit. Just mention it and I will post it.

    RR

    Thanks Robert – I figured it was something like that.  Great site.  So refreshing to find a website where figuring out what is actually true is the main agenda.
     

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  21. By Raindog on January 28, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    RBM

    It says something that you have never heard that there is naturally occurring methane in that area – not about you but about how this story has been reported. Far more people have naturally occurring methane in their water in PA than have it due to gas drilling operations.

    Here are some signed affadavits from people describing lighting their tap water on fire

    http://www.cabotog.com/pdfs/Tab1.pdf

    Here are some good references on naturally occurring methane in the area

    http://www.rural.palegislature…..11_rev.pdf

    http://www.ogj.com/articles/pr…..er-p1.html

    That one is especially interesting as it shows a link between surface topography and naturally occurring methane. Water wells in valleys have much higher naturally occurring methane than water wells on hills.

    One interesting case is from the movie Gasland. In that movie, perhaps the most memorable scene is of a guy lighting his tap on fire.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…..RZ4LQSonXA

    Mike Markham is his name and he claims that his water is flammable due to fracking of a well nearby. As it turns out he knew at the time (and I assume director Josh Fox knew) that the gas in his well was biogenic and came from the four coal seams his well penetrated and had nothing to do with oil and gas operations. The Colorado State Oil and Gas Commission analyzed his water and gave him the report before the movie was ever made. Here is their statement on the movie:

    http://cogcc.state.co.us/libra…..%20DOC.pdf

    [link]      
  22. By rrapier on January 28, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Raindog said:

    cynic said:

    Fracking … you shoud stick to subjects you know something about.


     

    I wrote a long post about methane, sent it and it disappeared!


     

    It got caught by the spam filter. Sometimes that happens when there are a lot of links in a post. I just fished it out and approved it. If you ever post something and it doesn’t show up immediately, that’s almost always the culprit. Just mention it and I will post it.

    RR

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  23. By Raindog on January 29, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    “What I am lead to believe, per your links, is there is no case of thermogenic methane in a well post-drilling within a 1000 foot distance. In addition there have been suggestions of such cases in wide-spread reportage, unfortunately.

     

    While the following is mentioned, I see no cause identified:

    “In some cases, the COGCC has found that the well contains thermogenic methane linked to oil and gas development..”

     

    What is the explanation for those cases ?”


     

    Drilling can cause methane migration.  In the case of Northeast PA, there have been several cases where methane in  well water increased during drilling of a gas well.  this happens before the well is fracked and has nothing to do with fracking.  In NE PA, the fresh water goes down 200-500 feet. The aquifer is commonly in a Devonian sandstone.  There are many layers of this sandstone which are thousands of feet above the Marcellus Shale.  There is commonly gas found within the aquifer and even more commonly gas in the sandstone layers just below the aquifer (but again thousands of feet above the Marcellus).  As wells are drilled they put stell pipe in teh well called casing.  Casing is lowered into the hole and then cemented in place.  the cement fills the gap between the outside of the casing and the ground. The cement is meant to keep gas and any fluids from flowing up the outside of the piple and getting into the groundwater or escaping into the aquifer.  In the cases where methane increased in people’s water wells this cement job was poorly done or for some reason prevented the gas from teh shallow sandstones  from migrating up outside of the pipe or “behind pipe” and into the groundwater.  This all happens before the drilling even reaches the Marcellus and way before the well is fracked.  So attributing it to fracking is a mistake.  

    So drilling can cause methane migration, but it can also occur naturally.  So just because it occurs does not mean that drilling caused it, but drillers cannot say that all of it is naturally occurring either.  It is far more commonly naturally-occurring as tens of thousands of people in that area probably have measurable methane in their water that was there before drilling began.  But drilling can cause it too so now what people do is before and after water testing for methane and a host of other chemicals.  That link to the study by the center for rural PA shows many before and after water tests.They show that methane concentrations are almost always the same before and after drilling.

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  24. By Ben on January 30, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    Bottom Line: If you’re looking for proof that fracking is bad, well, you’ll
    no doubt find something to confirm your predisposition. It’s amazing how transparent some folks have become about their visceral objection to growth (read: resource exploitation). The developed nations of the West confront monumental challenges in advocating reductions in GHG emissions and our carbon footprint while emerging markets only begin to meet the basic needs of their growing and impoverished populations. RR is right to point out the likely trade-offs in the years ahead will pose narrower options in the face of escalating tensions and rising confrontations between economic haves and have-nots. Statecraft will be at a premuim as the balance of power continues its eastward shift along with the balance of payments; a plot that is not so much Chicken Little, as it may be that of Henny Penny. The western world has enjoyed the its spot on the High Horse and now with the rest of the world gaining the pace, there is more jostling in the turns and the elbowing is likely to get rougher. If the 21st Century is to be the Second American Century, we’ll need to step up the pace. That will be challenging with so many Enviros dragging their heels convinced that winning reflects a loser’s mentality of the petty bourgeois; we need not hamper the aspirations of New Man and his higher calling to discover inner-peace in communing with Nature–if not Nature’s God. At the considerable risk of stereotype, I think I may need
    some hot wings and a cold beer.

    Ben

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  25. By rbm on February 4, 2012 at 8:10 am

     

    Bottom Line: If you’re looking for proof that fracking is bad, well, you’ll

    no doubt find something to confirm your predisposition.

     

    My ‘predisposition’ as you term it is in the form of a hypothesis. As such it is in the form of a specific parameter, methane, and not merely looking for ‘something’ as you state.

    As a consistent reader or RR’s work for over 5 years since his TOD days I am actually doing what you suggest – assesing tradeoffs.

    As to your remark “Enviros dragging their heels convinced that winning reflects a loser’s mentality of the petty bourgeois”, here is my take in the form of a personal anecdote:

    I attended junoir high in the late ’60′s in Newburgh N.Y. I remember, vividly walking along the Hudson river on a hot summer day and seeing dead fish. When I approached close to the edge I was caught by the stench of the water.

    Eventually the source of the dead fish and stench were tracked to PCB production and resultant industry practices that impacted the river ecosystem directly. I understand, as I have not revisited the river since then, that situation has been alleviated.

    Your bias is clear and my point is that sometimes ‘enviro’s do good work and sometimes not. I appreciate the good work they do and here I’m attempting to sort out the ‘hype’ that seems to be present in the case of ‘fracking’ so I can better determine the tradeoffs.

    However, I am thankful I’m not living in China reclaiming metal off of computer boards (60 Minutes TV show reference), which it would seem exists because there are no ‘enviros’ in China.

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  26. By Raindog on February 7, 2012 at 10:46 am

    RBM- you make a good point. Environmentalists have done a lot of good over the years. They are a bit misguided in their opposition to fracking. Shale gas is a net good for the environment when one considers what we are already doing and what we will do if we don’t do shale gas. In many ways shale gas is the best news we have had on the environmental front in decades. That is because we can use it to massively displace coal which pollutes more in almost every way. If we ban fracking, the net result will be a huge increase in coal mining and burning which will be far worse for the environment. 90% of all gas wells in the US are hydraulically fractured. So a ban on fracking is a de facto ban on natural gas as a source of energy. Why there aren’t big protests against coal power I do not understand.

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  27. By russ-finley on February 12, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    The EPA rejected palm oil because it does not come from sustainable sources. To accept it because it might one day come from sustainable sources would not make much sense. They performed a detailed analysis to determine where future demand would come from and concluded that it would not be from sustainable sources. Given enough political pressure they could have made enough assumptions to get palm oil to pass the test, as was done for corn ethanol, but thankfully, that wasn’t the case this time around.

    Not to mention, in theory, if all palm used for fuel could come from sustainable sources, non-sustainable expansion into forests and farmland would occur to meet demand for palm oil for food because sustainable palm oil is being diverted for fuel.

    It isn’t possible to increase demand for palm oil and not increase the amount of land required to grow  it. That land is all used for something else, fiber, food, or natural habitat. The argument that there are billions of acres of perfectly arable land just laying around unused simply isn’t true. And let’s keep in mind that three billion more people are in the pipeline.

    Certified timber is another thing entirely. It is “possible” to harvest trees from intact forest ecosystems (other than old growth forests) without destroying the ecosystem. “When” sustainable methods are used, transition temperate forest ecosystems are actually enhanced with clear spaces that immediately begin to transition back to forests. Those cleared spaces create a riot of wildlife taking advantage of plants like huckleberry that have access to sunlight that trees usually shade out. Fires used to provide that same service and forest evolution has been shaped by temporary clear spaces.  Palm oil plantations destroy ecosystems or usurp farmland that destroyed the ecosystem, sending farmers off to destroy more.

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