The use of hydraulic fracturing in shale energy development has resulted in reduced methane leaks, according to a new landmark study, knocking out a key talking point of anti-energy groups. FuelFix reports, scientists from the University of Texas at Austin measured methane from 489 natural gas wells:
Overall, the study found that total methane leakage from natural gas production was 0.42 percent of all produced gas. While that figure is slightly lower than EPA’s previous estimate, overall study reports seem to buck the findings of Cornell University researchers who said in 2011 that nearly 8 percent of natural gas production was ultimately escaping into the atmosphere.
The small amount of methane leaked has hydraulic fracturing opponents in a tizzy. For years, they’ve used the flawed Cornell study in their relentless attacks on shale energy. For example, the Sierra Club uses the fear of “methane leakages” as a talking point in its “Beyond Natural Gas” campaign. Philip Radford, Greenpeace’s executive director, instantly smeared the study by claiming it was PR to promote pollution.
However, Radford’s attack is undercut by two facts:
The study confirms that hydraulic fracturing produces shale energy safely while creating jobs at the same time.
In this short video, David Allen a University of Texas professor who led the study, explains the results of the study:
For decades it seems that America’s energy path was one of scarcity. Now, because of hydraulic fracturing, it is one of energy abundance. While some embrace this, others see it as a threat.
Put U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue in the abundance camp. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, he told New Orleans business leaders that the shale boom is "a revolution that holds great promise for the U.S. economy.” He went on to explain in his speech:
It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago, we were considered a relatively energy poor nation, largely dependent on foreign resources.
Today, we are an energy rich nation.
The United States is home to the largest fossil fuel reserves in the world. We’re sitting on a 200-year supply of oil, and we have enough natural gas to last us 115 years—and we’re discovering more resources every day.
Thanks to technological advancements, private sector innovation, and entrepreneurship, we’re able to access more of it than ever—particularly the unconventional oil and gas that used to be too costly to reach.
And we’re able to do it safely and in an environmentally responsible way.
To illustrate the impressiveness of the shale boom, here’s a chart from the American Enterprise Institute’s Mark Perry on Texas’ oil production since the development of the Eagle Ford Shale began five years ago.
Also, here are Perry’s charts on North Dakota’s skyrocketing production in both oil...
and natural gas...
The shale energy boom has led to impressive economic benefits. An IHS study produced for the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy finds that shale energy added $1,200 to the average American family’s disposable income in 2012 and supports 2.1 million jobs.
But this continued shale energy boom isn't inevitable. Federal policies could squelch the success we've seen so far as Dononue stated:
The gains in unconventional oil and gas that I’ve outlined are independent of our government.
They are in spite of our policies.
They have been driven by the private sector and undertaken on private lands—and they could be still be in jeopardy
The Administration is proposing new regulations on shale energy development, despite the fact that states have robust regulations of their own. New federal regulations such as these could cost us over a million jobs and over a hundred billion in revenue just in the next few years.
Contrast this reality of energy abundance to the fear of Ron Binz, a nominee to the little-known Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which overseas “interstate transmission of natural gas, oil, and electricity” as well as natural gas and hydropower projects. The Wall Street Journal editorial board notes that he views the new quantities of accessible natural gas available because of hydraulic fracturing, not as an opportunity, but as a “dead end,” because its use won’t move us faster toward solar and wind power use.
For Binz (and anti-energy activist groups like the Sierra Club), plentiful shale energy is a threat. Tell that to the millions of people whose jobs are supported by oil and natural gas development.
This past spring, EPA pulled its first attempt at a greenhouse gas emission standard for new power plants, fearing it was so draconian that it wouldn't stand up in a federal court. The Washington Post reports that the agency is about to take a second stab at stacking the deck against new coal-fired power plants:
According to those familiar with the new EPA proposal, the agency will keep the carbon limit for large natural gas plants at 1,000 pounds but relax it slightly for smaller gas plants. The standard for coal plants will be as high as 1,300 or 1,400 pounds per megawatt hour.
However, the average coal plant emits 1,768 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour, meaning new plants will need carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology--something that is a long way from being viable. Jeffrey Holmstead, who represents coal-fired power plant owners and is a former EPA official in the President George W. Bush administration, told the Post, “As a practical matter, this means that the new proposal will still stop any new coal-fired power plants for the foreseeable future.”
The International Energy Agency doesn't expect CCS technology to be routinely used by power generators until 2030. That’s years away. In the meantime, we need to continue improving the efficiency of current coal-fired technology and continue investing in CCS research instead of writing off an abundant and economical energy source.
Diane Katz, regulations expert at the Heritage Foundation, talked to Fox Business about EPA's attack on coal.Watch the latest video at video.foxbusiness.com
Here’s some good news for American energy and exports.
The Energy Department approved Dominion Resources’ application to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) from its Cove Point terminal in Maryland, MarketWatch reports:
Cove Point is the third facility this year and the fourth overall approved to export LNG to countries without a free trade agreement with the U.S. — which is to say all the big LNG importers out there, particularly in Europe and Asia.
Dominion got the go-ahead to export 770 million cubic feet of natural gas a day for 20 years. The terminal is subject to an environmental review and a final regulatory approval.
The shale boom has given the United States an abundance of natural gas. So much so that some can be exported to countries like Japan who are relying more on natural gas to produce electricity in the wake of the Fukushima meltdown. This will boost exports—a Presidential priority--and create jobs.
U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy president and CEO Karen Harbert was pleased with the license approval saying that it “is the latest sign that America’s shale energy revolution has changed our energy outlook for the better. “ She also cited a recent IHS study showing that shale energy development already supports 2.1 million American jobs and will support 3.9 million jobs by 2025 “unless restrictive policies or regulations are adopted.”
Upon receiving additional regulatory approvals and permits, Dominion will begin construction in 2014 and LNG will begin to be exported in 2017.
In USA Today, Merrill Matthews of the Institute for Policy Innovation rattles off six facts to set the record straight on why President Obama should approve the Keystone XL pipeline: