Natural Gas May Not Be All It’s Fracked Up to Be …Feb 18th, 2011 | By admin | Category: Lead Articles, Natural Gas Leaks
By naturalgaswatch.org staff
Once upon a time, natural gas – encouraged by pie-in-the-sky marketing and Astroturf campaigns run by the natural gas industry, was viewed as the “green” fuel of choice.
Environmentalists, it seems, have woken up to the fact that there’s a tremendous carbon cost associated with getting that fuel out of the ground and into the hands of the consumer and many are increasingly concerned with the destruction wrought by a particular form of drilling for natural gas known as “fracking” – a technique developed by the notorious Halliburton corporation.
That concern has been driven, in large part, by an Oscar-nominated documentary called “Gasland,” which has the natural gas industry in full-on defense mode. “Gasland”, a documentary directed by Josh Fox, is a documentary that details the devastation caused by fracking.
Fracking involves pumping millions of gallons of water and toxic chemicals into deep wells to fracture rock formations and free the natural gas trapped within, so that it can be pumped to the surface. The wastewater that results from this process is highly toxic and, according to the Gasland website, only 30 percent to 50 percent of it is recovered by the natural gas companies; the rest of it sits underground, wreaking untold environmental havoc and contaminating the water table.
Fracking aside, other environmentalists are beginning to wonder if the natural gas industry has overstated the environmental benefits of natural gas versus other energy sources.
A January story by the non-profit journalism organization ProPublica made a strong case that the natural gas industry is, in fact, greatly overstating the environmental benefits associated with natural gas.
The ProPublica story, by journalist Abrahm Lustgarten, notes that natural gas is almost 100 percent methane, a highly toxic gas that is exponentially more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide. The story features quotes from Robert Howarth, an environmental biology professor at Cornell University, who stated that if methane’s potency were considered over 20 years rather than 100 years, it would be 72 times as powerful as carbon dioxide in terms of its global warming potential.
“Figured that way, the climate effect of methane from natural gas would quickly outpace the climate effect of carbon dioxide from burning coal,” The ProPublica piece quotes Howarth as saying. “Even small leakages of natural gas to the atmosphere have very large consequences … When the total emissions of greenhouse gases are considered … natural gas and coal from mountaintop removal probably have similar releases, and in fact natural gas may be worse in terms of consequences on global warming.”
You can read the entire ProPublica piece, which is part of the organization’s ongoing investigative series titled, “Buried Secrets: Gas Drilling’s Environmental Threat,” here: http://www.propublica.org/article/natural-gas-and-coal-pollution-gap-in-doubt.
You can read more about the backlash against natural gas among environmentalists here: “Greens Sour on Natural Gas”