Frackers are Blundering thru WV, OH, & PA, Unrestrained in Bleeding Fossil Fuels

by S. Tom Bond on September 17, 2018

Fracking causes many human impacts

Reply to George Ahern’s Op-Ed* of Naples, Florida:

George Ahern’s Op-Ed of August 29 has been the source of many guffaws here in Appalachia, where it is passed around among people far from Naples, Florida. It is written as though there was no negative side on the balance sheet of fracking.

The industry uses technology developed at the Morgantown Energy Center (West Virginia) for the DOE and first tried by George Mitchell with government financial assistance. It is so financially insecure both Bloomberg and the New York Times carried articles about difficulty getting funding for new projects. One of those articles says, “Some of fracking’s biggest skeptics are on Wall Street. They argue that the industry’s financial foundation is unstable: Frackers haven’t proven that they can make money.”

Fracking companies are going broke on a regular basis. Another quote from the same article, “The 60 biggest exploration and production firms are not generating enough cash from their operations to cover their operating and capital expenses. In aggregate, from mid-2012 to mid-2017, they had negative free cash flow of $9 billion per quarter. This article was published in the same month as Dr. Ahern’s. Only five of the top 20 fracking companies made more money than they spent in the first quarter of 2018!

Some of the reasons are quite simple. Fracking expense is tremendous and the wells decline rapidly. Conventional wells produce for decades, fracked wells don’t pay to pump beyond 6 or 7 years, and production has gone down by half in a couple of years. All the production in the first year makes a selling point to investors, and the rest, conveniently, isn’t mentioned. Several times as much water is used as oil produced in oil wells, and several times as much water returns to the surface. Five thousand tanker truckloads of water must be taken from a source and then much of it pumped back underground. This causes earthquakes.

Local Chamber of Commerce people benefit from the investment, and they love it. Rural people hate it when it arrives, and anyone concerned with it’s effect on the biosphere see mostly harm. Energy Retun on Energy Invested (EROEI) is quite poor.

When you look at the anti-fracking resistance you see many small groups working individually, composed of several interests. The first is composed of landowners who consider themselves abused by laws that allow extraction industry to “run over” them. A second consists of people who suffer illness from the chemicals used in fracking and brought up from the deep with “return flow’ from the fracked wells. Still others are environmentalists, afraid of the huge amount of soil disturbance caused by well pads, access roads and the endless network of pipelines and pump stations required to transmit the product. Dr. Ahern’s notion that it is unified is a product of the petroleum industry’s notion that to be effective it must be organized the way they are. Almost all anti-fracking workers are unpaid volunteers, supplying their own funding for travel and research.

Horror stories abound in Appalachia, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma. Frequently surface owners do not own the oil and gas under their property. This is the result of law that allowed surface to be “severed” from minerals, a longstanding practice going back to the early days of oil and gas when lawyers were educated and landowners weren’t. This results in surface owners receiving arbitrary “settlements,” largely dictated by the company. Environmental damage is paid to no one, since the community owns the environment.

Part of the political appeal of fracking is the decline of petroleum reserves in the United States. We exported early and although blessed with reserves, they are gone. After all, the U. S. has only two percent of the dry land of the earth. The remaining conventional reserves lie in Russia and Iran (which “free world” companies want to confine) and the Middle East, with potentially shifting loyalty.

Finally, the piece Ahern wrote ignores the two devastating products of fracking: carbon dioxide and petroleum based plastics. One is ruining the atmosphere and the other the surface of the dry land earth and the sea. The blurb describing Ahern does not give the area of his Ph. D. expertise; perhaps it is not in science. If in Chemistry or Physics, the idea of radiation from the sun exciting carbon dioxide molecules, making sensible heat, what is measured with a thermometer, would not be strange. We all know microwaves make water molecules vibrate faster in a microwave oven. These heating and littering effects simply can’t be ignored by anyone with children or interested in continuing civilization.

An easy calculation shows 7708 tons of carbon dioxide have been added to the atmosphere on every square mile of the earth’s surface since coal was first used on any scale to produce heat and energy; and that we are now adding 203 tons more to each square mile every year. Some of this heat is transferred to the ocean, making it warmer, some goes to melting ice at high altitude and some to melting ice at the poles. This raises the ocean level.

Ahern couldn’t have done better in singing the praise of an industry that is exhausting it’s reserve of capitol and credibility on influencing legislation and enforcement and attracting reluctant investors. The ultimate irony of the article is that it was published in a coastal city in Florida. Rising sea level and intrusion of saltwater will get to it among the first.

Sincerely, S. Thomas Bond, Ph. D.

>>> Dr. Bond’s Ph. D. is in Inorganic Chemistry. Along with teaching he has maintained a farm in central Appalachia. He is a frequent contributor to newspapers, and the author of a book on life in Appalachia.

See also:

* — 1. “Commentary: The era of resistance to fracking is ending”, George Ahearn, Naples Daily News / August 29, 2018

2. “The Next Financial Crisis Lurks Underground

3. “Fracking: Do the Economics Justify the Risks?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mary Wildfire September 18, 2018 at 9:58 am

You should post this to the original site. I already put a comment there, including some of the same points.

>>>>. Good idea, Mary. It was emailed to the Naples News a few days ago. DGN


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