Tag Archives: Arsenic

New PNAS study finds fracking emissions far lower than EPA estimates

From Investors Business Daily. Before you read the article, you should know that “fracking” is short for hydraulic fracturing. This is a technique for extracting shale oil by creating fractures in rocks.

Excerpt:

Whether naturally occurring or not, environmentalists claim that fracking would release huge amounts of what they consider the most potent heat-trapping greenhouse gas, far outweighing the value of producing huge quantities of clean-burning natural gas.

Now comes a study, conducted by scientists at the University of Texas and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences — and co-financed by one of the highest-profile environmentalists in the country — that shows much smaller amounts of methane emissions associated with fracking, far less than environmentalists and the Environmental Protection Agency have contended.

[…]The study, billed as the first to measure the actual emissions of methane from natural gas wells, finds these emissions were, in some cases, only about 2% of the most recent national estimate by the EPA in 2011. An upcoming EPA rule, effective January 2015, requires all methane to be captured when liquids are removed after drilling.

Seen by many as an attempt to stop fracking, which has boosted the economy through its ability to tap previously inaccessible oil and gas riches, the rule might be redundant. Two-thirds of the wells studied already were capturing or controlling the methane to reduce emissions.

“For those wells with methane capture or control, 99% of the potential emissions were captured or controlled,” the study notes.

This proves once again there is no problem technology can’t solve and that when decisions are made based on technology, rather than ideology, good things happen.

An interesting aspect of the study is that it was funded in part by Tom Steyer, a billionaire environmentalist who has become highly active in national politics in the past year, backing environmentalist Democrats such as Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey and Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe.

Steyer’s support for the University of Texas came by way of the Environmental Defense Fund, which helped finance the study. He and his wife Kat Taylor are listed among individuals who provided “major funding for the EDF’s 30-month methane research series, including their portion of the University of Texas study.”

[…]Thanks in large part to fracking, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2012 were the lowest in the U.S. since 1994, at 5.3 billion metric tons. With the exception of 2010, emissions have declined every year since 2007.

Back in May 2013, Associated Press reported that the EPA had already lowered their estimates before this study completed.

Excerpt:

The new EPA data is “kind of an earthquake” in the debate over drilling, said Michael Shellenberger, the president of the Breakthrough Institute, an environmental group based in Oakland, Calif. “This is great news for anybody concerned about the climate and strong proof that existing technologies can be deployed to reduce methane leaks.”

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.

So there’s no harm to the environment, but about the economics benefits of fracking? Well, when states have embraced fracking, their economies have greatly benefited.

Here’s what happened when North Dakota lowered its regulatory barriers to energy development.

This:

North Dakota had the highest payroll-to-population rate (P2P) and the lowest underemployment rate in 2012, thanks mostly to the state’s booming oil & gas industry.

According to Gallup’s “State of the States” analysis released today, North Dakota ranked number one among the lower 48 states, with a payroll to population rate of 53.6 percent.

Gallup said it measured each state’s P2P rate by the percentage of the adult population aged 18 and older employed full-time by an employer for at least 30 hours per week.

The analysis noted that the numbers are not seasonably adjusted and variations across states reflect a number of factors, including the overall employment situation for each state as well as the demographic composition of that state’s population. P2P rates in Alaska, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia were not considered in the analysis.

Factoring in the most recent unemployment data is key to the Gallup analysis. North Dakota reported just a 3.2 percent unemployment rate, well below the national average unemployment rate of 7.9 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The number one ranking should not come as much of a surprise given the Peace Garden state’s rise in oil and gas production and the subsequent rise in jobs over the past few years.

According to North Dakota Jobs Service data from 2011, the most recent available, the number of oil and gas jobs in North Dakota has risen 57.5 percent since 2010 – going from 10,660 jobs in 2010 to 16,786 jobs in 2011, with the oil and gas payroll nearly doubling — going from $852 million in 2010 up to $1.5 billion in 2011.

North Dakota now produces more oil than any other state, including Alaska, which ranked number one in 2011, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

In New York, Chesapeake Energy just decided to pull up stakes and leave the state.

Excerpt:

After more than five years of a fracking moratorium, a leading energy company walks away from its leases, leaving New York, its natural gas riches — and the jobs and wealth they could generate — unrealized.

In 2000, people from Chesapeake Energy began arriving in Broome County, New York, a few miles north of the Pennsylvania border. Broome had seen better economic days but was lucky to be sitting right atop the natural gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation, which stretches through much of the Northeast.

[…]Interestingly, New York’s very own Department of Environmental Conservation website on Marcellus drilling says, “No known instances of groundwater contamination have occurred from previous horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing projects in New York.”

A recent Department of Energy study has concluded that fracking chemicals do not taint drinking water.

After a year of monitoring wells in western Pennsylvania, researchers found these fluids stayed thousands of feet below the areas that supply drinking water.

A 2010 Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection report concluded that “no groundwater pollution or disruption of underground sources of drinking water have been attributed to hydraulic fracturing of deep gas formations.”

But Pennsylvania allows fracking, and they are seeing the same economic boom as North Dakota:

A recent study by the Manhattan Institute highlighted the economic impact of fracking in New York’s neighbor to the south, Pennsylvania, which has had 5,000 wells fracked since 2002.

The data are compelling, as counties with more than 200 wells, drilled between 2007 and 2011, saw a 19% increase in per-capita incomes, versus just 8% income growth for those with no wells fracked.

Further, the number of county jobs grew by 7% in those with more than 200 wells fracked, against a 3% contraction in counties with no wells drilled.

According to the Manhattan Institute’s Diana Furchtgott-Roth, “Income of residents in the 28 New York counties above the Marcellus Shale has the potential to expand by 15% or more over the next four years if the state’s moratorium is lifted.”

In Pennsylvania, according to the report, each well in the Marcellus Shale formation creates $5.5 million in direct economic benefits and 62 jobs, and the wells endanger no one. Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor and Industry estimates that fracking in its part of the Marcellus created 72,000 jobs from the fourth quarter of 2009 to the first quarter of 2011, as New York’s job- and growth-killing moratorium got underway.

Now tell me again why progressives are supposedly smarter than conservatives.

New EPA report: natural gas production is even cleaner than previously thought

From the liberal Associated Press. (H/T Hot Air)

Excerpt:

The Environmental Protection Agency has dramatically lowered its estimate of how much of a potent heat-trapping gas leaks during natural gas production, in a shift with major implications for a debate that has divided environmentalists: Does the recent boom in fracking help or hurt the fight against climate change?

Oil and gas drilling companies had pushed for the change, but there have been differing scientific estimates of the amount of methane that leaks from wells, pipelines and other facilities during production and delivery. Methane is the main component of natural gas.

The new EPA data is “kind of an earthquake” in the debate over drilling, said Michael Shellenberger, the president of the Breakthrough Institute, an environmental group based in Oakland, Calif. “This is great news for anybody concerned about the climate and strong proof that existing technologies can be deployed to reduce methane leaks.”

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.

The EPA revisions came even though natural gas production has grown by nearly 40 percent since 1990. The industry has boomed in recent years, thanks to a stunning expansion of drilling in previously untapped areas because of the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which injects sand, water and chemicals to break apart rock and free the gas inside.

Wow, when you have the EPA on board with responsible energy development, then you know it’s solid.

See my previous post in which I talked about how the EPA had exonerated fracking in Dimock, Pennsylvania.

EPA study finds that water in Dimock, PA is safe to drink despite fracking

Here’s an excerpt from the EPA press release that exonerates fracking:

 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it has completed its sampling of private drinking water wells in Dimock, Pa. Data previously supplied to the agency by residents, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Cabot Oil and Gas Exploration had indicated the potential for elevated levels of water contaminants in wells, and following requests by residents EPA took steps to sample water in the area to ensure there were not elevated levels of contaminants. Based on the outcome of that sampling, EPA has determined that there are not levels of contaminants present that would require additional action by the Agency.

[…]Overall during the sampling in Dimock, EPA found hazardous substances, specifically arsenic, barium or manganese, all of which are also naturally occurring substances, in well water at five homes at levels that could present a health concern. In all cases the residents have now or will have their own treatment systems that can reduce concentrations of those hazardous substances to acceptable levels at the tap. EPA has provided the residents with all of their sampling results and has no further plans to conduct additional drinking water sampling in Dimock.

The Washington Times explains the context of this report.

Excerpt:

Closely watched tests by the Environmental Protection Agency have found that the drinking water in Dimock, Pa., is safe to drink, despite concerns from some residents and environmentalists that nearby fracking had contaminated supplies.

For the past seven months, EPA sampled water at private wells serving 64 homes in the small northeastern Pennsylvania town, the primary setting of the anti-natural-gas documentary “Gasland.”

EPA found hazardous substances such as arsenic and manganese in water supplies at five of the homes in question, but said Wednesday that the residences have or will soon have treatment systems “that can reduce concentrations of those hazardous substances to acceptable levels at the tap.”

Agency officials also said EPA will conduct no further testing and will stop delivering fresh water to Dimock residents.

“The sampling and an evaluation of the particular circumstances at each home did not indicate levels of contaminants that would give EPA reason to take further action,” EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin said in a statement. “Throughout EPA’s work in Dimock, the agency has used the best available scientific data to provide clarity to Dimock residents and address their concerns about the safety of their drinking water.”

[…]In its Wednesday announcement, EPA made clear that the pollutants it identified occur naturally in the area.

Remember the EPA is one of the most politicized, anti-business agencies in the government. If I were President, the first two agencies I would eliminate are the EPA and the federal Department of Education. And yet even the EPA could not find anything wrong with fracking. That means that there is nothing wrong with fracking.

Why do people think that secular leftists are guided by reason and science? It seems to me that they are always embracing fashionable nonsense that isn’t proven out by the experimental data. Let’s make our policy based on what the experimental evidence shows.

Is the taxpayer-funded scientific bureaucracy self-correcting?

Consider this post from Evolution News which talks about a paper in the prestigious pro-naturalism journal Science that is drawing a lot of criticisms. (H/T Melissa, Jonathan)

Excerpt:

Last December we reported on a controversial paper published in Science which claimed to have discovered bacteria that feed on arsenic instead of phosphorous. According to NASA, this research promised to provide “an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.” At that time the media reported things like:

  • scientists discovered “a bacteria whose DNA is completely alien to what we know today” (Wired)
  • the “bacteria is made of arsenic” (Wired)
  • the bacteria is “capable of using arsenic to build its DNA, RNA, proteins, and cell membranes” (Gizmodo)
  • the paper had reported “arsenic-based life” which is “very alien in terms of how it’s put together” and “NASA has, in a very real sense, discovered a form of alien life” (io9)
  • “you can potentially cross phosphorus off the list of elements required for life” (Nature)

But soon after the original Science paper was published, credible scientists began critiquing the paper’s claims. In the June 3, 2011 issue of Science, several of those scientists have published comments critiquing the original paper. Many of their criticisms focus on the claim that the original paper did not establish or rule out the possibility that the bacteria are not still living off of phosphorous.

So you have a paper being published that everyone is excited about because it helps the naturalists to close gaps in their worldview. But was it good science? The Evolution News piece goes on to list the criticisms of the paper.

And here is the result:

Of course the authors of the original paper, including lead-author Felisa Wolf-Simon, co-authored a reply to the criticisms which should also be read. But critics remain unconvinced. Nature news recently quoted Barry Rosen of Florida International University stating, “I have not found anybody outside of [Wolfe-Simon’s] laboratory who supports the work.” Likewise, Rosie Redfield observes:

“With so many mistakes pointed out, there should be at least some where the authors say, ‘you’re right, we should have done that but we didn’t’,” Redfield says. “This as an entirely a ‘we were right’ response, and that’s a bad sign in science.”

Despite the high levels of skepticism of claims of arsenophilic bacteria, Nature reports that few scientists have taken the initiative to attempt to experimentally reproduce the claims made in the original paper:

However, most labs seem too busy to spend time replicating work that they feel is fundamentally flawed and is not likely to be published in high-impact journals. So principal investigators are reluctant to spend their resources, and their students’ time, replicating the work. “If you extended the results to show there is no detectable arsenic, where could you publish that?” asks Simon Silver of the University of Illinois at Chicago, who critiqued the work in FEMS Microbiology Letters in January and on 24 May at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in New Orleans. “How could the young person who was asked to do that work ever get a job?” Refuting another scientist’s work also takes time that scientists could be spending on their own research. For instance, Helmann says he is installing a highly sensitive mass spectrometer that can measure trace amounts of elements. But, he says, “I’ve got my own science to do.”

Such admissions do not bode well for those who blindly believe in the perfectly objective, self-correcting nature of science. In this case, it seems safe to experimentally critique these claims since so many respected scientists have already expressed vocal skepticism. Yet experiments are apparently not yet forthcoming. What about areas of science where scientists are not able to express their dissent freely? For example, who would take time to experimentally critique claims that are central to neo-Darwinian theory, especially if it’s dangerous to one’s career? One hopes that science will become more self-correcting when it comes to claims made in support of materialism.

In light of what we now know about global warming research, shouldn’t we be a little more welcoming of whistleblowers and critics? Shouldn’t we be a little more careful about hastily approving research that agrees with the religion of naturalism, instead of checking it over thoroughly to make sure that it really is good science?

How government regulations can cost us our jobs

Good post on the effects of government regulation, over at the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Open Market blog.

Excerpt:

A story in the Star Tribune in Minneapolis St. Paul shows how adverse effects of such needlessly onerous standard can spill over into other areas. In this case, a meat plant had to shut its doors, putting 200 people out of work because their water exceeded EPA’s standard by 8 parts per billion. EPA can’t show that the Clinton era its standard won’t save a soul, but we do know that economic hard times hurt many.

Here’s an excerpt from the Strib piece:

More than 200 workers in a small town 90 minutes west of Minneapolis have lost their jobs after a beef slaughtering plant was forced to shut down because its water contained excessive levels of arsenic, a condition the plant owner said he couldn’t afford to fix in time to avoid federal penalties.

“I’m done,” said William Gilger, owner of North Star Beef Inc. in Buffalo Lake, Minn.

The Heritage Foundation has a good post on how the EPA intends to expand their control of the economy in order to save us from global cooling warming.

In essence, the endangerment finding says that global warming and climate change pose a serious threat to public health and safety and thus almost anything that emits carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases could be regulated under the Clean Air Act.

The endangerment finding is the first step in a long regulatory process that could lead to EPA requiring different regulations and units of emissions requirements for each gadget that emits carbon dioxide. The first target would be automobiles, but the EPA’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) suggested regulations of almost everything that moves, including new regulations smaller items such lawnmowers and forklifts. The ANPR also suggests putting speed limiters on large trucks on the table as a means of reducing carbon dioxide and even suggested sharkskin boats oozing bubbles to reduce emissions from the shipping industry.

…Beyond things that move, the agency could go after things that stand still. More than a million energy using businesses, buildings, and farms could also be hit with crushing administrative burdens and costly controls. And even if EPA decides not to go that far, they will almost certainly be sued into doing so.

And they have a forecast of the potential costs of this regulation:

However, the economic damage would be similar to any carbon capping bill passed by Congress and perhaps even worse. Dr. David Kreutzer and Dr. Karen Campbell of The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis found the economic costs of EPA regulations to be:

• Cumulative gross domestic product (GDP) losses are nearly $7 trillion by 2029 (in inflation adjusted 2008 dollars)
• Single-year GDP losses exceed $600 billion (in inflation-adjusted 2008 dollars).
• Annual job losses exceed 800,000 for several years.
• Some industries will see job losses that exceed 50 percent.

If you tax or regulate something, you get less of it. If you cut taxes and remove regulations, you get more of it. The best protection a worker has is not onerous taxes and regulations on their employer. The best protection a worker has is a choice among a huge number of employers. If you want a choice of employers, try creating conditions that employers actually want.

Republicans care about creating conditions that allow businesses to create jobs. We want this because we believe that people should not dependent on the government for their livelihood. Your ability to choose your employer is part of your liberty. Democrats care about inventing a faked crisis using junk science in order to justify government-coerced redistribution of wealth.