wrdforwrd

green and sustainable business

Fracking: toxic snake oil

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snake-oil-front-coverRichard Heinberg and the Post Carbon Institute, in a new book, have effectively deconstructed the supposed benefits—foisted upon us by the oil industry—of the hydraulic fracturing method of gas and oil extraction, or fracking..

In his latest book, SNAKE OIL: How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future, Heinberg—journalist, author and senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute—says the “false hype” surrounding shale gas and oil production “has hijacked America’s energy conversation.”

Heinberg’s research shows that “rather than offering the nation a century of cheap energy and economic prosperity, fracking may well present us with a short-term bubble that comes with exceeding high economic and environmental costs.”

He continues, “Horizontal drilling and hydrofracturing (“fracking”) for oil and gas pose a danger not just to local water and air quality, but also to sound energy policy, and therefore to our collective ability to avert the greatest human-made economic and environmental catastrophe in history.”

In his analysis of shale production to date, Heinberg debunks:

  • Industry claims of a long-term economic bonanza and energy security as a result of domestic drilling for shale gas and shale (tight) oil.
  • The perception that shale gas and tight oil drilling will provide long term, low cost supplies. The oil industry “has overstated world oil reserves by about a third and is working harder and harder just to stand still.”
  • The purported benefits to local economies: Heinberg says that states with active fracking operations are spending more on road maintenance than they take in via severance taxes.
  • The case for authorizing shale gas exports. Given constraints on future domestic production, the only thing exports can accomplish is to raise natural gas prices for American consumers.
  • Claims of major benefits of fracking for the nation. Fewer jobs have been created than the industry claims, and temporarily increased domestic oil and gas production have led to a side-tracking of sound climate and energy policy. “The industry has massively oversold [fracking’s] jobs record. Since 2003, oil and gas jobs account for less than 1/20th of 1 percent of the overall US labor market.”

In addition Heinberg notes that fracking consumes millions of gallons of freshwater, pollutes groundwater and air, “and—thanks to leaking methane—may contribute more to climate change than burning coal.

“Success in shifting energy policy depends upon coordination of environmental and economic arguments against continued reliance on fossil fuels,” Heinberg writes. “Are there enough accessible hydrocarbons to tip the world into climate chaos? Absolutely…By erroneously reinforcing industry hype about the future potential of shale gas, tight oil, and tar sands, they keep the debate exactly where the industry wants it—as a choice between environmental protection on the one hand and jobs, economic growth, and energy security on the other. It’s a false choice and a losing strategy.”

So far, the industry’s co-option of the fracking debate—i.e. cheaper and plentiful energy, jobs, etc.—has been pretty successful. Perhaps Snake Oil will help turn the tide. The only real beneficiaries of fracking are the oil and gas companies. The industry has rigged the argument and created a fossil fuel mirage while delaying the development of a clean and renewable energy economy.

Image: Snake Oil cover from the Post Carbon Institute

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Written by William DiBenedetto

14 August, 2013 at 5:00 am

One Response

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  1. […] Richard Heinberg and the Post Carbon Institute, in a new book, have effectively deconstructed the supposed benefits—foisted upon us by the oil industry—of the hydraulic fracturing method of gas and oil extraction, or fracking.. In his latest book, SNAKE OIL: How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future, Heinberg—journalist, author and senior fellow at […] wrdforwrd Read Original Post […]


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