The UK is exploring its shale gas future, we should NOT do the same

Good Energies Alliance Ireland Launch Glenfarne 16th February 2012

Response to Aaron McKenna’s column in The Journal.ie (23rd March 2013)

 Mr McKenna was obviously briefed on fracking by the US oil/gas industry when he wrote this article as he quotes their propaganda extensively and when it comes to Ireland, has done little research himself. The article is a deliberate attempt to get us to assume that fracking is inevitable, good for us economically and that shale gas is the clean fuel of the future. We completely refute those assumptions.
Some important points:
  • Shale gas is Methane, which has a global warming effect 25 times that of carbon dioxide.  Whereas methane when burned is a cleaner fuel than oil or coal, fugitive emissions from fracking and gas transport systems are serious problems.  Howarth et al (2011)[1] calculate that during the life cycle of an average shale-gas well, 3.6 to 7.9% of the total production of the well is emitted to the atmosphere as methane, resulting in a greenhouse gas footprint more than that of coal over a 20 year period.
  • No fossil fuel is a “clean fuel”.  This is industry hype.  All fossil fuels contribute to global warming and shale gas is no exception.
  • The statement that “People living on top of shale gas reserves can win big” is not true in Ireland.  Unlike the US, Irish landowners do not own the mineral or gas rights under their land and will not be entitled to royalties or massive leases.  Any leases will be only for a few short years and the landowners will then be left with unusable land for which they will be responsible.  The only real winners are the oil/gas companies.  The gas would be sold into the international market and the Government would get the second lowest royalties in the world from declared profits.
  • The preliminary EPA report on fracking[2] said in its summary that ” there is a low and probably manageable risk to ground water from fracking …” This referred to the hydraulic fracturing stage of shale gas extraction, not to its life cycle, which includes land preparation, drilling, wastewater disposal, and gas treatment and transportation.  In addition, this conclusion was based on a report from Texas which has been subsequently discredited.[3]
  • European shale gas could not be sold cheaply The price of gas in the US has more to do with a glut of gas than the cost of production, which is actually 4 times its retail cost.  The cost of establishing a shale gas industry in Ireland would be huge and imposed “improved” regulations would also add costs to production.  Examination of models produced by Tamboran indicate that strict regulations could drive the price up to €16 per mBTU.
  • The whole US industry is a bubble scenario very much on the same lines as the sub-prime property bubble that has been shown to be totally unsustainable.[4]  Why would we have a repetition of the same system that already has had such disastrous consequences for our people and economy?Irish Exploration Licences come with the guarantee to allow exploitation of commercially viable reserves.   We should not go ahead with Exploration while the process has so many unknowns associated with it, in particular its impact on human and animal health.  Our agri-food and tourism sectors are far too valuable to be put at risk.  Better wait until independent peer-reviewed studies show that shale gas can be extracted without risk to the environment, people’s health or the national economy and then see if the burning of this valuable resource is the best use we can make of it.

AN ALTERNATIVE VIEW

Ireland has a unique situation on the edge of Europe, with the potential for development of a carbon-neutral society by 2050, as proposed by the National Economic and Social Council (NESC). [5]

 “To achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 we must act now to create:

  1. An energy system built on wind and other renewables, using a smart grid and integrated into a clean EU energy system;
  2. An energy-efficient society that uses renewable forms of energy for heating;
  3. A sustainable transport system which serves economic, societal and environmental needs;
  4. A world-class agri-food sector working within a carbon-neutral system of agriculture, forestry and land use; and
  5. An approach to resource management that provides a competitive and comparative advantage in international trade and factor flows.”
The NESC report concluded that “Ireland has an opportunity to be a real leader by building an institutional architecture suited to the nature of the climate-change policy problem and the major ways in which progress on ‘how to’ achieve decarbonisation is made.”
THERE IS NO MENTION OF NEW FOSSIL FUEL SOURCES IN THE ABOVE STRATEGY!
This is where we should be turning our attention, not looking to short-term fossil fuel extraction, with negative impacts on the environment, health and the reputation of our country, to put off the day when we have to change our life-styles and energy sources.
Aedín McLoughlin
[1] Methane and the greenhouse-gas footprint of natural gas from shale formations. Robert W. Howarth, Renee Santoro, and Anthony Ingraffea. Cornell University, Ithaca (April 2011)
[2] Hydraulic Fracturing or ‘Fracking’: A Short Summary of Current Knowledge and Potential Environmental Impacts  EPA Preliminary Report (12 May 2012)
[3] Fact-Based Regulation for Environmental Protection in Shale Gas Development. The Energy Institute, The University of Texas at Austin (February 2012)
[4] Drill, Baby Drill. Can Unconventional Fuels usher in a New Era of Energy Abundance? J. David Hughes. Post Carbon Institute February ‘13
[5] Ireland and the Climate Change Challenge: Connecting ‘How Much’ with ‘How To’ Final Report of the NESC Secretariat to the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government. Dec’12

“Point of No Return”

A recent report from Greenpeace warns that “the world is quickly reaching a Point of No Return for preventing the worst impacts of climate change. Continuing on the current course will make it difficult, if not impossible, to prevent the widespread and catastrophic impacts of climate change. The costs will be substantial: billions spent to deal with the destruction of extreme weather events, untold human suffering, and the deaths of tens of millions from the impacts by as soon as 2030 (1).
With total disregard for this unfolding global disaster, the fossil fuel industry is planning 14 massive coal, oil and gas projects that would produce as much new carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2020 as the entire US (2), and delay action on climate change for more than a decade”.
Ecofys shows there is still a 75% chance of keeping the increase in the average global temperature below 2°C if actions are taken now to reduce emissions (3). This would not be easy, but it is possible. One of the key actions is to avoid the massive new emissions from the 14 projects in this report.
Download the full report [pdf]: “Point of No Return. The massive climate threats we must avoid”. Greenpeace International report January 2013, written by Ria Voorhar & Lauri Myllyvirta.
(1) DARA and the Climate Vulnerable Forum (2012). Climate Vulnerability Monitor: A Guide to the Cold Calculus of a Hot Planet. 2nd Edition, DARA, Madrid, Spain, p. 24.
 (2) “The additional emissions from the new dirty energy projects in 2020 are estimated at 6.3Gt CO2/year, while US emissions from fossil fuel burning stood at 5.4Gt CO2 in 2010.”
(3) Climate Action Tracker Update, November 2012. Ecofys Consultancy.

The Australian gas fields; personal insights into the health impacts and limitations of regulation

From Dr Geralyn McCarron Batchelor of Medicine, Batchelor of Surgery, Batchelor of the Art of Obstetrics, Fellow of the Australian College of General Practitioners, Member of the National Toxics Networks, Member of Doctors for the Environment Australia
– January 26th 2013 –
“I am a GP who lives and works in suburban Brisbane. I come from Tempo in County Fermanagh. When, at the end of 2011, my family back in Ireland, drew my attention to the prospect of fracking in County Leitrim (Republic of Ireland) and County Fermanagh (Northern Ireland), I gleaned most of my information from the shale gas industry in the USA and Canada. What I learned from the North American experience really worried me. However, a few months later I realised there was just as big a problem in Australia. Through a community initiative called “Bridging the Divide”, I took a bus trip out to a rural residential community five hours drive from Brisbane. What I found shocked me and I have returned several times to try to help them. The place, the Wieambilla Estate, is usually referred to as “Tara” but it is in fact situated thirty five kilometres away from Tara, which is the nearest small town.
Wieambilla consists of blocks of land, between twenty to eighty acres in size, in the remote Australian bush. There are very few services and the roads are dirt roads. Many families moved there from the cities to find a safe and idyllic spot to raise their children and to them Wieambilla seemed like Utopia. These families, who built their homes in clearings, are now completely surrounded by gas fields. The children are sick. The parents are sick. There is a recurring narrative of constant headaches, nose bleeds, sore red eyes, nausea, fatigue, chest pains, cough, sinus problems, rashes, tingling and numbness of limbs, collapse, fits, twitchy babies, children becoming clumsy and unsteady on their feet …”
Full text, available to read and download:

Transocean fined $1.4 billion over Deepwater Horizon

DeepwaterAlthough the subject is not directly fracking, this article gives a ray of hope that sometimes these oil conglomerates can be made to contribute towards the cost of the damage they cause.
“The US government will be paid $1.4 billion in fines and penalties by Transocean, the Swiss-based firm which owned the Deepwater Horizon oil rig….” Please read this article on thejournal.ie, on this link.

The Gasland’s film-maker returns

He has been criticized, despolied. He is known to have fired the tap water. In 2010, Josh Fox has made the famous film “Gasland”, which has shocked the whole planet. Global mobilisation and opposition to fracking owe him a lot. However, industry and pro-fracking people have accused him of lying.
Now, he comes back with a new movie, “The sky is pink”. With new witnesses and experts, he destroys point by point these accusations. For example, he shows how America’s Natural Gas Alliance takes communication’s advice from the same agency who said that tobacco was not a danger for health, sixty years ago!
In USA, the priority is to ban fracking in New York state.
Gasland was Oscar nominated documentary last year. What was the pitch? The largest domestic natural gas drilling boom in history has swept across the United States. The Halliburton-developed drilling technology of “fracking” or hydraulic fracturing has unlocked a “Saudia Arabia of natural gas” just beneath us. But is fracking safe? When filmmaker Josh Fox is asked to lease his land for drilling, he embarks on a cross-country odyssey uncovering a trail of secrets, lies and contamination.
His new movie shows news scientific demonstrates, also rare documents from the gas companies themselves. Theses ones come from gas companies themselves. You can upload these files on this link.

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