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TOPIC: Fracking (Hydrofracturing); For and Against.

Fracking (Hydrofracturing); For and Against. 4 years 3 months ago #50

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Rather than go into an emotionally fueled rant, I thought it best to present a series of articles I found online with credible sides arguing against and for hydraulic fracturing and allow readers to come to their own conclusions. These will be divided evenly beginning with arguments "AGAINST" and then presenting arguments "FOR" hydro-fracturing or "Fracking". Some articles will have both. Ready or not, here they come....

Hydrofracturing And The Impact On Your Clean Water
Natural Gas Hydrofracturing well | Ecoflight

American Rivers is a national leader working to protect and restore rivers and clean water. As industry seeks to exploit once thought inaccessible natural gas fields across the United States using the new technology of high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing (also called hydrofracturing, hydrofracking or fracking) we must ensure that energy development does not jeopardize rivers and clean water, including drinking water supplies.

The increasing pace of natural gas development threatens rivers and streams that provide clean drinking water, habitat for fish and wildlife, and recreational opportunities, such as fishing and boating. Natural gas development enjoys exemptions from keystone environmental laws, such as the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act, exemptions not provided to other industries.

American Rivers supports requiring the natural gas industry, in concert with the rest of the energy industry, to adhere to adequate and enforceable measures to protect our rivers, streams, and groundwater from pollution. We also believe particularly sensitive places should remain off limits to energy development to preserve our highest quality clean waters.

We must balance development needs with adequate environmental protections for clean water and healthy watersheds. In the push to develop domestic sources of energy nationwide, the direct and cumulative impacts to water quality in streams and rivers have been largely ignored and accountability for environmental degradation has been lax at best. Unchecked by adequate safeguards, natural gas production has the potential to pollute clean water for millions of people. We have already experienced instances of surface and groundwater pollution, air pollution, soil contamination, habitat fragmentation, and erosion from extracting gas from shale using fracking where proper safeguards were not in place or followed.

Over the past few years American Rivers has highlighted the threat of unbridled natural gas development to clean water and healthy rivers, such as the Upper Delaware, Susquehanna, Monongahela, and Hoback Rivers (a tributary of the pristine Snake River headwaters in Wyoming), in our annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® list.

Moving forward, American Rivers has a commonsense three-part strategy to adequately safeguard the clean water from natural gas development:

Remove loopholes for the natural gas industry from the basic federal and state laws and rules protecting clean water starting with the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act.
Protect the highest quality rivers and streams, including drinking water source areas, keeping them off-limits to natural gas drilling.
Partner with industry leaders willing to set a higher bar for natural gas practices, and encourage regulators to adopt the best standards of practice to protect clean water.
American Rivers will continue applying our outreach, policy, and technical expertise to promote responsible natural gas policies that will ensure clean water and public health.

May 6th, 2013 by Michał Turek News
Energy policy is almost always controversial, and relatively new technology is often at the forefront of arguments. In most cases, a particular development may not be overwhelmingly positive or negative, and decisions must be based on nuance and by comparing new developments to old methods of generating energy. In recent years, fracking has been a source of considerable controversy; here are some of the pros and cons of fracking and how it is affecting the energy industry.

What Is Fracking?

Energy providers in Texas and elsewhere have been proponents of natural gas for decades. Natural gas is abundant in the United States, but exploiting it has always been difficult. Thanks to fracking technology, it is now possible to drill both vertically and horizontally to tap into natural gas reserves that were previously inaccessible. Fracking has revolutionized energy production in the United States and elsewhere in the world, and most experts view natural gas as perhaps the most important fuel for the future.

What Are its Advantages?

Thanks to fracking, generating electricity with natural gas is now approximately the same cost of generating electricity with coal. Because of this, the United States now has a much more diverse energy portfolio. In addition, natural gas releases two to three times less carbon into the atmosphere than coal, and it releases far less particulate matter as well. While green energy advocates prefer technology that releases little to no carbon dioxide, the improvements provided by natural gas can slow the progression of global warming and allow the United States to meet energy goals. Natural gas plants are also relatively cheap to build, and they can be scaled easily to meet energy demands. Because of this, natural gas is expected to be the baseline energy source of choice for the foreseeable future.

What Are its Disadvantages?

Most of the controversy surrounding natural gas has to do with fracking. Studies have shown that fracking does cause small earthquakes, which can damage homes. However, it should be noted that these earthquakes are relatively small, and some experts believe that these small earthquakes relieve pressure that could have caused larger earthquakes in the future. Fracking also uses a tremendous amount of water that contains chemicals and other environmentally damaging materials. Runoff from fracking operations can cause tremendous environmental harm, and some regulators believe that current regulations are not strict enough to prevent this harm. Finally, fracking brings up a number of land rights issues. Since fracking involves horizontal drilling, disputes often arise over whether a fracking company has access to certain segments of land underground.

While fracking will remain controversial, it is difficult to imagine a future where fracking is not an important component of energy generation. Although it is not a perfect technology, natural gas will likely allow the United States and other nations to reduce their carbon outputs considerably while maintaining their energy generation and avoiding the costs associated with solar power. Those interested in energy generation should ensure that they are abreast of the latest developments in fracking technology.
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3. January, 2014 by Jan Wypijewski News No comments
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Fracking – this hellish word equally electrifies people in America and Europe. What’s interesting is the fact that, when we name this process ‘hydraulic fracturing’, it has more positive overtones in the society, than when we use ‘fracking’. Are some people scared of the whole process or just the pejorative name? There are no reasonable proofs for the negative impact on the groundwater or causing local earthquakes by hydraulic fracturing process. The truth is far different…

I decided to start with this matter first, because it causes the biggest buzz. The main environmental controversy over fracking is that this technique is very water- intensive. According to American data, about 3 million gallons (11 000 m3) is needed to frack one horizontal well. Too much? You’re very mistaken. This is just 0.034% of total withdrawn water each day in New York State. Fracking fluid, besides water (90%), contains sand (9.5%) and 0.5% of chemical additives, which are ingredients of cosmetics, household cleaners and food. Now let’s compare the use of water to produce 1 million British Thermal Units of energy:

natural gas: 3 gallons
nuclear power: 11 gallons
coal: 23 gallons
corn ethanol: 15 800 gallons
soy biodiesel: 44 500 gallons
Natural gas knocked out coal. In Texas, it generated 41% of energy in 2012. Two years earlier, coal was leading with 40%. This change makes the state less vulnerable to drought, according to study from the University of Texas.

Positive influence on the air condition is an indirect effect of fracking. Lower cost of natural gas, caused by massive boost in shale gas extraction, turned the American industry to start moving from coal towards natural gas, which is the cleanest fossil fuel. Since 2002, carbon dioxide output has grown 32% globally. In 2012, the US CO2 emission was lower by 8% than in 2002! Burning the natural gas also significantly reduces emissions of PM2.5 (microscopic dust particles, which penetrate the lungs where they are absorbed by the blood), sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxides and mercury.

Now I’ll show you why natural gas, thanks to fracking and horizontal drilling, overgreens ‘green’ energy. According to a SAIC/RW Beck research, such areas are necessary to generate a year’s supply of electricity for 1 000 households:

0.4 acres – natural gas
0.7 acres – nuclear power
0.75 acres – coal
6 acres – wind power
8.4 acres – solar cells
The data shows that ‘green’ sources of energy are more environmental offensive. Since 2007, more than five million trees have been sawed thanks to wind farm development in Scotland. Fewer than 1.6 million was planted to replace them. This is the result of the Scottish plan to produce 100% of their energy from renewables by 2020.

These arguments show that American natural gas boom, thanks to revolutionary technique of fracking and horizontal drilling really changes positively not only the energy market and the American economy, but also the environment. If you really care about it, you should adore fracking!

Sources: telegraph.co.uk, energyfromshale.org, cityam.com, nypost.com, fuelfix.com


Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a technique used by the oil and gas industry to extract natural gas from rock thousands of feet underground. The fracking process includes pumping millions of gallons of water, sand and toxic chemicals (including carcinogens) underground.

Evidence suggests that this risky process affects the water we drink, air we breathe, food we eat and climate we rely on for comfort. And like all oil and gas efforts, it endangers the wild places we love dearly. Here's the ugly evidence:

1. Fracking disrupts and threatens wild lands

Fracking negatively impacts wild lands treasured by all Americans. Lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the Rocky Mountain West. Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico contain some of the most spectacular American landscapes but are also coveted for their natural gas resources. This spring, the BLM did announce a new policy for chemical disclosure on leased lands. The Wilderness Society strongly supports setting more stringent standards because these proposed rules don’t require public disclosure about fracking chemicals until after the drilling has been completed.

2. Fracking contaminates drinking water

Last fall, the EPA released a report showing that fracking had contaminated groundwater in Wyoming, sparking a deluge of speculation about water pollution as a consequence of natural gas extraction. The evidence was used to back a claim that Pennsylvania water wells were polluted with methane. The New York Times' own investigation in the state showed levels of radiation well beyond federal drinking-water standards. In places like Texas, it's harder to get evidence, which some suspect is because of conflicts of interest.

There are 29 states with fracking in some stage of development or activity. Here is a map showing the location of U.S. shale gas plays, or shale formations in which natural gas is trapped (data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) courtesy of data.fractracker.org):

3. Fracking pollutes the air with scary pollutants

Since Garfield County, Colorado has experienced fracking development, residents who live within a half mile of the natural gas wells have been exposed to air pollutants, like the carcinogen benzene and toxic hydrocarbons known to cause respiratory and neurological problems, according to a three-year study from the Colorado School of Public Health. Colorado allows companies to drill for natural gas within 150 feet of homes, so nearby residents could be facing acute and chronic health problems like leukemia in the long-term.

4. Global warming gone overboard

In some ways, the most significant air pollutant is methane, a greenhouse gas that traps 20 to 25 times more heat in the atmosphere than does carbon dioxide. While some claim that the cost is worth the benefits if it means we can transition away from fossil fuels, it has been shown that the “footprint” of shale gas is actually 20 percent higher than coal.

5. Even if you don't drink the water, animals will

Of course, water pollution not only affects human populations, it affects other wildlife as well. This should concern anyone who eats meat, whether they hunt it or purchase it indirectly from a farm, which may incidentally be near a fracking well. In addition to degradation of habitat and interference with migration and reproduction, farmers have reported illness and death among domestic animals exposed to fracking wastewater.

6. Fracking also causes earthquakes?

Hydraulic fracturing involves pumping massive amounts of water into the earth's crust to break apart rock, so it should be no surprise that small earthquakes that have occurred in Ohio and Arkansas have been linked to nearby wastewater wells. The wastewater wells take in the water used to fracture the rock, and because the water is thousands of feet underground, it is under very high pressure. Since thousands of these new wells are being developed in populated areas, even small earthquakes are alarming for most of these areas haven't been seismically active in the past.

7. Despite recorded health risks, the facts are hard to find.

Fracking takes advantage of loopholes in federal laws designed to protect drinking water, so the chemicals used in drilling are not required by federal law to be publicly disclosed. Disclosure requirements for fracking chemicals differ widely from state to state, but the majority of states with fracking have no disclosure rules at all (only 14 out of the 29 have any). The rules that do exist are inadequate, failing to require disclosure of many important aspects, such as:

pre-fracking disclosure of all the chemicals that may be used (this makes it impossible to trace and prove the source of water contamination if it arises)
disclosure of the concentration of all chemicals
full disclosure to medical professionals in the event of an accident because of “trade secret” exemptions
Even for those states with laws, enforcement isn't strict.


Hydraulic Fracturing is providing abundant energy and building local economies Hydraulic Fracturing makes it possible to produce oil and natural gas in places where conventional technologies are ineffective. Fracking has unlocked massive new supplies of oil and clean-burning natural gas from dense deposits of shale — supplies that increase our country’s energy security and improve our ability to generate electricity, heat homes and power vehicles for generations to come. Hydraulic fracturing has also boosted local economies—generating royalty payments to property owners, providing tax revenues to the government and creating much-needed high-paying American jobs. Engineering and surveying, construction, hospitality, equipment manufacturing and environmental permitting are just some of the professions experiencing the positive ripple effects of increased oil and natural gas shale development. - See more at: www.energyfromshale.org/fracking-benefits#sthash.yOZn9JIT.dpuf


Earth & Environmental Science
Fracking — the pros and cons

What’s really going on beneath our feet when we use fracking to extract natural gas from deep underground?

By Scott A. Elias, PhD | Posted on 9 September 2013

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The Author

Scott A. Elias, PhDScott A. Elias, PhDDr. Scott A. Elias is Professor of Quaternary Science in theDepartment of Geography of Royal Holloway, University of London, specializing in environmental biology. His chief research focus concerns the reconstruction of past environmental change and the response of animals and plants to those changes during the last million years.

Reference Modules on ScienceDirect

Recently, he became Editor-in-Chief of the upcoming Elsevier Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, which will contain more than 3,800 peer-reviewed articles from Elsevier reference works, many on issues related to the state of the planet's health. The module will be hosted on ScienceDirect, a scientific database containing more than 11 million full-text journal articles and book chapters.

Fracking: What is it?

Fracking for shale gas has become big business, transforming the US energy landscape. But is it safe?This is a fracking well in the western United States. (Brooks, M, "Frack on or frack off? Can shale gas really save the planet," New Scientist, August 10, 2013)Fracking for shale gas has become big business, transforming the US energy landscape. But is it safe?This is a fracking well in the western United States. (Brooks, M, "Frack on or frack off? Can shale gas really save the planet," New Scientist, August 10, 2013)

Shale gas is methane trapped in tiny pockets in shale rock formations. In order to extract the gas, engineers drill shafts down into the shale, most often with many radiating horizontal shafts that feed into the vertical shaft. Engineers drill vertical shafts down to great depths, then they drill radiating horizontal shafts that feed it. Then they force hydraulic fluids into the rock to fracture the shale and open the pockets of gas, releasing it to flow to the surface.

The term "fracking" is short for "hydraulic fracturing." Over the past 10 to 15 years, the number of fracking wells has expanded rapidly in the US, liberating increasing amounts of methane.

What are the benefits?

So much natural gas has been extracted through fracking in recent years that US carbon emissions are actually falling. This is partly due to the economic recession since 2008, but theUS Energy Information Administrationreckons that just less than half of the fall in emissions is due to the replacement of coal burning with shale gas for electrical energy production. It would seem that shale gas, which occurs in shale deposits around the world, is in a perfect position to replace coal in power stations. Already more than a third of natural gas burned in the US is coming from fracking wells, and shale gas is now cheaper than coal in the US.President Obama recently praised the US natural gas boom in a speech on climate change, crediting it with delivering cleaner energy. Many have described fracking as the bridge between the carbon-based energy systems of the past and a cleaner, greener future.

What are the risks?

In 2013, an estimated 250 billion cubic meters of natural gas will be brought to the surface by fracking in the US. ( Brooks, 2013)In 2013, an estimated 250 billion cubic meters of natural gas will be brought to the surface by fracking in the US. ( Brooks, 2013)

If fracking was just a new-fangled way of tapping natural gas sources, it would be welcomed by most people as a cheaper, cleaner alternative to oil and coal. The problems lie in the method of extraction.In order to get the gas out, a witch's brew of toxic chemicals has to be pumped into the shale at high pressure. More specifically, this is a mixture of water, sand, lubricants, poisons to keep bacteria and other microorganisms from clogging the pipes, and hydrochloric acid to dissolve the excess cement in the pipes (Brooks, 2013). If these fluids stayed far underground, they might not damage the human environment. The problem is that they find their way back to the surface through accidents at well heads, well blowouts, backflow of fluids to the surface, and leaks throughout the system. Altogether, more than 650 products containing chemicals with potential cancer-causing properties have been used in fracking (Balaba and Smart, 2012).

One would think that a country such as the US would have laws to protect the environment from toxic pollutants like these, but unfortunately the current laws are full of loopholes when it comes to fracking. For instance, an exception to the Safe Drinking Water Act is made for toxic chemicals injected into wells during hydraulic fracturing. An exception to the Clean Water Act permits temporarily stored waste water from fracking facilities to go untreated.

Other exemptions to US environmental safety regulations mean that fracking well operators are not obliged to report annual releases of toxic chemicals from their wells (Centner, 2013).Finally, the government does not require well operators to disclose the chemical contents of the fluids they use in the fracking process. These are considered trade secrets. It seems ironic that these companies do not have to disclose the contents of their fracking chemicals, when the manufacturers of household cleaning products must disclose every detail of their contents (Lauver, 2012).

Fracking wells have been developed across the country, with highest density in Texas, Wyoming, California and Pennsylvania. (Source: US Environmental Protection Agency, 2012)The Obama administration is proposing a new set of fracking rules, and their initial proposal has received an enormous number of comments from the public (more than 175,000 responses). The new set of rules only cover fracking on public lands, but the administration hopes that these rules will be adopted by individual states for use on private lands as well.

The rules set standards of well integrity and management of polluted water that flows back to the surface. Groundwater pollution is another serious concern, but results of an EPA study on that threat are not expected before 2016. In the meantime, thousands of new fracking wells are springing up all over the country.


ADA — Experts will be making their way to Ohio Northern University this Friday to discuss the hot-button topic of hydraulic fracturing, commonly called "fracking," as they familiarize professionals and community members about the growing Ohio industry.

It’s a relevant topic not only for eastern Ohioans but for all Ohioans, not only because it lowers unemployment rates and lowers natural gas prices for all citizens but because injection wells exist in northwest Ohio, including in Auglaize and Hardin counties. These wells inject the fracking byproduct deep underground, potentially causing unknown, long-term consequences.

The fracking panel will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. Oct. 12 in Dicke Hall, part of the annual meeting of the Ohio Association of Economists and Political Scientists. Admission is free.

Panelists include Mike Chadsey, of Energy in Depth Ohio, a partner of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association; and Greg Lawson, of the Buckeye Institute, which supports the current industry. The panel also includes Janetta King, of Innovation Ohio, and Jack Shaner, of the Ohio Environmental Council, who hope for more regulations to be implemented, public policy- and environment-wise, respectively.

David McClough, an economics professor at ONU who organized the event as part of the conference, said the topic is relevant to many and should be a very informative evening for conference members as well as local residents.

“The natural resource is located here. It affects a lot of folks directly who are sitting atop the shale. And it also affects the state directly in terms of public policy,” he said.

What is fracking?

The process, formally called hydraulic fracturing, involves injecting millions of gallons of a water-chemical mixture thousands of feet into the ground to fracture the shale and extract natural gas. The resulting natural gas is mined through wells.

There are two major shale deposits that are deep underground in Ohio: the Utica Shale, which stretches over eastern and central Ohio, and the Marcellus Shale, which primarily sits in eastern side of the state along the Ohio-Pennsylvania and Ohio-West Virginia borders. There’s also a 250-mile pipeline that’s going to be built that will stretch from northeast Ohio to Ontario, carrying the gas from extraction sites to processing facilities in Michigan and Canada. Some worry that could be cause for concern if leaks occurred.

The technology to access this energy through horizontal fracking has been developed over the past few decades. The natural gas extracted could potentially provide energy for hundreds of years while decreasing foreign dependence on energy.

But fracking is a contentious debate, especially because of possible environmental impacts with air, water and land, and public policy issues surrounding the subject. There are also things done with the fracking waste water that worry some geologists and environmentalists.

Fracking has been widely used in Ohio and in other surrounding states with the resource, such as Pennsylvania, but the modern horizontal deep fracking technique was first used in Texas in 1998.

“We want to make sure that people understand that this is a very tightly regulated industry on the federal level, and particularly here in Ohio at the state level,” said Mike Chadsey, of Energy in Depth Ohio, based in Granville.

Possible benefits

The most obvious benefit to the budding Ohio industry is economic.

“You may not have this down the street or in your backyard, but it’s going to benefit you with lower natural gas prices and lower unemployment, no matter where you are in the state of Ohio,” Chadsey said.

It’s not just the drilling industry that could benefit.

“You have a whole bunch of other industries that are going to be able to start growing and expanding as a result of this industry, taking off as the shale continues to be developed. Of course, you got hotels, the hospitality industry and things like that,” said Lawson, of the Buckeye Institute.

But the spin-off industry possibilities go beyond that.

“The Utica Shale has a lot of wet gas, which means that there is basically stuff you can extract from there that’s very important in the chemical engineering industry that produces everything from rubber to plastic,” Lawson said. “So industries like that are also going to benefit.”

Steel mills too, have been hiring to help build the pipeline and provide equipment, he said. But on top of there being money potential for workers, taxpayers could benefit through an extraction tax.

“The potential for Ohio to benefit from the extraction of these natural resources cannot be overstated. The Utica Shale has brought many, many large oil and gas companies to Ohio, and they are requesting permits and setting up wells at a very, very rapid rate. … And right now, Ohio has one of the lowest extraction taxes in the country,” said King, of Innovation Ohio, a nonpartisan public policy think-tank based in Columbus.

She added, “If Ohio taxed the extraction of natural gas at the current rate, we would get about $250 million. If we just went to the rate of Texas, which is very oil and gas friendly, and right in the middle of the pack, we would stand to gain $2.5 billion,” she said. “It’s a game changer.

“We need to make sure Ohioans get their fair share of fracking benefits … and that the oil and gas companies don’t run away with our resources,” she said.

Controversial issue

Controversies over fracking span from environmental to public policy issues.

Although these shale deposits aren’t in western Ohio, that doesn’t mean western Ohioans won’t be affected by the shale gas industry. Injection wells are needed to deposit the fracking waste water that’s created back into the ground, and Shaner, of the Ohio Environmental Council, said western Ohio has been considered for this because of the region’s geology. However, most of the existing injection wells are concentrated in the northern and eastern areas of the state.

“Ohio disposes of waste water — tainted, toxic waste water from drilling operations — by injecting it deep underground. It is laden with brine that has naturally occurring toxins, man-made toxins, even radioactive constituents,” Shaner said.

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, there are nearly 200 injection wells in the state and growing, including one in Auglaize County and one along the border of Hardin County. The fracking byproduct is injected thousands of feet underground, beneath water tables, but Shaner said the problem is that the long-term effects of this process are unknown.

“We don’t have a perfect road map of the underground geology of Ohio. We don’t know where all the faults are. We don’t know what the high-pressure injection of millions of gallons of waste may do to formations that exist underground,” Shaner said. “It is possible that these are ticking time bombs.”

Improperly drilled injection wells have been at fault for supposedly causing earthquakes. Shaner said this specifically happened in Youngstown late last year, when a well was drilled too deep and inadvertently lubricated an unknown fault line.

And while the industry will create thousands of jobs, King said it doesn’t necessarily mean that Ohioans will be the primary beneficiaries.

“One of the things that we were seeing was that a lot of out-of-state workers were being hired, and I think Ohioans would feel better about fracking if jobs were going to Ohioans,” she said. “I think that makes a lot of people concerned about what is the benefit of fracking to us?”

As far as fracking itself goes, there have been reports of residents who live near fracking wells that complain of contaminated well water in Pennsylvania, although oil and gas companies argue that contaminations are unrelated to the fracking process. There is also a lot of water that’s is used during the process, upwards of five million gallons of water for each fracture operation.

“These are very thirsty operations,” Shaner said. “In eastern Ohio, there is a controversy that water will be withdrawn from public lakes.”

There are also land issues as far as whether landowners have mineral rights to their property, what the long-term effects of this practice will do to land between the drilling rigs and the trucks that go in and out of the area. There are air quality issues, too.

The debate

With all the different aspects of the industry, there will be a lot to discuss during Friday’s debate. Panelists will also interact with audience members to address their concerns.

“This part of the state, folks in Lima and Findlay and Ada and Kenton might be interested in knowing what’s going on in this area of natural resources,” McClough said.

The Ohio Association of Economists and Political Scientists, which plays host the panel during its annual meeting, is an organization of economist and political scientists, as well as undergraduate and graduate students from across Ohio who work to produce and disseminate research relating to the state economy and politics.


Let's add up fracking pros, cons
By Shelley Stark
I've tallied up the pros and cons of horizontal hydraulic fracturing. First the pros

• U.S. energy production (However, foreign companies are buying leases. The gas will be sold on the international market to highest bidders.)

• Short-term jobs for a few local people

• Short-term increased customers for local businesses

• Profit for a few land owners; profit for a few mineral rights owners

And now the cons...

• Loss of property values

• Loss of county property tax revenues

• Greatly increased traffic and accidents

• Increased road damage from large trucks

• Increased need to repair roads (with your tax dollars which to do: repair roads or cut school budget?)

• Destruction of the peaceful enjoyment of our home

• Risks to mortgages and property insurance (Banks have refused to issue mortgages on properties where fracking leases have been sold; lenders have claimed breach of contract when leases have been sold; insurance companies have refused to cover land and structures.)

• Loss of viable economic base (loss of tourism; agriculture; tax base lost through property devaluation and people moving away; infrastructure deterioration)

• Poisoned drinking water supplies

• Disease-causing chemicals (93 percent of identified chemicals are dangerous: 25 percent cancer; 37 percent endocrine disruptors; 52 percent neurotoxins)

• Radioactive waste (Ohio currently allows the radioactive, toxic chemical liquid from fracking operations to be sprayed on our roads.)

• Accidental spills and criminal dumping (documented in every state, and Canada, with fracking operations.)

• Earthquakes (Oklahoma, Arkansas, Ohio and West Virginia have recently reported earthquakes linked to fracking operations. Ohio is receiving waste fluids from other states' fracking ops. These are being pumped into Class 2 injection wells, which are NOT rated to receive hazardous waste.)

• Unregulated, minimal oversight (Unlike any other extractive industry with major environmental impacts, horizontal hydro-fracking was exempted from oversight of the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act.)

• Inadequate legal protections for landowners (If you sign a lease with a gas/oil company or if your neighbor does you are entering into a long relationship with a corporation that habitually falsifies information when it believes it will increase its profit to do so.

What are the pros to NOT allowing fracking in our area? We can learn from areas where it has happened. Despite gas/oil corporation propaganda, there is ample evidence of disasters in every state in the U.S. and Canada where fracking operations exist.

We have the opportunity to say "No" to this dangerously unregulated method of gas extraction. In so doing, we will preserve our local economy by preserving the bases of agriculture, education and tourism. Fracking has negatively impacted the property values in any areas where it has occurred.

We have the opportunity to prevent our beautiful home from becoming a "sacrifice zone." Let's be smart and have some foresight. Why be so shortsighted as to sacrifice our home, only so a few people can make a bunch of money, while the rest of us are left holding the bill for the damages?

Yes, we need jobs! Yes, our nation's economy is a mess! But it's not because we don't have enough fracking!

Let us not be distracted by the possible short-term increase in a few jobs, and inflated lease prices of a few landowners. The previous list of pros and cons makes the answer a "no brainer."

Let us demand a "Los Alamos" effort on renewable energy production. Our country put its greatest minds and resources behind the research project at Los Alamos during WWII. That effort produced the atomic bomb and the nuclear industry. Let us learn from the past and refocus our energies toward a better future. The patents and know-how have actually been available for decades for renewable/sustainable energy technology that can power our country safely.

If the exploitation of Appalachia by the extractive industries actually brought the economic benefits the corporations promise, Appalachia would be one of the most affluent, wealthy and economically stable places in America. Let us preserve the stability that has been gained in this part of Ohio through wise stewardship of the land and resources.

The pros and cons speak for themselves. Until it is properly regulated, we must say "No" to fracking. It's the only intelligent, responsible and neighborly choice. It's also the truly patriotic choice, if protecting our homeland is patriotic.

Please educate yourself. The dangers of fracking are well documented. Some excellent starting points: Buckeye Forest Council, www.buckeyeforestcouncil.org, 614-487-9290; NoFrackOhio, www.nofrackohio.com; Ohio Environmental Council, www.theoec.org, 614-487-7510.
Shelley Stark is a local research consultant and editor who has become increasingly concerned by her investigations of horizontal hydraulic fracturing.


Published: March 13, 2013
OPPOSITION to fracking has been considerable, if not unanimous, in the global green community, and in Europe in particular. France and Bulgaria, countries with the largest shale-gas reserves in Europe, have already banned fracking. Protesters are blocking potential drilling sites in Poland and England. Opposition to fracking has entered popular culture with the release of “The Promised Land,” starring Matt Damon. Even the Rolling Stones have weighed in with a reference to fracking in their new single, “Doom and Gloom.”

Times Topic: Natural Gas (Fracking)
Do the facts on fracking support this opposition?

There is no doubt that natural gas extraction does sometimes have negative consequences for the local environment in which it takes place, as does all fossil fuel extraction. And because fracking allows us to put a previously inaccessible reservoir of carbon from beneath our feet into the atmosphere, it also contributes to global climate change.

But as we assess the pros and cons, decisions should be based on existing empirical evidence and fracking should be evaluated relative to other available energy sources.

What exactly is fracking, or more formally hydraulic fracturing?

Many sandstones, limestones and shales far below ground contain natural gas, which was formed as dead organisms in the rock decomposed. This gas is released, and can be captured at the surface for our use, when the rocks in which it is trapped are drilled. To increase the flow of released gas, the rocks can be broken apart, or fractured. Early drillers sometimes detonated small explosions in the wells to increase flow. Starting in the 1940s, oil and gas drilling companies began fracking rock by pumping pressurized water into it.

Approximately one million American wells have been fracked since the 1940s. Most of these are vertical wells that tap into porous sandstone or limestone. Since the 1990s, however, gas companies have been able to harvest the gas still stuck in the original shale source. Fracking shale is accomplished by drilling horizontal wells that extend from their vertical well shafts along thin, horizontal shale layers.

This horizontal drilling has enabled engineers to inject millions of gallons of high-pressure water directly into layers of shale to create the fractures that release the gas. Chemicals added to the water dissolve minerals, kill bacteria that might plug up the well, and insert sand to prop open the fractures.

Most opponents of fracking focus on potential local environmental consequences. Some of these are specific to the new fracking technology, while others apply more generally to natural gas extraction.

The fracking cocktail includes acids, detergents and poisons that are not regulated by federal laws but can be problematic if they seep into drinking water. Fracking since the 1990s has used greater volumes of cocktail-laden water, injected at higher pressures. Methane gas can escape into the environment out of any gas well, creating the real though remote possibility of dangerous explosions. Water from all gas wells often returns to the surface containing extremely low but measurable concentrations of radioactive elements and huge concentrations of salt. This brine can be detrimental if not disposed of properly. Injection of brine into deep wells for disposal has in rare cases triggered small earthquakes.

In addition to these local effects, natural gas extraction has global environmental consequences, because the methane gas that is accessed through extraction and the carbon dioxide released during methane burning are both greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change. New fracking technologies allow for the extraction of more gas, thus contributing more to climate change than previous natural gas extraction.

As politicians in Europe and the United States consider whether, and under what conditions, fracking should be allowed, the experience of Pennsylvania is instructive. Pennsylvania has seen rapid development of the Marcellus shale, a geological formation that could contain nearly 500 trillion cubic feet of gas — enough to power all American homes for 50 years at recent rates of residential use.

Some of the local effects of drilling and fracking have gotten a lot of press but caused few problems, while others are more serious. For example, of the tens of thousands of deep injection wells in use by the energy industry across the United States, only about eight locations have experienced injection-induced earthquakes, most too weak to feel and none causing significant damage.

The Pennsylvania experience with water contamination is also instructive. In Pennsylvania, shale gas is accessed at depths of thousands of feet while drinking water is extracted from depths of only hundreds of feet. Nowhere in the state have fracking compounds injected at depth been shown to contaminate drinking water.

In one study of 200 private water wells in the fracking regions of Pennsylvania, water quality was the same before and soon after drilling in all wells except one. The only surprise from that study was that many of the wells failed drinking water regulations before drilling started. But trucking and storage accidents have spilled fracking fluids and brines, leading to contamination of water and soils that had to be cleaned up. The fact that gas companies do not always disclose the composition of all fracking and drilling compounds makes it difficult to monitor for injected chemicals in streams and groundwater.

Pennsylvania has also seen instances of methane leaking into aquifers in regions where shale-gas drilling is ongoing. Some of this gas is “drift gas” that forms naturally in deposits left behind by the last glaciation. But sometimes methane leaks out of gas wells because, in 1 to 2 percent of the wells, casings are not structurally sound. The casings can be fixed to address these minor leaks, and the risk of such methane leaks could further decrease if casings were designed specifically for each geological location.

The disposal of shale gas brine was initially addressed in Pennsylvania by allowing the industry to use municipal water treatment plants that were not equipped to handle the unhealthy components. Since new regulations in 2011, however, Pennsylvania companies now recycle 90 percent of this briny water by using it to frack more shale.

In sum, the experience of fracking in Pennsylvania has led to industry practices that mitigate the effect of drilling and fracking on the local environment.

And while the natural gas produced by fracking does add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere through leakage during gas extraction and carbon dioxide release during burning, it in fact holds a significant environmental advantage over coal mining. Shale gas emits half the carbon dioxide per unit of energy as does coal, and coal burning also emits metals such as mercury into the atmosphere that eventually settle back into our soils and waters.

Europe is currently increasing its reliance on coal while discouraging or banning fracking. If we are going to get our energy from hydrocarbons, blocking fracking while relying on coal looks like a bad trade-off for the environment.

So, should the United States and Europe encourage fracking or ban it? Short-run economic interests support fracking. In the experience of Pennsylvania, natural gas prices fall and jobs are created both directly in the gas industry and indirectly as regional and national economies benefit from lower energy costs. Europe can benefit from lessons learned in Pennsylvania, minimizing damage to the local environment.

The geopolitical shift that would result from decreasing reliance on oil, and more specifically on Russian oil and gas, is one that European politicians might not want to ignore. And if natural gas displaces coal, then fracking is good not only for the economy but also for the global environment.

But if fracked gas merely displaces efforts to develop cleaner, non-carbon, energy sources without decreasing reliance on coal, the doom and gloom of more rapid global climate change will be realized.

Susan Brantley is distinguished professor of geosciences and director of the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute at Pennsylvania State University, and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Anna Meyendorff is a faculty associate at the International Policy Center of the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, and a manager at Analysis Group.


WASHINGTON -- Last Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced its final research plan to study the effects of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water and its long-term impacts on the environment.

Hydraulic fracturing involves drilling thousands of feet below the earth's surface and pumping millions of gallons of water and chemical additives at high pressure into the well. Because of the United States' large reserves of shale gas, advocates say American energy independence is a real possibility if the industry is given support.

Conversely, environmental activists caution that the potential dangers of the fracking process have not been fully evaluated and may not be worth the risk. Instead, they say, the U.S. should focus on renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and biomass.

The energy potential for shale gas is undeniable. It is among the fastest growing energy sources in the country: In 2000, shale gas represented 1 percent of natural gas supplies in the country. Today, that number is 30 percent and rising.

While there are great risks to the fracking process, many argue there are also a number of potential benefits.

Below is a list of several arguments made by both sides, for and against hydraulic fracturing. Do the risks outweigh the rewards? Is this a practice not worth pursuing? You decide.

PRO: Potential Energy Independence
Estimates by the United States Department of Energy put the number of recoverable barrels of shale gas at around 1.8 trillion. To put that into perspective, Saudi Arabia is estimated to have roughly 2.6 trillion barrels of oil reserves.

Christopher Booker writes for The Telegraph that there are enough world reserves to "keep industrialised civilisation going for hundreds of years"

CON: Water Pollution
A blog post by the Natural Resource Defense Council explains that "Opponents of such regulation [of fracking] claim that hydraulic fracturing has never caused any drinking water contamination. They say this because incidents of drinking water contamination where hydraulic fracturing is considered as a suspected cause have not been sufficiently investigated."

It then goes on to list more than two dozen instances of water pollution to which hydraulic fracking is believed to have contributed.

A new waterless method of fracking has been proposed, but environmentalists are skeptical.

PRO: Burns Cleaner Than Other Fossil Fuels
Researchers at MIT found that replacing coal power plants with natural gas plants could work as part of a plan to reduce greenhouse emissions by more than 50 percent.

CON: Leaks More Emissions Than Coal
Methane is a greenhouse gas and major component of shale's carbon footprint.

Cornell Professor Robert Howarth said about a study he conducted, "Compared to coal, the footprint of shale gas is at least 20 percent greater and perhaps more than twice as great on the 20-year horizon and is comparable when compared over 100 years."

PRO: Jobs
The industry currently employs more than 1.2 million people in the U.S., and the Department of Energy estimates that natural gas resources have increased nearly 65 percent due to fracking, according to a TreeHugger graphic.

Additionally, the gas industry accounts for about $385 billion in direct economic activity in the country, a Nature piece reports.

CON: Hydraulic Fracking Has Been Linked To Earthquakes
Several earthquakes both in the U.S. and abroad have been linked to the hydraulic fracturing process.

One British company, Cuadrilla Resources, admitted in a report that its hydraulic fracturing process well "did trigger a number of minor seismic events."

PRO: Buys Time To Develop Renewable Energy
Former chief of staff to President Clinton and former head of the Center for American Progress John Podesta says natural gas can serve "as a bridge fuel to a 21st century energy economy that relies on efficiency, renewable sources, and low-carbon fossil fuels."

CON: Companies Don't Have To Disclose Chemicals Used In Process
Fracking is exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act of 2005, thus allowing companies to conceal the chemicals used in the process.

CON: Requires Large Amounts Of Water
The fracking process can require around five million gallons of water.

In some cases less than a third of that water is recovered.


by Michael B. McElroy and Xi Lu
January-February 2013
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energy and environment, energy self-sufficiency, fracking, green energy
SUPPLIES OF NATURAL GAS now economically recoverable from shale in the United States could accommodate the country’s domestic demand for natural gas at current levels of consumption for more than a hundred years: an economic and strategic boon, and, at least in the near term, an important stepping-stone toward lower-carbon, greener energy.

But even though natural gas is relatively “clean”—particularly relative to coal burned to generate electricity—the “fracking” process used to produce the new supplies poses significant environmental risks. We must ensure that procedures and policies are in place to minimize potential damage to local and regional air quality and to protect essential water resources. We need to make sure that extraction of the gas (consisting mainly of methane, with small amounts of other gases) from shale and its transport to market does not result in a significant increase in “fugitive” (inadvertent) emissions of methane (CH4)—which is 10 times more powerful as a climate-altering agent, molecule per molecule, than carbon dioxide (CO2, the most abundant greenhouse gas). Further, we will need to recognize from the outset that cheap natural gas may delay the transition to truly carbon-free, sustainable solar- and wind-energy supplies that remain crucial in light of our worsening climate-change crisis.

The Gas Gift
PRODUCTION and consumption of natural gas in the United States were in approximate balance up to 1986. Production then lagged consumption during the following 20 years; the deficit was made up largely by imports from Canada, delivered by pipelines. The situation changed dramatically in 2006 as companies using new drilling technologies moved aggressively to tap the vast supplies of previously inaccessible gas trapped in underground shale deposits. Natural gas extracted from such sources accounted for 10 percent of U.S. production in 2007, and rose to 30 percent of production by 2010—an enormous, swift change in our huge market. There are few signs that the trend is likely to reverse in the near future.

Partly as a result of that surge in supply, domestic natural-gas prices are now lower than at any time in the recent past. The spot price for natural gas traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange hit a record low of $1.82 per million British thermal units (MMBTU) last April 20—down 86 percent from a high of $12.69 in June 2008. Even at recent, somewhat higher prices, natural gas is now significantly cheaper than either diesel fuel or gasoline on an energy-equivalent basis: a little more than one-tenth the wholesale, spot prices of about $3 per gallon for those liquid fuels.

Lower-priced natural gas has had important consequences for the U.S. economy. Approximately one-quarter of primary energy (mainly coal, gas, oil, nuclear, and hydro) consumed in the United States in 2011 was supplied by natural gas. Electricity generation accounted for 31 percent of total natural-gas demand, followed by consumption in the industrial (28 percent), residential (19 percent), and commercial (13 percent) sectors. Natural gas is used as an industrial energy source in manufacturing products ranging from steel and glass to paper and clothing. It is the raw material for fertilizer, paints, plastics, antifreeze, dyes, photographic film, medicines, and explosives. More than half of all commercial establishments and residences are heated using gas, which is widely deployed as well for cooking and as fuel for water heaters, clothes driers, and other household appliances. Consumers have benefited directly from lower gas-utility bills, and industrial customers have benefited by switching fuels—as have chemical and other processors that use gas as a feedstock. Abundant, cheap natural gas has been of general benefit to electric-utility customers as power suppliers have substituted it for coal to fire their generators.

The shift from coal to gas in the electricity sector has also yielded an environmental bonus—a significant reduction in emissions of CO2, because CO2 emissions per unit of electricity generated using coal are more than double those produced using gas. Approximately half of U.S. electricity was produced using coal in 2005, but by last March, coal’s contribution had dropped to an unprecedented low of 34 percent. Meanwhile, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that domestic emissions of CO2 during the first quarter of 2012 fell to the lowest level recorded since 1992. An ancillary benefit of the coal-to-gas switch has been a significant reduction in emissions of sulfur dioxide, the cause of acid rain, because many of the older coal-burning plants selectively idled by the price-induced fuel switch were not equipped to remove this pollutant from their stack gases.

Supply and Demand
A KEY QUESTION is whether the current low price for gas can persist.

Shales in different regions are characterized by variable combinations of hydrocarbons. Some are gas- (methane-) rich, described as “dry.” “Wet” formations yield significant concentrations of condensable heavier hydrocarbons—such as ethane, pentane, and propane—referred to collectively as natural gas liquids (NGLs). Still others—notably the Bakken field in North Dakota—are gas-poor but oil-rich and are being developed primarily to extract that valuable resource. (In fact, only Texas outranks North Dakota now among U.S. oil-producing states.)

The hydrocarbon mix matters, because the break-even price for profitable extraction of natural gas from a dry shale well is estimated at about $5/MMBTU—about one and a half times the spot-market price in October. The bulk of the natural gas produced from shale today is derived from wet sources: marketing of the liquid products (which command higher prices) justifies the investments.

That means that the economic momentum of the shale-gas industry can be sustained for the long term only by decreasing production (ultimately causing prices to adjust—a process that may be under way as drilling diminishes at current prices) or by increasing sales of its product.

Increased use of natural gas for transportation could provide an additional domestic market, taking advantage of the significant price disparity versus gasoline or diesel fuels (as noted above). Doing so would require not only an investment in facilities to produce and deliver compressed natural gas (CNG), which is in limited use now, but also the introduction of vehicles capable of running on this energy source. Buses, taxis, and public vehicles (police cars, for example), suitably equipped, that could be charged at central stations would appear to provide an attractive early marketing opportunity. The benefits of such conversions would include reduced demand for imported oil, improved urban air quality, and a further decrease in CO2 emissions.

An even larger opportunity may lie in exports. Natural-gas prices in Europe and Asia were five to seven times those in the United States during the first half of 2012; Japan is an especially eager consumer, given the wholesale closure of its nuclear-electric generating capacity in the wake of the Fukushima earthquake, tsunami, and power-plant crisis in March 2011. But exports require multibillion-dollar investments in facilities for liquefaction of gas and in the ports through which liquefied natural gas (LNG) can be shipped. Exxon Mobil Corporation, the largest producer of natural gas in the United States, has taken steps to form a $10-billion partnership for LNG exports. If this and other investments proceed, and the prices realized for LNG are high enough to justify further shale-gas drilling, the U.S. economy could benefit from significant energy exports—and the importing countries might also realize environmental benefits. China, where coal is the principal fuel source, could profit in particular: a cleaner source of energy would mean less local pollution from coal (including emissions of particulates, sulfur, mercury, etc.). And the global environment would benefit overall from a reduction in—or lessened growth of—CO2 emissions. (China became the leading source of such emissions in 2006.)

To date, then, we can say conclusively that a shift to natural gas from coal has changed the U.S. energy system in ways that yield economic and environmental gains. But there are serious environmental challenges associated with freeing that gas from the shale and distributing it to consumers.

A Fracking Primer
THE FIRST STEP in extracting gas from shale involves drilling vertically to reach the shale layer, typically a kilometer or more below the surface. Drilling then continues horizontally, extending a kilometer or more from the vertical shaft, and the vertical and horizontal components of the well are lined with steel casing, cemented in place. The horizontal extension of the casing is then perforated, using explosives; thereafter, water, carrying sand and proprietary chemicals, is injected into the well at high pressure. The water encounters the shale through the perforations, generating a series of small fractures in the rock (hence the nickname, “fracking”); the sand in the water keeps the cracks open, while the chemicals enhance release of gas from the shale. The injected water flows back up to the surface when the pressure in the well is released following completion of the fracking procedure. Then the well starts to produce natural gas.

As many as 25 fracture stages (per horizontal leg) may be involved in preparing a single site for production, each requiring injection of more than 400,000 gallons of water—a possible total of more than 10 million gallons before the well is fully operational. A portion of the injected water flows back to the surface, heavily contaminated with the fracking chemicals and others it has absorbed from the shale. Depending on the local geology, this “return water” may also include radioactive elements.

Drillers developing a well must take exceptional care to minimize contact between the wellbore and the surrounding aquifer—often the source of nearby residents’ fresh water. Serious problems have arisen in the past from failures to isolate the drilling liquids, including cases where well water used for drinking became so contaminated that human and animal health was threatened. It is essential that monitoring be in place to ensure the continuing integrity of the seal isolating the well from the aquifer even after the well has been fully exploited and abandoned.

A fraction of the contaminated water that returns to the surface is recycled and reinjected into the well to facilitate the next phase of the fracking process. But a larger proportion is stored temporarily in lined ponds on site for eventual transfer (most commonly by truck) to conventional water-treatment facilities. Care must be exercised to protect groundwater from spillage and to guard against potential leakage from the ponds. Moreover, the facilities to which the contaminated water is eventually transferred may be ill-prepared to deal with the challenges posed by its unusual chemical composition; for instance, conventional treatment facilities are not equipped to deal with radioactive materials—which under the circumstances could be transferred to the water bodies receiving the treated effluent.

Finally, careless drilling and production from fracked wells can result in fugitive emissions of methane from the shale below. Such inadvertent releases of methane could more than offset the advantages otherwise realized by reducing emissions of CO2 through substituting natural gas for other fuels.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently proposed steps to ensure responsible extraction of gas from shale. If these procedures are implemented, the IEA concluded that the increase in production costs should be relatively modest—7 percent or less—and that the integrity of the environment could be protected. The IEA conclusions appear overly optimistic in the U.S. context: the costs for design and implementation of sensible regulations for the domestic shale-gas industry are likely to be significantly greater—but still tolerable. The problems are neither technical nor economic, but essentially political.

Beyond Shale Gas: Carbon-Free Energy
A RECENT STUDY by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) suggests that with suitably targeted investments, emissions of CO2 from the U.S. power sector could be reduced by as much as 80 percent by 2050. The dominant source of electricity as envisaged in this analysis would come from a combination of wind and solar, with gas-fired plants called on to provide backup whenever the intrinsically variable source of power from wind and solar might not be sufficient to meet peak demand (on a hot summer evening, for example). Coal would be replaced initially by gas, continuing the trend observed over the past several years. Successful implementation of this strategy will depend critically, however, on future trends in relative prices for electricity generated using coal, gas, wind, and solar.

The break-even price for production of electricity using a modern coal-fired plant is about 5.9 cents per kilowatt hour. This means that coal cannot compete economically with gas under conditions where gas prices are lower than about $5/MMBTU, our estimate of the break-even price for production of gas from a dry well (at $5/MMBTU, the price for production of electricity from gas would be about the same as that from coal). Gas replaces coal as the fuel of choice in this case.

The cost for production of electricity using wind is about 8.0 cents per kilowatt hour. Wind therefore can compete with $5/MMBTU gas only if it can continue to benefit from the existing production tax credit (PTC), currently 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour. If gas prices were to rise above $8.3/MMBTU, wind would be competitive even in the absence of the PTC. The problem in this case is that generation of power from coal would be cheaper than that from either gas or wind.

Thus free-market forces alone may not be sufficient to grease the path to a low-carbon future. Should gas prices rise above $5/MMBTU, a carbon tax may be required to ensure a continuing competitive edge for gas relative to coal. Similarly, the PTC subsidy or similar initiatives—such as quotas for minimum contents of renewable energy in specific power markets (often on a state-by-state basis)—may be needed to ensure the continuing viability of wind and solar should gas prices persist below about $8.3/MMBTU. If we are to navigate safely and successfully to the future envisaged by the NREL, gas prices must be low enough to disenfranchise coal but not so low as to make it impossible for renewab
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