Friday, March 2, 2012
Rolling Stone Magazine Sadly Regurgitates NY Times Greatest Gas "Hits"
Jeff Goodell, the author of "The Big Fracking Bubble: The Scam Behind the Gas Boom," should split his pay with the NYT gas reporter, because Goodell regurgitates all the NYT's greatest gas hits, including ones that the NYT Public Editor found to be misleading or false. Goodell even uses many of the NYT reporter's characters--Art Berman, Deborah Rogers, and Anthony Ingrafea--to voice his narrative.
So the reader of Goodell's piece in the March 15, 2012 Rolling Stone is treated once more to the narrative that shale gas drilling is a "ponzi scheme" that has inflated a "bubble" that will crash but, before it does, "fracking" is polluting Pennsylvania's water with radionuclides, where there is little regulation.
Of course, Goodell does not tell his readers about radionuclide test results or that Pennsylvania issued 1200 violations to the industry in 2010 and 1100 in 2011, many more than any other state in the country, according to the recent study by the University of Texas.
The only new twist in the Goodell piece is that he tells readers that Chesapeake Energy and its Chief Executive, Aubrey Mclendon, "dominates America's supply of natural gas" the same way the Tea Party financing Koch brothers dominate pipelines and refineries.
Normally a company that dominates a market manages to avoid a price collapse of its product. Chesapeake Energy strangely has used its supposed dominance of America's supply of natural gas to drive the price of natural gas down from $13 to $2.50 for a thousand cubic feet. In Pennsylvania alone, more than 60 companies are producing gas so perhaps Goodell means that Chesapeake Energy dominates the politics of shale gas.
Indeed, by using right from the start the words "dominate" and "right wing billionaire," comparing McClendon to the Koch Brothers, invoking Tea Party as well as the notorious Swift Boat attacks on Senator Kerry's Vietnam military service, Goodell begins with a political horror show for Blue America. He is telling his Blue America readers that Red America is controlling natural gas and to be on guard or, better still, very scared. The piece is more a political scream than a serious energy article, but it will be lapped up by many.
After his political warning to the Northeast and, as the nutty, dangerous Arizona Sheriff Arpaio and Rick Perry endorser would say, to the followers of the Kenyan, Muslim, Socialist occupying the presidency, Goodell is back to the NYT's greatest gas and fracking hits. Ponzi scheme?
America produced a record amount of natural gas in 2011 and, thanks to shale gas, is the biggest natural gas producer in the world. Shale gas production has now been booming for 5 years and provides 30% of America's world-leading natural gas suply. The truly enormous actual production numbers and the collapsed price of gas, despite rising demand for gas, destroy the credibility of the ponzi scheme smear, even without diving into the reserve numbers.
Not satisfied with the ponzi scheme lie, Goodell hurls another rhetorical bomb by charging the industry is a "bubble." Of course after the "internet bubble" and then the "housing bubble" that nearly created a depression,"bubble" is an explosive, fearful word. It is also a strange one to use here, because the price of gas is not inflating but has been driven down by huge new production. Consumers have saved about $1,000 per year in lower heating bills and electricity bills. These savings are great for all consumers but protect the health and safety of about 25% of Americans, who have difficulty affording heat for their homes, as they have incomes that don't allow purchases of Rolling Stones Magazine.
After a dose of ponzi and bubble, we got to have some radiation to scare us all. While raising one more time the Pennsylvania drinking water radiation scare, Goodell of course does not report the results of massive testing for radionuclides done by drinking water suppliers of both water in streams and water coming out of taps. The results are incovenient to the drama.
There is no radionuclide pollution of drinking water in Pennsylvania. Zero. None. See the tests results that have been documented in numerous posts in this blog. But that truth will never catch up to the lie cleverly spread and repeated.
Just about the only part of the Goodell piece that has some redeeming quality is when it highlights methane migration from poor drilling as a real problem. It is, and too many companies in the industry lawyer-up and fight victims of gas migration, as opposed to fixing the problem and working to reduce the incidence. But even here Goodell is manipulative.
Gas migration results from mistakes in gas drilling and not in the hydraulic fracturing or fracking phase. With the important possible exception of Pavillion Wyoming, there is not one case of fracking fluids, when sent down the well, returning from depth to contaminate an aquifer.
The Duke University study of water wells in Pennsylvania that Goodell cites in fact found no fracking fluids had contaminated the water wells tested but methane had. It made two basic findings: frack fluids are not contaminating water wells but methane was found at high rates.
Goodell, however, repeats the methane contamination finding of the Duke study, without telling his readers that Duke found no frack fluids in the water wells.
Goodell ends the piece by saying, without any basis, that using less gas does not mean using more coal. This assertion is false. Counting corn ethanol and big hydro, renewable energy provides about 11% of America's total energy, more than nuclear power. Wind and solar are growing fast and costs are declining, but they provide less than 2% of our total energy.
Approximately 80% of our total energy comes from oil, natural gas, and coal. There is no way that renewables can replace that 80% tomorrow or in the next 10 years. The most aggressive renewable energy state is California, and it will get 33% of its electricity (not total energy) from renewables by 2020, with about 50% of its electricity coming from natural gas at that point.
When big coal plants close, as they are doing in record numbers, they are being replaced substantially by gas, with renewables also playing a role. Yet, until energy storage breakthroughs occur, intermittent wind and solar can make important contributions but cannot replace by themselves baseload coal plants. Only gas or nuclear plants can take the place of coal plants that now run night and day.
In 2005, prior to the shale gas boom, America stood ready to build 150 new coal plants. Most of those proposed new coal plants have not been built and now old coal plants are closing. Low-priced natural gas, more than anything else, stopped another wave of big coal plants and is now making old, inefficient coal plants close. Pretending otherwise may comfort Goodell but is not real.