published Sunday, August 4th, 2013

Obama’s support for fracking should be met with caution

When President Barack Obama spoke here Tuesday, one of the items he touted as an accomplishment and also as a job-creator from his “fix it” plan was energy.

The topic didn’t get much attention in headlines or elsewhere because a proposed tax cut and the president himself and Air Force One were all far sexier.

But now that the jets have cooled, President Obama’s energy points bear a bit more attention.

Some of the 7.2 million new jobs created in the country over the last 40 months were in energy, he said, though he didn’t break down how many. He did say, “We produce more renewable energy than ever, and more natural gas than anyone.”

Natural gas is a resource that is getting increasing attention in the Southeast and the Appalachians as a bridge fuel from dirty coal to cleaner and alternative energies. But it’s also the fuel that we get with hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

The trouble is that fracking — a method of mining natural gas by injecting chemicals, water and nitrous oxide into shale to cause it to fracture and release trapped gas — is not exactly clean. In fact, it can be anything but clean.

Nonetheless, the country — and the president — are clamoring for less dependence on foreign oil, and demand is up for natural gas because it’s cheaper, at least temporarily.

That puts this region on the hot seat because the newest, brightest shale field sits just below our Appalachian Mountains and puts East Tennessee, North Georgia and Northeast Alabama front and center as a new Promised Land. Early this year, the University of Tennessee won a controversial nod from the Tennessee Building Commission to seek bids on drilling in UT’s 8,636-acre Cumberland Forest, which is public property.

Later in his Tuesday speech here, the president talked again about energy, tagging it as No. 3 on his “fix it” list.

“We’ll keep creating good jobs in wind, solar, and natural gas that are reducing energy costs, reducing dangerous carbon pollution, and reducing our dependence on foreign oil,” he said.

“Now is not the time to gut the investments in American technology that have brought us to this point — now is the time to double down on renewables, and biofuels, and electric vehicles, and the research that will shift our cars and trucks off oil for good,” he continued.

“And since the cheaper cost of natural gas is a huge boost to our businesses, we should develop even more, as long as we do it in a way that protects our air and water for our children and future generations,” he said.

That last little phrase is the key: as long as we do it in a way that protects our air and water.

Obama did pointedly say the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is not the answer, and he also said developing more natural gas must be done safely. And yes, we do have the technology.

The question is whether we have the will — the political will in the U.S. Congress and in the halls of environmental regulatory offices.

Certainly in Tennessee we don’t have a particularly good track record of having the political will “to do it in a way” that is protective.

Nor do we seem to have that at EPA — at least not where fracking is concerned.

The Tennessee Joint Government Operations Committee several weeks ago approved new fracking rules that were drafted by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

Those rules essentially offer no rules. They don’t even require drillers to test wells or notify neighbors unless they pump in more than 200,000 gallons of water, and in East Tennessee the geology is so fragile that normally less than 200,000 gallons will be used per well. Nitrogen gas laced with chemicals will be used instead.

And just what are the chemicals in fracking water or fracking gas?

The drilling companies don’t have to tell us, but water quality data from the test wells in other regions have confirmed high levels of carcinogenic chemicals, such as benzene (a constituent of diesel fuel, used in the fracking fluid, as well as a chemical called 2 Butoxyethanol, known to be used in fracking fluid).

Federal rules don’t help either. In 2005, Congress approved legislation that exempts fracking from provisions of the Safe Water Drinking Act and the Clean Air Act. This exemption has been dubbed the “Halliburton Loophole.”

On Tuesday, after the president’s speech, the Sierra Club issued a statement from its Executive Director Michael Brune commending the president’s focus on creating jobs with the development of clean energy innovation and manufacturing, where every dollar invested creates three times as many jobs as a dollar spent on oil or gas. But Brune added a caution about fracking.

“President Obama’s comments over the last few days also make it clear that he knows Keystone XL is a bad deal for America,” Brune said. “We urge him to recognize that a reliance on dirty natural gas poses many of the same threats.”

Everyone wants clean, safe water and air, and almost everyone seems interested in America’s energy independence.

So far, no one has found either the way or the will for ensuring both.

We cannot take our eyes off this mark. Our region, our mountains and our water are too important.

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conservative said...

Run for lives! Run for your lives!

Da Frackingstein monstor is goin to git you!

Where is nucanuck, the man who admits to consuming 2.3 earths! Why isn't he here wringing his hands over the impending doom?

August 4, 2013 at 7:15 a.m.
nucanuck said...

Exxon recently sold off their US fracking interests. Shell Oil just announced a $4.5 billion write-down on their fracking activities in the US and indicated that they would be scaling back.

The US has huge reserves of shale deposits, but most of it is not profitable to retrieve because of the high costs relative to returns at present pricing.

Companies may not care much about environmental degradation, but they sure care about earnings degradation.

The US news about a great abundance of fossil based deposits does not mean that we can afford to pay what it may cost to extract them.

Peak affordable energy has arrived and will retard growth with a net result that we will continue to scale back our energy usage as we have over the last few years.

Growth is such a twentieth century concept.

And the ethically disabled, such as con-man, will continue to fail to take personal responsibility for their part in the stewardship for Mother Earth.

August 5, 2013 at 12:57 a.m.
conservative said...

"And just what are the chemicals in fracking water or fracking gas?"

It is the same old worn out method of operation - use words such as chemicals, toxins, pollutants to frighten the ignorant and frail of mind.

Did you know that the chemical chlorine is in your drinking water and is fact deliberately put there for good health reasons?

I hate to see people exploited and taken advantage of by Liberals.

August 5, 2013 at 6:20 a.m.
conservative said...

Hey nucanuck,

What is the name of that "Mother Earth" god you worship?

You claim to be consuming 2.3 earths don't you see a contradiction in what you practice and what you preach?

August 5, 2013 at 8:51 a.m.
librul said...

Hey, C-man, if chlorine is in your drinking water then your intelligence deficit can be easily explained.

I think you meant flouride, no? Chlorine is put in swimming pools to kill e-coli and mask the smell of urine but nobody I know wants to swallow any of it on purpose.

August 5, 2013 at 10:39 a.m.
conservative said...

See what I mean about Liberals exploiting people?

August 5, 2013 at 10:47 a.m.
limric said...

C’mon Conservative, this is a no brainer.

The chemical and fossil fuel companies, who have a well-deserved reputation of poisoning everything will never admit anything. I’ll try to explain as simply as I can Conservative.

When you pump toxic chemicals into deep groundwater systems there WILL be movement of these chemicals with the water. Deep ground water migrates at varying rates. Some rates, depending on geology and environments, range from an inch +or- per year to 10 ft. per year. Now drill through the surrounding substrate and hydraulically fracture it. You can bet that these flow rates will accelerate. To sum it up, people and communities are broke and the fossil fuel industry is exploiting this and is willing to poison future generations as long as they get theirs now. It ain’t nothing new though. Same old game, same old outcome.

Hydraulic fracturing chemicals with 10 or more health effects.

• 2,2',2"-Nitrilotriethanol • 2-Ethylhexanol • 5-Chloro-2-methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one • Acetic acid • Acrolein • Acrylamide (2-propenamide) • Acrylic acid • Ammonia • Ammonium chloride • Ammonium nitrate • Aniline • Benzyl chloride • Boric acid • Cadmium • Calcium hypochlorite • Chlorine • Chlorine dioxide • Dibromoacetonitrile 1 • Diesel 2 • Diethanolamine • Diethylenetriamine • Dimethyl formamide • Epidian • Ethanol (acetylenic alcohol) • Ethyl mercaptan • Ethylbenzene • Ethylene glycol • Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether (2-BE) • Ethylene oxide • Ferrous sulfate • Formaldehyde • Formic acid • Fuel oil #2 • Glutaraldehyde • Glyoxal • Hydrodesulfurized kerosene • Hydrogen sulfide • Iron • Isobutyl alcohol (2-methyl-1-propanol) • Isopropanol (propan-2-ol) • Kerosene • Light naphthenic distillates, hydrotreated • Mercaptoacidic acid • Methanol • Methylene bis(thiocyanate) • Monoethanolamine • NaHCO3 • Naphtha, petroleum medium aliphatic • Naphthalene • Natural gas condensates • Nickel sulfate • Paraformaldehyde • Petroleum distillate naptha • Petroleum distillate/ naphtha • Phosphonium, tetrakis(hydroxymethyl)-sulfate • Propane-1,2-diol • Sodium bromate • Sodium chlorite (chlorous acid, sodium salt) • Sodium hypochlorite • Sodium nitrate • Sodium nitrite • Sodium sulfite • Styrene • Sulfur dioxide • Sulfuric acid • Tetrahydro-3,5-dimethyl-2H-1,3,5-thiadiazine-2-thione (Dazomet) • Titanium dioxide • Tributyl phosphate • Triethylene glycol • Urea • Xylene

Still think it’s as safe as the relatively benign amounts of Chlorine Conservative?

August 5, 2013 at 11:08 a.m.
librul said...

Oh good grief - C-man is gag right. I've been drinking refreshing well water for 40 years and I'd forgotten that municipal water treatment depends, in part, on chlorination and how relieved I was to not have to depend on it. The only difference in pool water and municipal water is the concentration. And, oddly, I still have good teeth despite the lack of flouride in my aquatic diet.

But Limric has the upper hand on this one. When and if any of the additives mentioned above appear in my water supply, there will be hell to pay.

August 5, 2013 at 11:37 a.m.
limric said...


"When and if any of the additives mentioned above appear in my water supply, there will be hell to pay."

Umm yea - sure. Good luck with that.

The MOD for gas exploration companies (Halliburton is a fine example)is: A) Deny any contamination issues are related to their operations. B) Make you prove otherwise. Even if you do prove it, they'll have moved on to another location.

Contact the Tenn. Dept of Environment & Conservation? The US EPA? Ha! Check the regs. - oil & gas companies are EXEMPT from both the Clean Water & Clean Air Acts.

They have become the Energy Protection Agency.

Thanks Mr Cheney. For all you've done!

August 5, 2013 at 12:16 p.m.
conservative said...

In one corner we have a leftist/Liberal/Demoncrat from the TFP needlessly worrying about fracking and stating "Everyone wants clean, safe water and air, and almost everyone seems interested in America’s energy independence.So far, no one has found either the way or the will for ensuring both."

In the other corner we have a leftist/Liberal/Demoncrat named Ken Salazar(Interior Secretary for Owebama) testifying before Congress stating "hydraulic fracturing has been done safely hundreds of thousands of times" and warned lawmakers against anti-fracking "hysteria."

Can a divided Liberal/Socialist/Demoncrat house stand?

August 5, 2013 at 12:49 p.m.
limric said...

Which one of the ” leftist/Liberal/Demoncrats” do you hate more?

Dealing with the reality of hydraulic Frackings inherent pollution by saying, ”I hate to see people exploited and taken advantage of by Liberals” is nothing more than an abject lesson in willful ignorance.

By the way, I know that you are of the ‘Drill Here – Drill Now’ persuasion, and as such consider drilling her & now ‘our’ resources. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s owned and sold by the company that extracts it. It’s not ‘OURS!’

Also. It was DICK Cheney and his secret ‘Energy Task Force’ that somehow managed to exempt oil and gas companies from the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. I don’t think he was a liberal exploiting and taking advantage of people.

He was/is – wait for it – a Conservative!

August 5, 2013 at 1:11 p.m.
conservative said...

If you are on of those who insist on being scared of the water please buy your water from the following companies and these brands:

Walmart, Costco, Walgreens, CVS, Target, Kmart, Dasani, Aquafini, Evian, Nestle, Crystal Springs, Mountain Valley.

I don't have monetary interest in all these or even some that I have not mentioned for I know some Liberals would not buy the brands that I recommend.

No, I don't feel that I am exploiting the ignorant and frail of mind for they choose to be exploited and I am not the one scaring them off water.

August 5, 2013 at 1:45 p.m.
conservative said...

The fracking hysteria by the kooks/Liberals/Socialist/Demoncrats will be short lived when people find out that fracturing has been going on for around sixty years and over 1 MILLION fracturing jobs have been done on oil and gas wells in the U.S. alone and over 2 1/2 MILLION worldwide!

August 5, 2013 at 4:17 p.m.
RShultz210 said...

It is indeed hysteria. For the quite long period of time this process has been used, I have searched for, and been unable to find, any evidence that proves conclusively that anyone has died from any of the compounds used in hydraulic fracturing. And I would be willing to bet real money that if you did a thorough analysis on the fluid used, that you would find that concentrations of these "horrible","terrible" contaminants, (liberal language, not my own)are down in the parts per million range and are not enough to cause real harm. I am neither a liberal nor a conservative, I am a rational anarchist, so I don't have a political dog in this fight. I'm sure someone will call me a crackpot or something else derogatory, but I really don't care because I know it will come from those who don't understand what an anarchist really is or what we really believe, and have probably never set foot in a chemistry, physics, or political philosophy class. And anyone who has studied any significant amount of geology, which I HAVE, will tell you that anyone who uses untreated well water is going to have from time to time a certain amount of methane in their water simply because there significant amounts of it in or around some aquifers, and yes you'll get bubbles of it in your water and you can get them to ignite with a butane lighter. Big deal. It does NOT mean there is any real danger. It's not soluable in water and if you let it set for a while, or run it through a cheap cartridge filter you won't have problems...geez...

August 5, 2013 at 5:37 p.m.
conservative said...

"Why such hysteria over fracking?"

"Studies have shown repeatedly that fracking is fundamentally safe. It creates jobs and cuts dependence on foreign oil. So why is there still such backlash?"

August 5, 2013 at 5:55 p.m.
chet123 said...




August 5, 2013 at 6:32 p.m.
nucanuck said...

I repeat, the danger to the fracking industry is cost effectiveness. The rapid depletion rates combined with the high cost of drilling/extraction put the energy return on energy invested at such a low ratio that many players are getting burned. If the profits aren't there the oil/gas will remain in the ground.

US fracked gas is almost all unprofitable at current gas prices. Fracked oil is marginal.

Much higher prices will be necessary if the industry is to thrive.

The environmental aspects of fracking will be examined much more closely when we have the first major environmental mishap.

Remember how safe nuclear power is/was? Fukushima is now at the point of being out-of-control. Earth changing amounts of radiation are near the point of catastrophic release and neither Tepco nor the Japanese government have a clue how to prevent it. Only today have the Japanese admitted that it has become an emergency.

Our energy appetite is our own worst enemy.

August 5, 2013 at 6:49 p.m.
conservative said...

You know it's over when even the EPA is in favor of fracking:

"As far back as 1995, the Environmental Protection Agency studied whether hydraulic fracturing contaminated drinking water. The EPA studied a site in Alabama at the request of environmentalists and found "no evidence" of "any contamination or endangerment of underground sources of drinking water."'

"In 2004, the agency conducted a broader study and also found fracking "poses little or no threat" to water supplies."

"In 2009, another study from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Ground Water Protection Council — an interstate body of environmental regulators — concluded that fracking is a "safe and effective" technology for producing energy from deep geological formations like California's Monterey Shale."

August 5, 2013 at 7:59 p.m.
conservative said...

What are kooks to do when even such nuts as Lisa Jackson support fracking?

"Let's start with a simple, verifiable fact: In its 60-plus year history, there has been no generally accepted peer reviewed scientific study demonstrating negative impacts of fracking on water supplies. That's zero, zip, nada. EPA administrator Lisa Jackson — hardly a fossil fuel advocate — told Congress just last year that there have been "no proven cases where the fracking process itself has affected water."'

August 5, 2013 at 8:07 p.m.
nucanuck said...

The EPA has become an integral part of the corporate-government alliance...that is the very definition of fascism and that is now how things work. Their watchdog role is only a memory.

August 5, 2013 at 9:10 p.m.
nucanuck said...
August 5, 2013 at 10:07 p.m.
jjmez said...

According to Live Science . com

It remains unclear why some injection wells set off earthquakes whereas others do not. To find out, seismologist Cliff Frohlich at the University of Texas at Austin analyzed seismic activity in the Barnett Shale of northern Texas between November 2009 and September 2011 and compared the properties of injection wells located near quake epicenters. He relied on mobile seismometers deployed as part of the EarthScope USArray program over an approximately 23,000-square-mile (60,000 square kilometer) area.

Frohlich identified the epicenters for 67 earthquakes — more than eight times as many as reported by the National Earthquake Information Center — with magnitudes of 3.0 or less. Most were located within a few miles of one or more injection wells, suggesting injection-triggered quakes might be more common than thought.

"We found a lot of events that weren't getting reported," Frohlich told LiveScience.

A third of the quakes clustered into eight geographic regions. All of the wells nearest the epicenters within these areas reported high rates of injection exceeding 150,000 barrels (17.6 million liters) of water per month.

Still, Frohlich noted the Barnett Shale hosts more than 100 wells with similar injection rates that experienced no nearby earthquakes during the time he studied them. He suggests that fluid injection may trigger earthquakes only if fluids reach and relieve friction on a nearby fault.

August 5, 2013 at 10:40 p.m.
conservative said...

Liberals constantly mislead the ignorant and frail of mind by exploiting their ignorance. For instance they use words like toxic,chemicals,toxins and pollutants in their opposition to many foods and our tap water.

Here is one of scores of websites that exploit unsuspecting people and an excerpt of their gloom and doom:

" Don Colbert, M.D. discovered there are over 3,000 chemicals ...and 10,000 solvents, emulsifiers and preservatives in our food ...yes there are toxins in food ...they are there alright and mostly because someone put them there"

Yes, toxins are everywhere in our food and water. However, it is not the toxin that harms or kills you but the DOSE of the toxin!

Our food and water supply has always contain toxins but in safe quantities.

NEWS FLASH!! You have been ingesting toxins all of your life!

August 6, 2013 at 11:48 a.m.
fairmon said...

Regulate as needed but get on with the friggin fracking.

August 6, 2013 at 7:52 p.m.
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