CO2 Emissions

Published on July 3rd, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan


Josh Fox Talks Gasland 2, Natural Gas Fracking, Methane Leakage, & More On The Daily Show (VIDEOS)

July 3rd, 2013 by  

Below is a wonderful interview with Josh Fox on The Daily Show. It’s split into 3 parts. I recommend watching all of them. Under each one are some key quotations I think are worth noting.

Methane / Natural Gas Leakage Makes Natural Gas Worse Than Coal

“They say, ‘we burn cleaner than coal’ — and that’s true, 50% cleaner. But methane is 105 time — methane, natural gas — 105 times more potent in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, and they’re leaking huge clouds of methane off these well sites, it’s leaking in the distribution systems…”

“… and any more than 1% leakage means that natural gas development is worse than coal for the climate.”

“[We’re seeing] 7 to 17 percent leakage in the field. That means it’s worse than coal.”

“Transitional Fuel”

“We’re told two things about natural gas and fracking natural gas, and that is that, one, it’s a transitional fuel,… which is kind of the language of a drug addict…. ‘It’s a recreational fuel.’ And secondly that this gives us energy independence… it’s hard to throw that needle when you are exporting natural gas because you can get more money for it, I don’t know, elsewhere.”

“What is this? It’s not energy independence. This is the classic exploitation model that has been done in the developing world for 100 years. Go in, exploit a place, toxify it, cause human rights violations, civil rights violations for the population there, and then sell the product overseas and say goodbye. ‘It’s all about our profits.’ These are multinational corporations — a Canadian company, Royal Dutch Shell, BP…. These are foreign multinationals, that are coming in, and they would exploit Americans. And why isn’t our government standing up for them?”

“We saw the science of each one of those [EPA] investigations come back, yes, contamination has happened from the gas industry.”

Back To Leakage

“Society of Petroleum Engineers says 35% of the wells in the world are leaking right now. 35% of 1.8 million oil & gas wells are leaking and, uh oh, we don’t know how to fix the problem.”

Aside from the above quotations, there’s a lot of good (and funny) stuff in the interview above that I think are worth spending some time on. Enjoy! And share with your friends! 😀

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is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • novaks47

    He does realize that methane can and does leak naturally, right? Heck, it happens to those of us with well water, and it’s more common than you’d think. I seriously doubt a bit of leakage from drilling/fracking is of any great concern. I also doubt that the gas/oil companies would even want that stuff leaking out in the first place, as that’s effectively money that they’re losing! I’m also still waiting for hard evidence of any of this affecting people, especially the whole “human rights violations, civil rights violations” nonsense. Pure propaganda at it’s finest.

  • Bob_Wallace

    If we did a 1:1 exchange of natural gas for coal and if we allow the NG industry to leak methane at the rate is now leaked then NG would be worse than coal.

    Please note the two “if”s.

    Dealing with the second “if” first, it may not be possible to stop all leakage, especially during drilling/fracking. We can eliminate most of the transportation/distribution leakage. We need to eliminate what we can and honestly measure what we can’t.

    When we produce electricity with NG about half as much CO2 is produced as generating the same amount of electricity with coal. If we can contain leaks then a 100% NG grid would be less environmentally damaging than a 100% coal grid.

    (I’m not dealing with ground water contamination here. I don’t know how to measure fracking problems against mountain top removal, open pit mining and mountains of coal ash.)

    Now, the first “if”. Natural gas generation is dispatchable. Coal is not dispatchable.

    If we started with a 100% NG and installed some wind and solar then it would be feasible to turn off the NG generation when the wind blew and when the Sun shone. Can’t do that with coal. Can’t turn those coal plants off for an hour or a few hours and then bring them back up fast enough to keep the grid operating. Coal and wind/solar do not work together.

    So, where does this get us?

    Let’s assume we can get the methane leaks controlled enough so that the lower CO2 emissions of NG plus the methane leaks roughly match the higher CO2 emission of coal. Natural gas, no better and no worse than coal.

    If we take a MW of coal generation off the grid and replace it with a MW of NG generation then we can start whittling down on the amount of NG that we actually use. We can add 0.2 MW of solar and 0.4 MW of wind and now we’re burning 0.4 MW of NG. That brings the GHG emissions for a MW of electricity to 40% of a MW of coal.

    If that MW comes from coal, we can’t turn it off when the wind blows or Sun shines. It can’t be turned back on quickly. The grid goes black.

    It seems to me that natural gas, used wisely, is a much better option than coal.

    And what would be even better is to put a rush on to get 20% solar, 40% wind, 20% hydro/geothermal/tidal/biomass/biogas, 20% storage installed so that we can fade natural gas to zero ASAP. (Pick you personal favorite set of percentages.)

    • Ivor O’Connor

      If we did a 1:1 exchange of natural gas for coal and if we allow the NG industry to leak methane at the rate is now leaked then NG would be worse than coal.
      Please note the two “if”s.

      It seems to me that natural gas, used wisely, is a much better option than coal.

      You say the above Bob but there are some big “if’s” that I feel need more research before I would go on record saying NG is a much better option.

      • Bob_Wallace

        I wouldn’t say that NG is a ‘much’ better option.

        All I’m saying is that if we can get the leak rate down then we can use NG as a fill-in for renewables while we figure out adequate storage solutions.

        I think something we need to consider is while methane is a much stronger greenhouse gas than is CO2, it stays in the atmosphere many fewer years. It has more of an immediate effect, but CO2 has a longer lasting impact.

        The issue is a lot more complex than what is presented in this video.

        Consider: 20% solar, 50% wind, 10% hydro/geothermal/biomass, 20% natural gas vs. 100% coal.

        • Ivor O’Connor

          I’m hoping it becomes a major issue and is looked at very closely from all angles until we are pretty sure we know how bad it is.

  • globi

    I wouldn’t necessarily point out that coal is cleaner than natural gas, given the fact that the US has huge wind and PV resources which can be developed very quickly.
    Bavaria already gets more than 10% of its electricity from PV and has less sun than the US.
    Denmark already gets more than 30% of its electricity from Wind and has less Wind than the US.

  • ThomasGerke

    The grassroot resistance to corporate overreach by the oil & gas industry is very similar to what got the anti-nuclear movement started in Germany back in the 1970s.

    Total disrespect for public concerns & democratic participation, while laws & regulation were basicly crafted by the energy industry and governments acted as their fullfilllers of industry wishes. A nasty “little” energy-industrial complex and the police was sent to break opposition by force if “neccessary”.

    • Yes, that does sound familiar… 😀

      • ThomasGerke

        Wonder if anti-shalegas folk will end up being branded as terror sympathizers and/or nazis. 😉

        That might be too retro though.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    Every time CO2 is mentioned we also need to mention Methane. However we need to verify this information is correct. It needs fact checking. We don’t want to blindly run from an ugly monster called Coal into an even uglier monster called Methane. (Why does this remind me of our two party system?)

  • Others

    This is just the mess from clean burning Methane. The Shale Oil and the Sands Oil are even more messy and leave a tarred landscape where ever its drilled.

    Now you understand why nuclear energy is very important. 1 Company is developing thorium based reactor which is lot more safer.

    Without using nuclear in addition to Renewable, we can never reduce fossil fuel consumption.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Obviously the people who own nuclear plants don’t agree with you.

      They aren’t spending their money building new ones. They’re even closing perfectly goods that are already paid off.

      Your claim that we can’t reduce fossil fuel consumption without nuclear is simply wrong. In fact, including nuclear in our mix of inputs will slow our movement away from fossil fuels.

      • Others

        Since the beginning of this century, the fossil fuels have grown 2 – 3% every year especially with Coal growing at 5% rate every year.

        Still 1/2 the Chinese population are only at lower middle class and as their life style grows, they will consume more Coal and pollute more.

        And guess where India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh stands. They will be using more and more and more Coal to raise their people to middle class level.

        And on the Oil front, more Sands Oil is coming out of Canada, Venezuela and even in Utah, USA, a tar sands mine is opening.

        Only few nuclear plants are being closed in USA. But else where in the world, they are building more.

        • Bob_Wallace

          That’s going to be a bit difficult for Chinese folks to pull off, consuming more and more coal.

          Year after next the Chinese government will drop annual coal consumption back to 2011 levels and hold it there. That’s all the coal that will be burned per year.

          Additionally, the Chinese government has stated that they are going to work at lowering their carbon footprint and they can’t do that without dropping coal levels below 2011 amounts.

          Bangladesh, as far as I know, has no coal to burn. It will make no sense for them to build expensive coal plants and import expensive fuel. Bangladesh has become very solar-friendly. I suspect they’ll go straight to renewables.

          Indonesia is installing geothermal. Pakistan has just discovered that it has some good offshore wind potential.

          We may see as much as 20% of US coal capacity closed in the next four years.

          Coal’s done. It’s just going to die away from here on out.

          Same for nuclear. The only place where nuclear gets built is where the government will build it. Private money won’t touch it. And citizens are starting to understand that their tax dollars are being wasted on nuclear. Renewables are cheaper.

          Oil is going to be a continued problem until we get better priced, higher capacity batteries. Most likely in the next five years. Then oil will start going the way of coal.

          Renewables are simply cheaper than fossil fuels and nuclear. We’ve got some storage problems to solve, but we’ve got a lot of interesting and promising technology emerging from the labs.

          • Others

            So how did Japan’s oil consumption increased so much last year, because they shut down all their nuclear plants.

            See the Coal Consumption stats from bp.

            India’s consumption increased 9.9%
            China increased 6.1%
            Bangladesh increased 5.8%
            Japan increased 5.4%
            Philippines increased 13.2%

            These countries just increase their imports.

            Unfortunately people don’t know that Asia has 4.2 billion people. Renewable is cheaper for peak load, not for base load, if they are so, then advanced countries could have replaced all Coal, Oil, Natgas in just a few years just like we replaced CRT TVs with LED TVs.

            Time will tell.

          • Bob_Wallace

            India’s consumption increased 9.9%
            India burns 7.5% of the world’s coal, so that’s a 0.7% increase for the world.

            Bangladesh increased 5.8%.
            Bangladesh burns less than 1% of the world’s coal, so they didn’t make much of an impact. Less than 0.06% for the world.

            Japan increased 5.4%
            Japan burns 3.5% of the world’s coal. A 0.2% for the world.

            Philippines increased 13.2%
            Like Bangladesh, the Philippines burn less than 1% of the world’s coal. Another <0.06%.

            China increased 6.1%. A 2.3% increase for the world, but only a temporary increase. Again, China will drop back to 2011 levels year after next.

            The major world coal consumers are China (37.6% in 2010) and the US (22.9% in 2010). China is capping, the US is dropping.

            The US dropped 12.3%, 2011 to 2012. That's a 2.82% drop for the world. About double the combined increase for India, Bangladesh, Japan and the Philippines.

            Big percentage changes in small numbers don't swing much weight.

          • An abrupt drop in electricity supply is going to require immediate solutions that one would not implement in normal circumstances or with a little bit of lead time. Clearly, new nuclear wouldn’t have helped (if nuclear weren’t the essential problem), as it takes years or even decades to build.

        • China has been cutting nuclear plans while doubling, tripling, and even quadrupling solar plans. The story has quickly changed from a few years ago.

    • You were going great until the nuclear bit. 1) new nuclear is not needed. 2) nuclear is far too expensive. 3) nuclear is a slow-to-start, slow-to-shut-down baseload power source that doesn’t fit with the new grid, a grid of renewables.

  • anderlan

    “Do these families have millions of dollars of campaign contributions?” Perfect.

  • Brad Gibson

    Thank you for publishing this.

    • No prob. So happy that the Daily Show gave Fox so much time, discussed the matter so seriously (unlike the Colbert Show or many others would have done), and that Fox included so many important facts.

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