Now here’s an Onion-worthy headline from The Heritage Foundation, topping a press release issued just a few hours ago: “How America’s Shale Revolution Could Loosen Russia’s Grip on Europe.” We’re dragging The Onion into this because the article focuses on one angle of the domestic shale gas market while completely ignoring the main point, namely, that US shale gas drillers are looking for Russia to rescue them from a deep dive.
Fracking And The Clean Water Act
For those of you familiar with the impacts of shale drilling, aka fracking (short for hydrofracturing), you may be wondering why there is so little regulation of the practice.
That’s because fracking only became widespread after it won an exemption from Clean Water Act under the Bush/Cheney administration, even though modern fracking is a water-intensive process that can involve millions of gallons for a single well.
Despite the obvious potential risk to water resources, the Clean Water Act exemption has handcuffed federal regulators, and state regulations vary according to the influence of the drilling lobby.
That leaves local communities to their own devices when it comes to regulating fracking.
The Obama Administration has been playing catch-up by executive means through the EPA, despite heavy pushback from the usual suspects.
In the mean time, the epic drought in California is underscoring what the future could look like when fracking, farming, and people all compete for increasingly vulnerable water resources.
Given the surge in wind power and more water-friendly energy sources, the pressure is on the fracking industry to survive an increasingly rough ride.
Fracking on Shaky Ground
The water supply issue is only one pin that’s being knocked out from under the US fracking industry.
Along with our sister site PlanetSave we’ve been taking note of the impacts of fracking, which has become notorious for potential and realized risks including water contamination, earthquakes, negative pressure on property values, and financial risks to investors.
As mentioned previously, local communities have been left to their own devices and a growing number of them, including Los Angeles, have taken steps to limit fracking within their borders.
In Pennsylvania, one of the epicenters of modern shale gas development, anti-fracking communities just won an important State Supreme Court victory in support of local control over drilling permits rather than enabling a more relaxed state law to supersede.
Another thing to consider is that global oil companies are already exploring Ukraine and other sites in Europe for shale drilling, which could leave US sources holding the bag sooner rather than later.
To top it all off, shale gas wells have earned a reputation for tapping out quickly, meaning that thousands of new wells must be drilled in the US every year just to keep up with current productivity levels, which means no let-up in store for the NIMBY factor.
The Heritage Foundation And Fracking: Russia To The Rescue
No, we didn’t forget all about Heritage. If you don’t want to visit their site you can find a summary of “How America’s Shale Revolution Could Loosen Russia’s Grip on Europe“in their press release at prnewswire.com, which details why this lobbying organization feels that exporting more US gas will make Russian back down.
For now let’s just say that the author, Nick Loris, is also the pen behind a March 1 Heritage blog post titled “How the Media Misrepresents What Scientists Really Think About Climate Change,” in which he characterized the climate denial lobby as “climate realists.”
However, let’s not pick on Heritage for something that’s built into their DNA. Instead, let’s pick on the New York Times for a similarly misleading March 5 article by Coral Davenport and Steven Erlanger.
The headline is “U.S. Hopes Boom in Natural Gas Can Curb Putin” and up front in the second paragraph is this statement: “The crisis has escalated a State Department initiative to use a new boom in American natural gas supplies as a lever against Russia…”
So, you’d assume that increasing gas exports to thwart Russia is an official Obama Administration position, right?
Not so fast, if you read the whole article. No current State Department officials are referenced, but you get this far down the page:
Over the past week, Congressional Republicans have joined major oil and gas producers like ExxonMobil in urging the administration to speed up oil and natural gas exports.
Okay, so now we’re talking Russia to the rescue.
Why not just say that in the first place?
For the record, according to a recent CNN report Secretary of State John Kerry has stated that the US is working on increasing its natural gas exports, but that is a long term, slow-moving process that far predates the Russia crisis and will far outlast it.
Kerry also first noted that State is working with Poland and Hungary to develop an alternate route through Slovakia, so we’re going with the line that an increase in US natural gas exports will not now, and will not in the future, play a significant role in helping Ukraine to shake loose its energy ties from Russia.
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