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Issue No. 13 - August 1, 2013

1. The costs of fracking - who pays?

Who Pays the Cost of Fracking

In September 2012, Environment America issued the report The Costs of Fracking: The Price Tag of Dirty Drilling’s Environmental Damage, which documents the costs of the collateral damage caused by shale gas development in the United States, including the costs of cleaning up drinking water and repairing damaged roads, as well has the other health and environmental costs associated with fracking. The report concludes by recommending that local, state, and federal governments should "at least":
  • Comprehensively restrict and regulate fracking to reduce its environmental, health and community impacts as much as possible.
  • Ensure up-front financial accountability by requiring oil and gas companies to post dramatically higher bonds that reflect the true costs of fracking. 
Environment America has now issued a new report: Who Pays the Costs of Fracking?, the findings of which are outlined in this EcoWatch article. The new report examines the bonding requirements imposed on oil and gas companies (in all but 8 states, bonds of less than $50,000 are required to cover all the wells in a state) and reveals them to be inadequate to cover the potentially enormous costs (millions of dollars) of damage caused by fracking. The question of who will pay the potential costs is increasingly important, as shale gas extraction is intensifying in many states and especially as it is now being proposed near important sources of drinking water and national parks and forests.These recent news items illustrate the sort of incidents whose costs could far exceed the bond required of oil and gas companies:

Spill Baby Spill is a web page from Butler County, Pennsylvania, that provides an ongoing record of the "
daily reports of high profile and high volume spills, explosions, accidents, deaths, reported violations and acknowledgement of old and continuing violations" around the United States.

2. Lush Cosmetics says "Don't Frack Our Future!"

Lush Cosmetics launched a collaboration in late July with the activist group Frack Off to combat fracking in the UK and keep Ireland fracking free. As this article describes, Lush offered the shop windows, staff and online channels of its 105 stores in the UK and Ireland to promote the campaign Fight against a fracked future!.

An important feature of the campaign is this informative video, which describes the effects of unconventional gas exploration and extraction from the point of view of a couple in Lancashire. Lancashire is where Britain's first hydraulic fracking, performed by Cuadrilla, was halted due to the earthquakes it caused in 2011.

Fracking free activists recently prevented Cuadrilla from accessing an oil drilling site in West Sussex. More information on these protests can be found on this page of the Frack Off site, in this article in The Guardian, and in this BBC report.

Lush Cosmetics also supports the Irish Guaranteed Fracking Free logo campaign. This campaign promotes Ireland's present fracking free status as a valuable economic asset, especially for the Irish tourism and agricultural sectors. The logo is freely available, in a variety of formats, for download and use by anyone who supports the idea of a fracking free Ireland. The logo files can be downloaded at the above link, from Fracking Ireland and from Fracking Free Clare.

3. J. David Hughes video and slides

J. David Hughes is a Canadian geoscientist who worked with the Geological Survey of Canada for 32 years and who is now president of the energy consultancy Global Sustainability Research, Inc. (see also SGBI Nos. 4, 8, and 9).

The video at left is a presentation Dr. Hughes gave at Cornell University on May 12, 2012, entitled The Energy Sustainability Dilemma: Powering the Future in a Finite World, in which he examines global energy consumption and supply over time, the growth expected over the next few decades, and the physical limits to this growth.

The slides from Dr. Hughes' presentation contain a wealth of data, in the form of clear and easily understood graphs, on the state of the world's energy use. They are a valuable resource for anyone interested in energy and climate change issues.

The following summary is from the final page of the slides document:
  • Achieving a sustainable energy system is likely to be the defining issue of our time as the economic growth paradigm abuts physical limits to growth.
  • In an era of constrained energy the correlation of economic growth with energy supply and price will set the stage for economic and geopolitical volatility and intense competition for energy resources.
  • The Climate Change dialogue for the most part excludes any consideration of resource limitations on growth, and hence leads us down some counter productive pathways, although initiatives on conservation, efficiency and renewables fortuitously also address the energy question.
  • Hydrocarbons represent an extremely convenient, dense form of non-renewable energy for which there are NO SCALABLE ALTERNATIVES. They will be needed for the development of infrastructure for the next paradigm of more sustainable human development.
  • A sustainable energy future is not out of reach but will be hugely challenging -- the U.S. and Canada have no real energy strategy -- this must be a high priority for the future."

Issue No. 12     July 15, 2013

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