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Issue No. 9 - June 1, 2013

1. Methane: Fueling climate change and a new financial crisis


The Consensus Project
A very recent peer-reviewed study has confirmed (again) that 97% percent of scientists agree on climate change: it is happening and the cause is human activity, notably the burning of fossil fuels. This study is discussed in depth here

Discussions of climate change tend to focus on CO2, which recently reached the milestone level of 400 ppm in the atmosphere. However, as Dr. Anthony Ingraffea explains in this short video, methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, especially in the short term (105 times more potent over an integrated 20-year time period), if it escapes into the atmosphere without being burned.
This is why fugitive methane emissions from shale gas operations are a serious climate change issue.

However, the common industry practice of burning or "flaring" the methane which escapes from gas wells is a source of carbon dioxide and causes other environmental problems.

Given the known links between fossil fuel use and climate change, and the present and predicted consequences of allowing climate change to continue unchecked, it is likely that known reserves of fossil fuels will need to be left in the ground. This prospect is giving rise to concerns of a future financial crisis, a "carbon bubble", as trillions of dollars are at present invested in fossil fuel assets that may never be developed.

A new study, Unburnable Carbon 2013: Wasted Capital and Stranded Assets, found that:

"Between 60-80% of coal, oil, and gas reserves of publicly listed companies are 'unburnable' if the world is to have a change of not exceeding global warming of 2°C
."

Nevertheless, according to Bankwatch.org,

"Both the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development are still lending huge amounts to fossil fuels, including coal. Both are currently reviewing their energy lending policies. Stopping climate change isn't possible if a big chunk of public energy lending is still tied up in fossil fuels. Both EIB and EBRD can do much more to support the transformation of our energy sectors."


2. Health impacts of  gas drilling in Australia

Gas Fields in Tara

Dr. McCarron discusses her findings in this radio interview.
Dr. Geralyn McCarron, originally from Fermanagh, is now a GP in Australia. She recently published a report on the impact that coal seam gas (CSG) exploitation has had on the residents of the rural community Tara, in southwest Queensland. Dr. McCarron's personal account of how she came to compile this report is found here.

Dr. McCarron reports that of the 113 people she surveyed from 38 households living in close proximity to CSG development, 82.58% reported that their health was definitely adversely affected, with symptoms including cough, chest tightness, rashes, difficulty sleeping, joint pains, muscle pains and spasms, nausea and vomiting.

Research published by the Australian Southern Cross University in February 2013 with regard to the same Tara region of Queensland found a three-fold increase in maximum atmospheric radon (222Rn) concentration inside the gas field compared to outside. A positive trend was also observed between CO2 concentrations and the number of CSG wells.

On May 24, 2013, the Irish Doctors Environmental Association (IDEA) sponsored an event in Dublin entitled "How and why the Irish EPA must ensure human health and our environment are protected against the "fracking" (unconventional gas extraction) industry". The speakers were Dr. Mariann Lloyd Smith, Senior Advisor to Australia's Natural Toxics Network and a member of the Technical Advisory Group of Australia's national industrial chemical regulator, and Juliet Duff, Chairperson of the IDEA.


3. Fracking not the answer for Europe
Drilling Activities

One of the topics discussed at the EU summit in Brussels on May 22 was shale gas. This EurActiv article discusses the shale gas boom in the United States, and the prospects for shale gas in Europe. The article features Dr. J. David Hughes and mentions the presentation he gave at an event sponsored by Food & Water Europe on May 14 (see SGBI Issue No. 8).

The minutes from that event and a basic video recording are available at the Food & Water Watch website.

Friends of the Earth Europe (FOEE) recently published two informative fact sheets (see below), which show that show that shale gas could at best only represent 2-3% of European gas demand in 2030 and could be up to three times more expensive to develop compared to the US:
These findings echo those of a 2011 report by the European Parliament Policy Department, Economic and Scientific Policy, which concludes:

"Even an aggressive development of gas shales in Europe could only contribute to the European gas supplies at one-digit percentage share at best. It will not reverse the continuing trend of declining domestic production and rising import dependency. Its influence on the European greenhouse gas emissions will remain small if not negligible, or could even be negative if other more promising projects are skipped due to wrong incentives and signals."

On May 21, the European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (eceee) published a discussion paper entitled
“European competitiveness and energy efficiency: Focusing on the real issue”, which "explores how energy efficiency is the most powerful and quickest way to cut the energy costs of European businesses, thereby boosting their competitiveness."

A report published in February 2013 for FOEE by the research group Ecofys came to similar conclusions, finding that energy efficiency could offer the EU 250 billion of net annual savings by 2030, through direct savings and indirect reductions in energy prices,


Issue No. 8     May 15, 2013


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