When you saw the title of this post, I bet your mind filled in the blanks with a word we’re taught not to use in public! But look carefully, there are four (not three) missing letters. The question is what the FRACK?
As a clean energy and climate professional, for many years I kept an open mind that natural gas could be an important, cleaner than coal, bridge fuel, helping us ease into the post-fossil fuel era. I now see it as a disastrous detour away from effectively slowing global climate change.
I believe when all is said and done fracking is going to go down as one of the fossil fuel era’s most destructive technologies. It results in serious groundwater contamination. It has turned Oklahoma, the epicenter of fracking into the epicenter of earthquakes, overtaking California for number of 3.5 or stronger quakes. Fracking activities further north and west are also triggering earthquakes in Alberta and British Columbia, Canada. But beyond the borders of the communities whose water has been poisoned and foundations have been shaken, the most devastating impact of fracked natural gas is methane.
In the movement to understand and address global climate change the emphasis has been on reducing carbon emissions, particularly through reducing coal consumption. This desire to cut carbon combined with the massive uptick in production of natural gas due to fracking, many coal plants have been converted to natural gas and indeed carbon emissions have begun to fall. However, new data shows that the new natural gas infrastructure has been leaking methane into the atmosphere at record levels. Between 2002 and 2014, the data showed that U.S. methane emissions increased more than 30 percent, accounting for 30 to 60 percent of an enormous spike in methane in the entire planet’s atmosphere.
And here’s the killer — methane is a much, much more potent climate change pollution than carbon, approximately 30 times more potent.
As it turns out natural gas is not a bridge fuel, it’s a bridge to nowhere we want to go.
Investors and taxpayers have spent billions building the new natural gas infrastructure that is now pumping disastrous levels of methane into our atmosphere. It is time to get real and honest and start redirecting those funds into the new renewable energy infrastructure.
I used to find it amusing, now I find it prescient that the Battlestar Gallactica series used “Frack!” as their sanitized version of F_ _ _ k (yes, three missing letters this time). Enough said.
Here is a link to a detailed article about this topic in The Nation.
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