Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Natural Gas Green or Greenwashed?

Another slightly late post from Retro Housewife.

As many of you know I live in Oklahoma. You may also know Oklahoma is the second largest producer of natural gas and sixth largest producer of oil in the United States. Our state capital building is the only one with an active oil rig. You have likely heard of one famous Oklahoman, T. Boone Pickens and his plan to help stop climate change. This plan includes a lot of natural gas.

So is natural gas a good option for our green energy future? It's clean burning and we have a lot of it. While these things are true there are big problems with natural gas and that comes from the drilling. You may have heard of natural gas drilling, called Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. It's been in the news lately because it's thought to be a possible cause of the earthquake swarm in Arkansas. In January a six-month moratorium was placed on new injection wells in central Arkansas and just this month natural gas companies in the area -including two Oklahoma based companies- agreed to temporarily suspend the use of injection wells in central Arkansas.

Earthquakes are just one problem with fracking. There are also many reports of contaminated drinking water. Just go to Youtube and you will find videos of people setting their tap water on fire. There is a documentary called Gasland that looks into many of these issues. It does not shine a pretty light on this "green" fuel. While more studies still need to be done on fracking it does not seem to be the green fuel of the future. It is still a fossil fuel and may come with great risks to our water.

Is there fracking around you? If so has your area had increased earthquakes or water contamination?

Photo credit: danielfoster437


Terra@TheSimplePoppy said...

I live in Pennsylvania, home of a big fracking mess. Lots of contaminated water in certain areas. I don't live in the affected areas, but close, and it worries me because apparently the water that feeds some of Philly (where I am) and parts of NY are from those contaminated areas. I've also reconsidered looking for land anywhere near those areas because of the fact that once your neighbors all agree to fracking, you have no choice but to let the gas company onto your land. No way I'd property anywhere near that! Also I'm so FRACKING sick of people coming up with stupid ways to "save" the earth. There are so many resources out there that do no harm, but those don't seem to interest as much. Sigh. Thanks for bringing attention to this issue.

Rosa said...

Maybe I'm dumb but it's still a fossil fuel that creates carbon dioxide when burned, isn't it? It's only "clean" compared to coal, and extracting it allows a lot of methane to escape.

Lisa Sharp said...

Terra: It's a hard issue since we don't have a power grid at the moment that is set up very well for wind and solar and it will take awhile to build all of what we need. I just don't think we should be thinking of it as a green solution but sadly it's something we will have to use for awhile.

Rosa: Yes it's not TOTALLY clean burning much more than coal. If it's either or, it's better but yes neither would be best. :)

Anonymous said...

What frustrates me is how hard it is to get a good balanced view of the environmental impacts of fracking. T. Boone pickens is not a spokesman for the environment. He is a billionaire looking to make more money in energy. Does anyone know of some good, science-based resources for the laymen about the pros and cons of this technology?

Anonymous said...

I have only heard stories of earthquakes being caused by wells, I don't know too much about that but I would think they would be shallow low richter quakes if anything because many wells on land may only go as deep as about 10,000ft. Most earthquakes may start at 200,000ft or deeper. I also think the act of fracking a well is not always the culprit for some of the issues seen when thinking about natural gas. (though every part of the process should be understood and made as safe as possible) I think many more issues come about when the wastewater from wells (whether they may be gas or oil)is not handled correctly. Spills of fluids, etc. So I question how is this water treated, and if it's not, is it disposed of correctly via deep disposal wells (below any acquifer)? Or treated enough when returned to a surface water system? When you drill, you also produce extremely briney water (salty) that cannot easily be treated. I think this is another avenue that people need to be aware of. If gas is used as fuel, then correctly cleaning/disposing of the by-products of its extraction is a major step towards keeping it a "greener" fuel than coal. The actual fuel (natural gas) is cleaner than coal, it's just "mined" in a different way. Sigh, I think until we as a society can find a way to conserve much much more than we currently do, and until our government can make good choices in investing in new/existing fuels, it's sadly more of a pick your poison sort of thing when it comes to what fuel do we use.

Lisa Sharp said...

cre8andrecre8: The current studies will really help us to understand fracking. Right now it's really not known that well.

Anonymous: The studies in Arkansas is on the waste wells. And you are right often it seems like pick your poison with energy. Hopefully we can work more on wind, solar, and geothermal.


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