Sustainable Energy Forum: what I learned - Our Daily Green

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Sustainable Energy Forum: what I learned

subtitle: why shale gas/hydraulic fracturing is here to stay and what can a green minded person really do?

For many years now, Our Daily Green has wanted to tackle the topic of fracking. Years ago, we saw an alarming piece on 60 Minutes news show and started to dig a little deeper. The deeper I dug the more confused I became. There is so much money and opportunity in the prospect that a lot of propaganda is out there, making it difficult to separate truth from fiction. 

FrackingI spoke with professors of geology, I spoke to farmers, I spoke to environmentalists and business folk. Then a survey conducted by Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication found that 58% of their participants didn't even have an opinion about fracking. 

With so much misinformation out there, I signed up to attend a Sustainable Energy Forum at our local university. Experts from all around the nation came to talk to the attendees, who included local business people, professors, students, and journalists. Strangely absent were any staunch environmentalists, at least not that I spoke with. 

Then the presenters began, they included politicians, researchers, government leaders, and utility companies. I listened with rapt attention expecting to hear about developments in the area of wind, solar, and water as energy sources. Instead the bulk of the presenters talked about shale gas, a fossil fuel. 

At this point in time, only about 13% of the United States power comes from renewable resources. In other words, 87% of the energy we use comes from fossil fuels. From listening to Cynthia A. Powell, PhD., Director Office of Research & Development for the National Energy Technology Laboratory, companies are looking more at more efficient uses of fossil fuels, instead of developing renewable resources. She explained that 57% of the energy generated is rejected energy, meaning the energy released is greater than the energy used in the process. 

Speaker after speaker at the forum addressed the ways that fossil fuel, and specifically the shale natural gas reserves are the immediate answer to our energy concerns. 

57% of energy is rejected
I share this information to encourage realistic discussion. Hydraulic fracturing will not be stopped. But it's reasonable to expect safety measures and environmental concerns to be addressed. I encourage all like minded folks to adopt some realistic approaches to these concerns. This is no time to be Don Quioxte chasing windmills (which would be an excellent source of energy, incidentally). Instead, we need to look at what the industry is doing and consider the ways we to make our concerns heard in a realistic voice. I have avoided this topic on Our Daily Green for far too long. I also am concerned but want to find realistic solutions to such concerns. 

In all fairness, our region's economy stands to benefit tremendously from fracking. And yet, serious concerns linger about the safety to our water supply and the stability. Are we robbing Peter to pay Paul? Are we selling our future for our present comforts? What else can an energy-minded green-thinking consumer do? Conserve energy whenever possible. Unless we do not use transportation, do not use plastic, do not drive, or do not use electricity, we are beholden to whatever source of energy our suppliers offer. 

Protest upon protest will not stop it.  It seems that a better use of our time would be to work with legislators trying to repeal the "Halliburton loophole" from the Bush-Cheney 2005  Energy Policy Act that exempted hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act. On May 2, 2013, The H.R. 1921: Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act of 2013 was introduced and quickly referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. It has less than a 2% chance of getting out of committee. That's not acceptable. Contact the people on the committee and voice your concerns. 

Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act of 2013 - Amends the Safe Drinking Water Act to repeal the exemption from restrictions on underground injection of fluids or propping agents granted to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities under such Act.
(1) state underground injection programs to direct a person conducting hydraulic fracturing operations to disclose to the state (or the Administrator if the Administrator has primary enforcement responsibility in such state) the chemicals intended for use in underground injections prior to the commencement of such operations and the chemicals actually used after the end of such operations, and
(2) a state or the Administrator to make such disclosure available to the public.
Requires a person conducting hydraulic fracturing operations, when a medical emergency exists and the proprietary chemical formula of a chemical used in such operations is necessary for medical treatment, to disclose such formula or the specific chemical identity of a trade secret chemical to the state, the Administrator, or the treating physician or nurse upon request, regardless of whether a written statement of need or a confidentiality agreement has been provided.
Authorizes such person to require a written statement of need and a confidentiality agreement as soon thereafter as circumstances permit.

For a continual update on the news surrounding this issue, Scientific American has published The Evolving Truth about Fracking for Natural Gas

We need to be informed, insist on regulations for safety, and conserve. 
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