Paul Tullis's Grim Tidings

Bitter musings on politics and policy

NYT lauds toxic, water-hoarding method of natural gas extraction

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The New York Times on Saturday featured an article extolling the promise of tapping shale fields to increase the supply of natural gas:

energy analysts are already predicting that shale could reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas. They said they believed that gas reserves in many countries could increase over the next two decades…

the article breathlessly explained. It went on to explain how great this greenhouse gas is for global warming:

More extensive use of natural gas could aid in reducing global warming, because gas produces fewer emissions of greenhouse gases than either oil or coal.

But a whole lot more than zero! Natural gas is a critical greenhouse gas no matter what you compare it to.

I was disappointed and dismayed not to find a single mention of how water-intensive and how very damaging to the environment where it occurs this method of extraction is.

Reporting by organizations such as ProPublica and WNYC has revealed that

In New Mexico, [this kind of] oil and gas drilling…has already caused toxic chemicals to leach into the water table at some 800 sites. Colorado has reported more than 300 spills affecting its ground water.

Moreover, the method — called fractured drilling or horizontal drilling — requires huge amounts of water, often in an area that is drought-prone or drought-stricken, such as the American West.

Instead of portraying oil-shale drilling as a savior, the Times should be describing how incredibly damaging and resource-intensive it is. The answer to ameliorating global warming is not finding new sources of natural gas but investing in wind and solar–technologies that create jobs, diminish environmental damage, and have a generation’s worth of fuel costs built in.

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Written by ptullis

October 12, 2009 at 3:04 pm

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