This next chapter of my book, Fever Rising, focuses on fracking. It's a long chapter, 27 pages, so I've broken it into two parts. I thought about
condensing it or summarizing it, but there's just too much information on the topic and I didn't want to leave anything out. Here are the first six
chapters of the book in four threads
The Mystery of the Clintonville Booms
The Jumping Jack Flash Hypothesis
The Rise of Deadly Methane Gas
The Truth about Atmospheric Methane and it's Role in Global Warming
Chapter 7: Methane and Fracking
Methane makes up anywhere from 70 to 90% of natural gas that is extracted from the ground by hydraulic fracturing. This gas is used to heat our homes
(among other purposes) and is considered to be one of the cleanest forms of energy. When you burn it off, it provides a lot of energy and has very
little emissions, so they claim. I beg to differ. I’m not so sure that hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as ‘fracking’ is as clean as they
claim. Let me present my argument.
Fracking has become an acceptable part of our society. It provides many high-paying jobs and has succeeded in lowering our heating bills for the past
few winters as the United States has become the number one supplier of natural gas in the world. What frightens me, though, is just how much money and
power is behind the process now that it may be unstoppable, regardless whether or not it becomes clear the dangers of fracking from high rates of
escaping methane, to contamination of drinking water, to the triggering of earthquakes. If that’s not enough, President Obama has embraced fracking
as part of his “all-of-the-above” energy strategy.
Innumerable amounts of methane are releasing into the atmosphere from varied sources but I find it interesting that methane sort of leveled off from
the late 90's until 2007 where it began increasing again at a rapid pace about the same time that fracking took off. Methane levels that sustained
for 400,000 years rose 150% over the last couple of hundred years, then, sort of leveled off from 1997 to 2007. There are many causes to the methane
release over the years, which, include livestock, rice cultivation, landfill out-gassing, oil and gas extraction and coal mining. As I’ve previously
mentioned, we also have natural methane leaks in the oceans, and permafrost that melts and releases the trapped gases, but of great concern is the
As previously mentioned, methane levels began rising again right around the same time that fracking took off. Sure, we have plunging winter heating
bills, but, at what cost? It was said that natural gas would be better for the atmosphere as there would be less emissions than from coal, but,
according to an article at Businessgreen.com, “9% of gas collected at Utah field escaping into atmosphere,” published January 4, 2013, U.S.
scientists warned large amounts of methane could be leaking from new onshore gas drilling projects, challenging claims the fuel can offer a lower
emissions alternative to coal.
“Around nine per cent of the potent greenhouse gas methane produced by a gas field in Utah was shown to be escaping into the atmosphere,” the
When President G.W. Bush signed the Clean Water Act into law in 2005, he allowed for fracking because experts said that it would be a cleaner
alternative to coal energy. It was said though, for fracking to be cleaner than coal, the cumulative methane leakage rate from shale gas projects
would have to remain below 3.2 percent. This article stated that in Utah the leakage rate was around 9%. This followed a study published by the same
scientists in February of 2012 that said Denver shale fields were losing 4%, which also exceeded the 3.2 percent safe zone.
With statistics like this, natural gas could actually be a plan for climate disaster rather than a clean energy source.
The following is a reprinted article by Stephen Leahy in regards to the real dangers posed by fracking. This is a real eye-opener when you consider
just how many fracking wells are out there and how much methane may be lost to the atmosphere. You begin to grasp how soon we may reach the tipping
points of climate disaster. This article was written in January of 2012 predicting how fracking was the wrong alternative to coal. Since that time,
two papers have come out about the high rate of methane emissions from fracking that support the author’s claims. He states that natural gas
extraction is worse than burning coal.
Shale Gas Worse Than Coal Study Finds
By Stephen Leahy
Uxbridge, Canada, Jan 24, 2012 (IPS)
Hundreds of thousands of shale gas wells are being “fracked” in the United States and Canada, allowing large amounts of methane, a highly
potent greenhouse gas, to escape into the atmosphere, new studies have shown.
Shale gas production results in 40 to 60 percent more global warming emissions than conventional gas, said Robert Howarth of Cornell University in New
“Shale gas also has a larger greenhouse gas footprint than oil or coal over the short term,” said Howarth, co-author of a study called “Venting
and Leaking of Methane from Shale Gas Development” to be published in the journal Climatic Change.
This latest study follows up on Howarth and colleagues’ controversial April 2011 paper that provided the first comprehensive analysis of greenhouse
gas emissions from shale gas obtained by hydraulic fracturing. That study found that when gas wells are “fracked”, they leak large amounts of
methane and pose a significant threat to the global climate.
“We stand by the conclusion of our 2011 research,” said Howarth.
That research undercuts the logic of energy sector claims that shale gas is a “bridge” to a low-carbon energy future. Those claims are based on
the fact that natural gas (which is mainly methane) has half the carbon content of coal, and when burned for electricity it is more energy efficient
However, those climate gains are more than negated by methane leaks both at the well during the fracking process (called flow-back), and through the
gas delivery and distribution system. Howarth and colleagues estimate that between 3.6 and 7.9 percent of all shale gas produced leaks – called
“fugitive emissions” – into the atmosphere, making it worse than burning coal or oil.
Methane has 105 times the warming potential of CO2 over a 20-year time frame, after which it rapidly loses its warming potential. If large amounts of
methane are released through fracking – as seems likely with hundreds of thousands of new wells forecast in the next two decades – Howarth says
global temperatures could rocket upward from 0.8C currently to 1.8C in 15 to 35 years, running the risk of triggering a tipping point that could lead
to catastrophic climate change.
“Our primary concern is that methane emissions over the coming two decades will drive the entire climate system past a major tipping point,” he