I don’t agree with the conclusions of the Suzuki Foundation and Pembina Institute report. Anyone surprised? However, they agree Elvis is no longer alive and that’s interesting.
I blogged two weeks ago about JFK’s quote that, “The enemy of truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the myth – persuasive, persistent and unrealistic.” I suggested the myth that hydraulic fracturing has been contaminating ground water is as realistic as the myth Elvis is alive.
Since then Suzuki and Pembina issued their report against shale gas. Their analysis is that natural gas is good – but as Jim Collins said in his book, Good to Great – ‘good’ is the enemy of ‘great.’ Suzuki and Pembina say natural gas could economically reduce emissions by over 30% in North America but they believe this might block achieving their target of 80% to keep CO2 under 450 parts per million.
It was Voltaire who originally said “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Naturally, any report that myopically focuses on one policy area does not have to consider trade offs among social, energy, economic development, employment, fiscal and other critical policy issues. In a world of one and only one policy concern, ‘good’ truly may be the enemy of ‘great.’ In the real world I’ll take good over dreams of perfect anytime. Especially, when like the natural gas industry, it comes not with a bill to taxpayers but instead as a taxpayer making private investments and creating jobs.
Nevertheless, in the process of arguing against shale gas the report directly addresses several of the myths I have been commenting on for some time. I commend Suzuki and Pembina for largely staying with the facts on these points. I have quoted the report on some of the myths they address below:
Myth: coal is as clean as natural gas when full cycle emissions are considered.
“½ it is generally accepted that natural gas has considerably lower GHG emissions than other fossil fuels on a full life cycle basis.” Pg 13
Myth: hydraulic fracturing is an unprecedented and untested new technology
“It must also be recognized that while the combination of hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling is new, fracturing is not: more than one million wells have been hydraulically fractured in North America over six decades.” Pg 16
Myth: deep fracturation contaminates ground water with chemicals
“The potential for these fluids to contaminate fresh water directly, via the fractured rock, depends on the depth of the gas deposit. Most Canadian and U.S. shale gas deposits range from several hundred to several thousand metres below the surface – much deeper than the typical deepest extent of fresh water½” Pg 16
“The most significant risk of contamination of fresh water by natural gas production appears to result from spills or inadequate disposal of “produced water” ½” Pg 17
Myth: possible and actual chemicals used in fracturation are secret
“The New York State Department of the Environment Conservation has compiled a list of nearly 200 chemicals used or proposed for use ½” Pg 16
“½ U.S. House of Representatives committees recently published a list of 750 substances used in hydraulically fracturing oil and gas wells”. Pg 16
“For example, U.S. state regulators have launched a website where over 40 companies are now voluntarily disclosing fracture fluid composition on a well-by-well basis.” Pg 16
Myth: shale gas uses excessive amounts of water:
“Although these are large numbers, production of one unit of energy from shale gas consumes a comparable amount of water to coal, less than oil sands and far less than bio-fuels.” Pg 18
“Recycling of all fracture fluids – reducing the industry’s fresh water consumption by 30 to 50 percent – may be technically and economically feasible.” Pg 18
“The amounts of water consumed by natural gas production using hydraulic fracturing could result in significant environmental impacts in drier regions” Pg 18
Myth: deep fracturation contaminates ground water with methane
“Groundwater and drinking water wells can sometimes contain biologically generated methane that has nothing to do with industrial activities.” Pg 15
“Methane is explosive but not toxic.” Pg 16
“However, inadequate cementing/casing can result in leaks.” Pg 15
The Suzuki and Pembina report failed to mention that shale gas also naturally seeps to surface. In many places, and especially in the Quebec lowlands, it is common to find thermogenic gas seeps at surface and in drinking water. As you will see here Josh Fox director of Gasland knew this too. You can see another example from the BAPE evidence.
In addition, the leaks the Suzuki report refers to should not be confused with the fugitive emissions from the vast majority of 19 wells in Quebec that are persistently, persuasively and unrealistically referred to as leaks. This ‘made in Quebec myth’ is the subject of a future blog.