Shale gas: Boon for humanity or bane?
By Dennis T. Avery
The carbon footprint of shale gas is about one-third as high as if coal was burned to produce electricity, says a team of researchers who were obviously offended by the rush-to-block-any-new-fuel "study" of Cornell University's Robert Howarth. Howarth's recent widely circulated, paper in Climatic Change claims shale gas is perhaps twice as bad for the environment as burning coal.
Dr. Lawrence Cathless III, also of Cornell, sees shale gas as a bonanza for the whole world. He and his team reject the Howarth contention that huge amounts of shale gas will leak during well completion and gas delivery.
"For a high volume shale gas well, the leakage rates [Howarth and his co-authors] assert are routine would indicate about a million dollars of methane is routinely vented to the atmosphere from each high volume well," Cathless says. This is an economic loss no business would tolerate, and a safety risk no company -- or its rig workers -- would endure.
The methane escapes Howarth et al. expect over a 10-day pre-production period "would fill a square mile with an explosive mixture of 5 percent methane -- to a height of 176 feet from a single well," says Cathless' Cornell-vs.-Cornell riposte. Nor has the Howarth team documented any instances of such substantial methane releases.
It's a familiar pattern by now, of course. The true believers in man-made warming cannot allow any cost-effective new energy source to shove aside the ultra-costly renewables, even if no renewable really works well. Teams of believing academics obviously stand ready to perjure their professional reputations to give the New York Times a disparaging quote in opposition to whatever new energy comes along. This media strategy relieves them of having to assess whether or not there is truth in the statement. Meanwhile:
None of the green failures are as dangerous to the Green Agenda, however, as those massive shale gas deposits being found around the world. That's why the opponents claim fracking will pollute our drinking water, even though our wells are a few hundred feed deep and the fracking is down a mile or two. And, that is why the Howarth "study" is garnering so much publicity from the media.
Tell it to the folks from Pennsylvania and Poland who are drilling energetically while creating both jobs and human comfort. They seem to not much care what the greens think. Perhaps the rest of us should follow their example.
Dennis T. Avery, a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., is an environmental economist. He was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. He is co-author, with S. Fred Singer of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Years. Readers may write to him at PO Box 202 Churchville, VA 2442; email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us at www.cgfi.org