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The Problems With Fracking

And the benefits.

12:00 AM, May 24, 2014 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
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·     building safer railroad cars, tailor-made to handle fracked crude oil,

·     reducing methane seepage, by wider use of technology that has reduced leakage by 80% in a Wyoming field, and

·     putting natural gas that is now being flared for lack of adequate pipelines from places such as North Dakota’s Bakken Shale, to  productive uses by deploying mobile natural gas compression and delivery systems.

Mark Brownstein, who heads up the natural gas monitoring group at the very green Environmental Defense Fund, tells the Wall Street Journal, “With the right technology, the right management practices and the right regulations properly enforced, there are things we can do to reduce the risks that are associated with unconventional oil and gas development.” Other environmentalists’ faith in the onward march of technology in the renewables sector fades when they view the fossil fuels industries.

All of this proves that making energy policy is no easy chore. There are both benefits (more rapid economic growth and reduced household drudgery as electricity replaces elbow grease) and costs (CO2

 emissions) from the production and use of energy, just as there are benefits (food on the table) as well as costs (methane emissions) from breeding cows and pigs. Yes, energy production could theoretically be reduced to what we can wring from the sun and the wind, and agricultural production to stuff that vegans prefer. The consequences of such moves on economic and gastronomic well-being would surely be unacceptable, even if feasible.

President Obama wants to take credit for the jobs and growth created by fracking, while at the same time assuring his green base that fracked natural gas is merely a “transition fuel” to a renewables future, useful now as a replacement for coal in electricity generation, but neither clean enough nor abundant enough to meet America’s long-term energy needs. The probable date for the end of that transition: never. 

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