Oct 162013
 

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking as it’s more commonly referred to, is used to stimulate the production of oil and gas from unconventional oil and gas deposits – shales, coalbeds, and tight sands. These types of deposits need to be stimulated because they have a lower permeability than conventional reservoirs and require the additional stimulation for production.

Hydraulic fracturing involves drilling a well then injecting it with a slurry of water, chemical additives and proppants. Wells are drilled and lined with a steel pipe that’s cemented into place. A perforating gun is used to shoot small holes through the steel and cement into the shale. The highly pressurized fluid and proppant mixture injected into the well escapes and create cracks and fractures in the surrounding shale layers and that stimulates the flow of natural gas or oil. The proppants (grains of sand, ceramic beads, or sintered bauxite) prevent the fractures from closing when the injection is stopped and the pressure of the fluid is removed.

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May 152013
 

Fracking Ourselves to Death in Pennsylvania

More than 70 years ago, a chemical attack was launched against Washington State and Nevada. It poisoned people, animals, everything that grew, breathed air, and drank water. The Marshall Islands were also struck. This formerly pristine Pacific atoll was branded “the most contaminated place in the world.” As their cancers developed, the victims of atomic testing and nuclear weapons development got a name: downwinders. What marked their tragedy was the darkness in which they were kept about what was being done to them. Proof of harm fell to them, not to the U.S. government agencies responsible.

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Oct 302012
 

It doesn’t matter how abundant liquid fossil fuels might be; it’s their cost that impacts the economy.

Many people think “peak oil” is about the world is “running out of oil.”

Actually, “peak oil” is about the world running out of cheap, easy-to-get oil. That means fossil fuels might be abundant (supply exceeds demand) for a time but still remain expensive.
The abundance or scarcity of energy is only one factor in its price. As the cost of extraction, transport, refining, and taxes rise, so does the “cost basis” or the total cost of production from the field to the pump. Anyone selling oil below its cost basis will lose money and go out of business.

We are trained to expect that anything that is abundant will be cheap, but energy is a special case: it can be abundant but costly, because it’s become costly to produce.

EROEI (energy returned on energy invested) helps illuminate this point. In the good old days, one barrel of oil invested might yield 100 barrels of oil extracted and refined for delivery. Now it takes one barrel of oil to extract and refine 5 barrels of oil, or perhaps as little as 3 barrels of unconventional or deep sea oil.

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Jul 172012
 

“Drill, baby, drill” and other hogwash designed to make Americans think the country can drill its way to cheaper pump prices gets a blast from reality when you consider one pesky fact: Domestic crude-oil production has reached historically high levels yet gas costs haven’t come down to earth.  

The unfortunate irony gets play in a Houston Chronicle article that dives into the new oil glut and some of its ramifications. The piece indirectly casts doubt on a favorite argument of pro-drilling politicians, such as our beloved Rep. Don Young.

“Supply and demand, buddy,” is how Alaska’s lone Congressman explains his logic that more domestic drilling leads to cheaper oil. He recently reiterated that message at a meeting in Fairbanks on high fuel prices that included talk of $12 per gallon diesel in rural villages. Of course, Young blasted Obama: If he’d only allow more drilling!

But despite the rhetoric, America appears to be over-supplied with oil. The story starts with a recent tale of a 940-foot tanker that returned to Valdez recently with 300,000 barrels of oil it couldn’t deliver to Washington refineries because onshore storage tanks there were full. Not normal, a state environmental officer in Valdez is quoted as saying.      

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Jun 242012
 

If you’ve been exposed to dangerous fracking chemicals, your doctor can find out what these chemicals are—but can’t tell you! Action Alert!

As we reported last year, fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a method of natural gas extraction employed in deep natural gas well drilling that can threaten water supplies. Once a well is drilled, millions of gallons of water, sand, and 596 different proprietary chemicals are injected under high pressure into the well shaft. The pressure fractures the shale and opens fissures that enable natural gas to flow more freely out.

The chemicals enter the water table and the air, causing severe pollution. As proponents of integrative medicine know, the body’s chemical burden, due in great measure to environmental pollutants, may trigger or worse many diseases—and some of the chemicals released during the fracking process are particularly toxic. They include:

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Apr 032012
 

How the Big Energy Companies Plan to Turn the United States into a Third-World Petro-State

The “curse” of oil wealth is a well-known phenomenon in Third World petro-states where millions of lives are wasted in poverty and the environment is ravaged, while tiny elites rake in the energy dollars and corruption rules the land.  Recently, North America has been repeatedly hailed as the planet’s twenty-first-century “new Saudi Arabia” for “tough energy”deep-sea oil, Canadian tar sands, and fracked oil and natural gas.  But here’s a question no one considers: Will the oil curse become as familiar on this continent in the wake of a new American energy rush as it is in Africa and elsewhere?  Will North America, that is, become not just the next boom continent for energy bonanzas, but a new energy Third World?

Once upon a time, the giant U.S. oil companies — Chevron, Exxon, Mobil, and Texaco — got their start in North America, launching an oil boom that lasted a century and made the U.S. the planet’s dominant energy producer.  But most of those companies have long since turned elsewhere for new sources of oil.

Eager to escape ever-stronger environmental restrictions and dying oil fields at home, the energy giants were naturally drawn to the economically and environmentally wide-open producing areas of the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America — the Third World — where oil deposits were plentiful, governments compliant, and environmental regulations few or nonexistent.

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Mar 282011
 

Poisoning the Wells

Pavillion, Wyoming.

Jeff and Rhonda Locker’s water changed abruptly one day in the mid-1990s while Rhonda was doing the laundry. A Denver-based gas company was working over an old well in back of their house, when the wash water turned black. “It happened just like that,” Jeff Locker says. “I stopped him and asked him what he did to our water, and of course he didn’t do anything to our water… It’s been bad ever since.”

Donna Meeks’ well water was so good, she used to haul it to town for the school office coffee pot. Neither she nor her husband Louis noticed anything wrong until her co-workers stopped drinking the coffee; it was 2004, and a Canadian company, EnCana, had just drilled a new well about 500 feet from the Meeks home. Some visiting friends later said they noticed the water tasted and smelled like gas, but didn’t want to be rude by saying anything about it.

John and Cathy Fenton had no reason to suspect there was anything wrong with their water—it tasted fine. But just to be neighborly, they went along with the Lockers, the Meeks, and other Pavillion-area residents when the Environmental Protection Agency came in 2009 for an initial round of testing. That’s when they found out that their family had been drinking water laced with methane. Follow-up tests a year later found a whole soup’s worth of semi-volatile organic compounds in the family’s stock well.

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Jan 062011
 

A Colorado beekeeper recently obtained a leaked document revealing that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) knows a popular crop pesticide is killing off honey bees, but has allowed its continued approval anyway. Despite opposition from its own scientists, EPA officials first gave the a-okay to Bayer CropScience’s toxic pesticide clothianidin in 1993 based on the company’s own flawed safety studies. But now it has been revealed that the EPA knew all along about the dangers of clothianidin and decided to just ignore them.

By now, most people know that honeybees are dying off at an incredibly disturbing rate. Colony collapse disorder (CCD), a condition where bees stray from the hive and never find their way back, is nixing millions of nature’s pollinators every year. Previous studies have pinpointed various environmental toxins as the primary culprits, including toxic pesticides like clothianidin (http://www.naturalnews.com/028429_c…).

And the leaked document, which was written by the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, explains clearly that “[c]lothianidin’s major risk concern is to nontarget insects (honey bees)” and that “[a]cute toxicity studies to honey bees show that clothianidin is highly toxic on both a contact and an oral basis.” The letter was in response to a request from Bayer to have clothianidin approval expanded for use on cotton and mustard in addition to its other approved uses.

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Nov 162010
 

Once again, partisan Democrats are reeling in shock and humiliation, boggled by a familiar scenario — the sheer velocity of their reversal of fortune and the Republican right’s perennial ascendency.

Democrats implore, why is it voters occupying less than privileged positions in the economic order evince such ardor embracing the principles of a political creed dedicated to their exploitation for the benefit of a ruthless few?

There is truth in the one-liner that Democrats bandy: Anyone from the working or middle class who votes Republican is suffering from Battered Wife Syndrome.

Although one is tempted to retort, anyone who votes for either one of the corporate/National Security State parties is closer to a half-senile spinster who still believes her prince will come.

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Oct 042010
 

Scientists from Oregon State University have found a 40-fold increase in the amount of cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) near Louisiana’s Grande Isle between May and June.

The Oregon team is looking at “the fraction of PAHs that are bioavailable – that have the potential to move into the food chain."

As I pointed out last month, PAHs are harmful to both human health and seafood safety:

McClatchy notes today:

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill still poses threats to human health and seafood safety, according to a study published Monday by the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association.

***

In the short term, study co-author Gina Solomon voiced greatest concern for shrimp, oysters, crabs and other invertebrates she says are have difficulty clearing their systems of dangerous polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) similar to those found in cigarette smoke and soot. Solomon is an MD and public health expert in the department of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco.

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