Pauline Steinhorn, the producer of that TV show, is surely an honorable person and she's trying to give "both sides" a voice: the petroleum industry on the one hand side, independent scientists and concerned/impacted people on the other side. Anyhow, still worthwhile watching.
Originally Posted by Count Bobulescu
But what really strikes me - and gives me the notion that Pauline Steinhorn might not have looked deeply enough into the matter - are two claims at the very beginning of that show:
1. It's calling natural gas a "green" source of energy, even "energy greener than petroleum".
2. It says that shale gas could help to "end American dependence on foreign oil".
1. Any kind of fossil fuel cannot be called a "green" source of energy as their use is emitting greenhouse gases, mainly CO2, into the atmosphere which cause global warming (global climate change).
We often hear the claim that shale gas would be a "clean" "bridge" fuel, but it is one of the big myths.
There are several studies which show that shale gas can have a carbon footprint even worse than coal. The gas industry is admitting these "uncertainties" . Natural Gas Europe reports:
An Uncertain Future for UK Shale?
In the UK, where the government is increasingly focused on carbon and greenhouse gas targets, the future of shale gas is still up in the air in regards to energy policy, Professor Paul Ekins says.
Ekins, who is Professor of Energy and Environment Policy at the UCL Energy Institute, says that despite research into the matter, a number of uncertainties of shale gas’s effect persist.
There are, he says, two major sticking points on shale which have to be answered: the emissions resulting from shale production and the viability of carbon capture and storage (CCS).
“With regard to the low carbon transition, which we’re permitted to make, will shale gas substitute for coal, nuclear or renewables?” he asked the audience at the recent SMI Shale Environmental Summit .
“If it substitutes for coal, obviously emissions will go down. If it substitutes for nuclear or renewables, obviously emissions will go up. “
This, he says, is not the only concern with the potential emissions from shale; problematically, if some studies are proved correct, the fugitive emissions (emissions which escape from fuel production unintentionally) from shale might be higher than targets allow.
“This is a major uncertainty,” he says. “And the important point is, how high are these things called fugitive emissions? Shale gas is a very dispersed resource underground and there are fears and some studies which suggest that in trying to get it out, we won’t capture all of it, but quite a lot of it will just find its way into the atmosphere through the fissures in the rock and won’t therefore be captured.
“Natural gas is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide so if in seeking to get gas out to substitute for coal, we actually put a lot of extra gas in the atmosphere that wouldn’t otherwise be going into the atmosphere, then the carbon benefits or the greenhouse gas benefits over coal might be seriously undermined.”
The negation of shale’s benefits over coal has to do with a study that says a minor amount of emissions could escape during fracking and production. Even though the figure is a small one, it will have an impact, Professor Ekins says, one that could be just as damaging for energy targets as coal.
“There have been some studies on this, which suggest that fugitive emissions might be as much as four per cent of what you actually capture when you do fracking. And you only need three to nine per cent of leakage, depending on various assumptions, for gas to be equivalent to coal in power stations.
“So unless you can be very sure that you’re not getting these fugitive emissions, then the carbon benefits of gas in generation are very difficult to see.”
The shocking truth is: Despite being a climate gas 20 to 80 times worse than CO2, Methane (CH4) emissions are NOT regulated - worldwide! We are trying to get CO2 emissions regulated, but there are no limits for CH4, not even in drinking water regulations. There is an urgent need for action! This problem is addressed in the European Commission, DG Environment, National Emission, Ceilings Directive, Review.
Presentation in hearing on
“Prospects for Shale Gas in the European Union”
Committee on Industry, Research and Energy
European Parliament (Robert Howarth, Ph.D., David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology & Environmental Biology, Cornell University)
Shale gas extraction linked to water contamination (DG Environment News Alert Service, European Commission)
Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing (Study by Stephen G. Osborn, Avner Vengosh, Nathaniel R. Warner, and Robert B. Jackson)
Therefore, calling shale gas a "green" fuel is quite a big faux pas and should not happen in a serious documentary.
2. We can often hear now the petroleum industry claiming to make the US independent from foreign oil imports by extracting shale gas ("fracking"). This announcement and the vast exaggerations of shale gas reserves have caused an unsustainable fall in price for natural gas in the US. Shale gas production costs a multiple of the current selling price. This doesn't make gas a "bridging" fuel, it makes it a delaying fuel, delaying investment in renewable energy sources.
Also => Greenhouse gases, climate change and the transition from coal to low-carbon electricity
Natural gas is not an effective "bridge fuel" to a carbon-free future. Only rapid deployment of low-emission technologies will achieve substantial climate benefits.
In Europe several companies are already pulling out of the shale gas business. Even in Poland where the biggest reserves in Europe are estimated.
Further on we can expect that shale gas will NOT cause the US become independent from foreign fossil fuel imports. The only sustainable way to achieve that goal are renewable energy sources (not mentioned in this TV show).
We also can see the different situation in Europe compare to the US where the petroleum industry is exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act ("Halliburton loophole").
Here in Ireland we're facing the company Tamboran that claims the country would have almost the same shale gas reserves as the Barnett Shale in Texas.
A 40-fold exaggeration at least!
But Tamboran also claims to extract all that gas without the use of any chemicals, a procedure never done before!
It's really striking that such a company is still getting the trust of our government. But it is also demonstrating us the trustworthiness of this industry as such which got an equal time to express their stance in Pauline Steinhorn's documentary.