A recent peer reviewed study has revealed that greenhouse gas emissions from drilling and fracking are 50% worse than previously thought. According to the Harvard study US fossil-fuel-industry methane leaks are dramatically higher than the official estimates have claimed. Not surprisingly, the coal seam gas industry in Australia (one of the largest in the world) has rejected the study outright.
The report, published in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, directly challenges the EPA’s decision to cut its methane emission (produced from fossil fuel extraction) estimates by 25% for 1990 – 2011. The report states that:
We find that [methane] data from across North America instead indicates the need for a much larger adjustment of the opposite sign
Fracking is altering the climate far faster than we first thought. However, before we continue with fracking, let’s first understand the difference between Australia’s coal seam gas and America’s natural gas.
Coal Seam Gas Vs. Natural Gas:
As an end-use product, coal seam gas is the same as natural gas...The only difference between CSG and natural gas is in the way that it is formed by nature. CSG is composed predominantly of methane and small percentages of nitrogen and carbon dioxide. The coal seam is both the source and the reservoir, which is different from the sandstone reservoirs of conventional oil and shale gas. As coal forms over millions of years, large quantities of methane-rich gas are generated and trapped in coal seams by water and ground pressure. CSG is trapped in the coal in tiny fractures, or cleats, under hydrostatic pressure. CSG is extracted at low pressures from coal.Shale gas is methane held within shale layers, rather than a coal seam. Shale is much harder than coal and always requires fracturing ('fracking') to allow the gas to flow.
While natural gas produces less CO2 than coal, the savings become irrelevant when considering the amount of methane that is sprayed into the atmosphere from methane leaks at well sites and while transporting the fuel. The reason for all the worry is that methane traps about 20 times more heat over a 100 year period compared to CO2, despite remaining in the atmosphere for less time.
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A natural gas addiction has infected the U.S. with fracking spreading across the country like a viral epidemic. Fracking is the process of harvesting natural gas, or shale gas. It involves mixing dangerous chemicals with large quantities of water and sand and injecting the mixture into shale wells at extremely high pressure. It is for this reason that fracking is believed to be poisoning well water all across the U.S. and in other areas of the world. According to the NRDC (Natural Resources Defence Council):
Over the last decade, the industry has drilled thousands of new wells in the Rocky Mountain region and in the South. It is expanding operations in the eastern United States as well, setting its sights most recently on a 600-mile-long rock formation called the Marcellus Shale, which stretches from West Virginia to western New York. Fracking is a suspect in polluted drinking water in Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming, where residents have reported changes in water quality or quantity following fracturing operations.
Immense wells of shale gas are spread across most of the U.S. mainland. These sites each undergo several fracking pumps. Although the media portrays natural gas as the new and improved, next-gen, problem free energy source, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Pipeline incidents and injuries abound and reports of polluted drinking water continue to pop up across the nation with greater frequency. Studies have directly linked shale gas fracking to:
- Contaminated Ground Water
- High Levels of Radioactivity in Wastewater Discharge
- Elevated Levels of Air Pollutants
- Death of Pets and Farm Animals
- Potentially causing Earthquakes
- Methane Leaks
The EPA still has not issued its report on the effect of fracking on drinking water. Despite all of the science pleading with us to reconsider our actions, fracking continues unimpeded.
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Fracking Denial and Delusions
By far the worst issue surrounding fracking is that as a whole, we still seem to have no clue that fracking is even taking place, let alone destroying the water supply and decimating the health of 1000’s of people as well as the land. I suppose this isn’t surprising though as many nations are just as clueless about climate change. Afterall, climate denial is a real thing, actively and directly supported by a large number of the 90 institutions that are responsible for climate change since the industrial revolution. So, why shouldn’t the natural gas and fracking industries involve the same type of nonsense?
The truth is that human beings, especially us good ol’ Americans, will buy into anything given the opportunity. People are often fooled into passionate belief, and the denial campaigns and propaganda of billion dollar industries do a great deal of fooling.
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Let’s consider climate change again: Many Americans continue to believe that climate change is either a hoax or an over-dramatized issue. This ignorance is a wrench in the spokes of global progress, especially in light of increasingly volatile weather patterns; increasing extinctions in land and marine life; warnings from scientists across the globe; and the potential loss of trillions of dollars due to the costly effects of climate change. This is cognitive dissonance in its purest form: we know the facts, but we are refusing to change.
Crony Capitalism and Special Interest
Despite America’s lack of progress in reducing emissions, most Americans’ desire a green, renewable energy policy. This applies to fracking as well; a large number of Americans are completely against it. Unfortunately though, oil, coal, and gas companies are at the top of the special interest dole list.
Special interest comes in the form of better government subsidies, tax cuts, court rulings, and allowances. We all know it takes place, and it has been widely practiced and wildly accepted. It is called crony capitalism, and it has been an an ongoing, yet somehow overlooked problem in America.
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When Bush appointed Dick Cheney to lead an energy task force to revolutionize America’s energy policy, Cheney quickly organized a private meeting with fossil fuel giants at the head of the fracking movement. Companies such as Exxon Mobil, Conoco, Shell Oil, BP America and Chevron made the top of the list. Today, these companies are still given billions of dollars in tax cuts and subsidies despite raking in hundreds of billions of dollars in private profit. According to PBS:
In 2005, Bush, who has received more from the oil and gas industry than any other politician, signed an energy bill from the Republican-controlled Congress that gave $14.5 billion in tax breaks for oil, gas, nuclear power and coal companies. The Energy Policy Act of 2005, which was based on recommendations by Cheney’s energy task force, also rolled back regulations the oil industry considered burdensome, including exemptions from some clean water laws. All of this transpired only one year after Congress passed a bill that included a tax cut for domestic manufacturing that was expected to save energy companies at least $3.6 billion over a decade.
During the time that Bush and Cheney, both of whom are former oil executives, have been in the White House, the oil and gas industry has spent $393.2 million on lobbying the federal government. This places the industry among the top nine in lobbying expenditures. The industry has also contributed a substantial $82.1 million to federal candidates, parties and political action committees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 80 percent of the industry’s contributions have gone to Republicans.
It is clear that special interest is taking place and is supporting companies in defiance of America’s health, wealth, and overall best interest. The truth is that a complete multi-industry infiltration of the U.S. government has taken place. Men and women with stake in the fracking, agriculture, pharmaceuticals and more are casting votes and making decisions that directly benefit the industries and leave citizens stripped of their money and power.
Monsanto the Usurper
The most obvious example of a corporation infiltrating the U.S. government is that of Monsanto. Monsanto, in case you didn’t know, is responsible for destroying thousands of local farms, using known harmful herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides, using chemicals responsible for colony collapse disorders in bees, and much more.
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Monsanto and Monsanto products are banned in several countries. Numerous petitions to cut government ties to Monsanto have circulated, yet to no avail. I wonder, why they didn’t succeed?
First, follow this link to view a list of 71 senators who voted against your right to know if what you are eating is GMO. Oh, and that’s despite 90% of the population saying they would be in favor of mandatory labeling.
Next, check out the following list of U.S. government/Monsanto ties and the answer will be obvious.
MONSANTO POSITION: Head of Government Affairs for Genetech, (Now Monsanto)
FEDERAL POSITION: Chief Domestic Policy Advisor to Vice President Gore
MONSANTO POSITION: Worked for Monsanto’s Legal Team
FEDERAL POSITION: Department of Justice
MONSANTO POSITION: Worked on Monsanto’s Legal Team
FEDERAL POSITION: Department of Justice
MONSANTO POSITION: Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer
FEDERAL POSITION: Serves as advisor in public agencies, including the USDA, among others
Michael A. Friedman:
MONSANTO POSITION: Senior Vice President for Clinical Affairs at G.D. Searle &Co. (Merged with Monsanto)
FEDERAL POSITION: Acting Commissioner of the FDA
MONSANTO POSITION: Director of International Government Affairs
FEDERAL POSITION: Assistant to President Clinton and Director of Government Affairs
Arthur Hull Hayes:
MONSANTO POSITION: Consultant to Searle’s (merged with Monsanto) Public Relations Firm
FEDERAL POSITION: Previously was FDA Commissioner
John L. Henshaw:
MONSANTO POSITION: Director of ESH Quality & Compliance
FEDERAL POSITION: Senior Advisor to U.S. Secretary of Labor
MONSANTO POSITION: Vice President of Product and Technology Cooperation
FEDERAL POSITION: Advisor to the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy
MONSANTO POSITION: Board of Directors, also represented Monsanto as a lawyer
FEDERAL POSITION: U.S. Secretary of Commerce
Gwendolyn S. King:
MONSANTO POSITION: Monsanto Board Member
FEDERAL POSITION: Commissioner of SSA 1989-1992
Richard J. Mahoney:
MONSANTO POSITION: CEO of Monsanto for 14 years
FEDERAL POSITION: Serves as Director of U.S. Soviet, Japanese and Korean Trade Councils, a Member of the U.S. Government Policy Committee
MONSANTO POSITION: Oversaw the Approval of rBGH, was a top Monsanto scientist
FEDERAL POSITION: In, 1991, Margaret was appointed Deputy Director of the FDA
MONSANTO POSITION: Sits on Monsanto’s Board of Directors, previously a Monsanto Animal Specialist
FEDERAL POSITION: In 2002, Poste was appointed head of Bioterrorism division of Homeland Security
William D. Ruckelshaus:
MONSANTO POSITION: Member of the Monsanto Board of Directors
FEDERAL POSITION: In 1970, he was the first Chief Administrator for the EPA, later the acting director of the FBI, then Deputy U.S. Attorney General
MONSANTO POSITION: Previous CEO of Searle (merged with Monsanto), he successfully had ASPARTAME legalized while in that position.
FEDERAL POSITION: Appointed to Secretary of Defense in 1975, then appointed to Secretary of Defense again in 2002
MONSANTO POSITION: Worked on Monsanto-funded rGBH in connection with her graduate work at Cornell University
FEDERAL POSITION: FDA Reviewer on Scientific Data
Robert B. Shapiro:
MONSANTO POSITION: Previously the President and CEO of Monsanto, Chairman and CEO of Nutrasweet, and Chairman and CEO of Monsanto
FEDERAL POSITION: Previously Served as President’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and on the White House Domestic Policy Review of Industrial Innovation
MONSANTO POSITION: Former Vice President of CropLife America, which represented Monsanto
FEDERAL POSITION: Chief Agricultural Negotiator for the Office of the Trade Representative
MONSANTO POSITION: Former Attorney for Monsanto for seven years, previous h Head of the Monsanto Washington D.C. Office
FEDERAL POSITION: Former FDA Deputy Commission for Policy. In 2010, appointed by the FDA as a senior advisor of the FDA Commissioner
Dr. Charles Thomas:
MONSANTO POSITION: Previous Monsanto Researcher in charge of the Manhattan Project, creating the atomic bomb. Later, became Monsanto’s Chairman of the board.
FEDERAL POSITION: Previously Served as a consultant to the National Security Council and as a U.S. Representative of the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Commission
MONSANTO POSITION: Former lawyer for Monsanto, a notorious chemical polluter. Thomas would later cast the decisive vote in 2000 on the Supreme Court, ratifying the stolen election that put George W. Bush Jr. into office
FEDERAL POSITION: In 1991, was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court
MONSANTO POSITION: Previously served on the Board of Directors of Calgene, a Monsanto Biotech subsidiary
FEDERAL POSITION: In 2001, was appointed Head of the USDA
MONSANTO POSITION: Former Staff Lawyer with Monsanto in Washington D.C.
FEDERAL POSITION: Chief of Staff to President Carter
MONSANTO POSITION: Hired by Monsanto to prosecute two Farmers who fought against Monsanto’s Seed Policies in 2002
FEDERAL POSITION: Former U.S. Solicitor General
Dr. Virginia Weldon:
MONSANTO POSITION: Retired Senior Vice President for Public Policy at Monsanto
FEDERAL POSITION: Previously, was a member of the FDA’s Metabolism & Endocrine Advisory Committee
MONSANTO POSITION: Former Chief Counsel at Monsanto
FEDERAL POSITION: In 1993, was nominated as U.S. Deputy to the World Trade Organization
MONSANTO POSITION: Monsanto Consultant
FEDERAL POSITION: U.S. Congressman (D)
MONSANTO POSITION: Monsanto Legal Counsel
FEDERAL POSITION: U.S. Senator (D)
MONSANTO POSITION: Director, International Government Affairs
FEDERAL POSITION: White House Communications (Clinton)
MONSANTO POSITION: Monsanto Lobbyist
FEDERAL POSITION: White House Appointed Consumer Advisor (Clinton)
MONSANTO POSITION: Vice President, Government & Public Affairs
FEDERAL POSITION: Deputy Administrator EPA (Clinton, Bush)
MONSANTO POSITION: Manger, New Technologies
FEDERAL POSITION: USDA, EPA (Clinton, Bush, Obama)
MONSANTO POSITION: Rose Law Firm, Monsanto Counsel
FEDERAL POSITION: U.S. Senator (D), Secretary of State (Obama)
MONSANTO POSITION: Director, Monsanto Danforth Center
FEDERAL POSITION: Director USDA, NIFA (Obama)
How to Patch a Sinking Ship
It appears that industries spanning every sector, including fracking, agriculture, pharmaceuticals and more are playing a game with the U.S. government, swapping players each season for their own sake, not mine and yours. When congress, the congress of the people, stops acting in the people’s best interest we have a serious problem. Right now we are in the heart of the danger zone. What are we to do?
In a capitalistic society you are a consumer first and foremost. A capitalistic society feeds on your spending, and it feeds you with the sweet satisfaction of ‘things.’ You have power in your purchases; use your buying power to support sustainability-minded companies. If companies are getting away with infiltrating and orchestrating sections of the government, then why not make sure they are excellent companies willing to appease, not disease the masses.
Buy local, support the little guy. Sure, it may sometimes be more expensive, but try not spending your money on a few of your monthly non-essentials and you’d be surprised how quickly your savings add up.
Related Article: Income Inequality in America
Become more independent and deplete your dependence on ‘the system’ by making purchases with awareness. Find satisfaction in the little things and start wanting less. Become more aware of how each and every decision you make affects the rest of the world. Imagine that everyone else on planet Earth is you; what effect would you like to have on yourself?
Grow a garden, go foraging for food, or keep honeybees. Learn about permaculture and begin practicing a zero-waste lifestyle. It’s way easier than you think, and is actually really fun.
Arguably the most important thing you can do is vote. Contact your elected officials and tell them what you think. Demand that they act as your representative, not a rogue speaker. Help fight fracking by joining organizations that fight to stop it.
Educate yourself and spread awareness about issues that are important to you.
Consider. Constantly consider the effect you are causing.