Drilling for natural gas may not be the gold mine everyone thinks it is. Some industry officials are warning this could be another dot com bubble or giant Ponzi scheme.
The Columbus Dispatch, in its editorial of June 27, calls for caution in proceeding with natural gas drilling in the state. Now I am calling for us to follow New Jersey’s lead in banning fracking. In an effort to preserve the state’s waterways and safe drinking water, New Jersey passed legislation yesterday, June 29, banning hydraulic fracturing or fracking used in horizontal drilling of natural gas. They chose the environment over bags of money. (See link at bottom of previous article)
Bravo for them!
In their editorial, Due diligence—Drilling regulators should make sure ‘fracking’ in Ohio is done safely, the Dispatch warns that the state should proceed with caution, making sure it understands the process and its risks well enough to protect the environment and the public’s enjoyment of the parks. They warn that the “gold-rush mentality” is troubling and this potential wealth does not come without risk. The editorial warns that we should proceed slowly and learn from the mistakes made by other states involved in harvesting shale gas. Water and air quality are key concerns as well as spills and blowouts at the surface causing ground contamination.
Water purity is a major concern in Pennsylvania where the state has banned the waste water from the fracking process used in drilling horizontal wells from entering their wastewater treatment plants due to major pollution from the known and unknown chemicals used in the process. The water treatment plants can’t handle the influx of chemicals and the water discharged from the plants is polluting the state’s rivers and streams. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency announced that it also will not allow the waste water to be treated in our water treatment plants leaving the waste from both Pennsylvania and Ohio to be disposed of in underground injection wells. This causes some experts to question whether our state has the capacity to handle all this. In an attempt to slow the influx of waste, the state raised the brine-disposal fee from 5 cents to 20 cents a barrel.
One bright spot is that last year the state did a major revamping of the mining laws giving regulators more authority to insist on safer well construction.
Included in the editorial is a call for regulators to require full disclosure of all chemicals used saying public safety and the environment are at stake. The editorial closes by saying:
Ohio has the benefit of learning from mistakes made in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, but officials still should exercise the caution necessary to avoid making new ones.
Many are eager to reap the financial benefits projected to come from natural gas drilling citing the $128 million Pennsylvania received and $178 million collected by Michigan. However, in a political blog on the Dispatch’s website titled Officials plan to go slow on oil, gas drilling on public lands, Laura Jones, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said, “This will be a very deliberate, very measured process. There will be nothing happening fast.” It is projected that drilling in state parks and public lands won’t begin for at least a year while procedures and approvals are being put in place.
One step will be the creation of a five member Oil and Gas Drilling Commission to oversee drilling on state-owned land and grant leases. This commission may sound good on paper but I predict it will be nothing more than a rubber stamp for state and oil company officials since it is composed of four gubernatorial appointees and only one Natural Resources official. The Ohio Environmental Council, among others, has expressed concern that the bill would give the commission, rather than state agencies that own the land, too much authority to grant drilling leases.
While the commission is being created and rules written, Natural Resources officials are busy researching titles on land parcels to determine whether there are restrictions. House Bill 133, sponsored by Rep. John Adams, R-Sidney, which established the Commission, is designed to allow the process to move as quickly as possible as the rules are promulgated according to Rep. Adams.
Although the drilling companies will eventually nominate the parcels for drilling it is expected the state will do the nominating for the first year.
Sen. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, said drilling on public lands “remains unnecessary, unwanted and unsafe,” echoing concerns about how drilling could impact the natural beauty of parks and about the use of a hydraulic fracturing technique on deep shale that could harm groundwater supplies.
But, are we being too eager to capture the golden goose? Are we pursuing only fool’s gold? Some oil and gas company executives and experts are beginning to question the financial feasibility of pursuing the gas buried deep beneath shale deposits.
In an article titled Natural-gas industry: Companies over-hyping wells, some experts say Investors banking on controversial drilling, that appeared in the Dispatch Sunday, June 26, and reprinted from The New York Times, experts express grave doubts. Energy executives, industry lawyers, state geologists and market analysts are skeptical about lofty forecasts and question whether companies are intentionally, and even illegally, overstating the productivity of the wells and the size of their reserves. Some are even comparing the frenzy to the dot com bust and fall of the housing bubble.
“Money is pouring in” from investors even though shale gas is “inherently unprofitable,” an analyst from PNC Wealth Management, an investment company, wrote to a contractor in a February email. “Reminds you of dot-coms.”
“The word in the world of independents is that the shale plays are just giant Ponzi schemes and the economics just do not work,” an analyst from IHS Drilling Data, an energy-research company, wrote in an email on Aug. 28, 2009. Company data for more than 10,000 wells in three major shale-gas formations raise further questions about the industry’s prospects. There is undoubtedly a vast amount of gas in the formations. The question remains how affordably it can be extracted.
Industry officials are also expressing environmental concerns. Referring to the fracking process which can require more than a million gallons of water per well, they are saying that if shale gas wells fade faster than expected, energy companies will have to drill more wells or hydrofrack them more often, resulting in more toxic waste.
The information was provided in emails obtained through open-records requests or provided to The New York Times by industry consultants and analysts who say they think the public perception of shale gas does not match reality. Deborah Rogers, a member of the advisory committee of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, remembers saying, “I think we have a big problem” when she first studied well data from shale companies in October 2009 after attending a speech by the chief executive of Chesapeake.
Her research showed that the math wasn’t adding up and the wells were petering out faster than expected. “These wells are depleting so quickly that the operators are in an expensive game of ‘catch-up,'” Rogers wrote in an email on Nov. 17, 2009, to a petroleum geologist in Houston, who wrote back that he agreed.
When the boom began in 2008 oil and gas companies were offering Fort Worth residents as much as $27,500 per acre for signing leases. By late 2008 the recession began and natural gas prices plunged by nearly two-thirds, throwing the drilling companies’ business models into a tailspin. Some company engineers were projecting a well life span to be 20 to 30 years but some federal energy analysts were doubtful based on the wells’ performances.
Given the many hazards and uncertainties surrounding retrieval of natural gas, I once again plead for caution. The fact that many industry insiders and experts are questioning the financial feasibility should make us question the road we are on—it is not too late for a course correction. We do not want to rape, pillage, and plunder our state when there is so much to lose.
- New Jersey Senate Passes Fracking Ban (desmogblog.com)
A frustrated Hollywood screenwriter (Owen Wilson), with a less than supportive girlfriend (Rachel McAdams), goes on vacation to Paris with her parents. While there he wonders what it was like during the golden age of the 1920s during the expatriate movement. He decides to walk back to the hotel alone from a dinner party after a day of constant put-downs from his girlfriend, her parents, and some old friends they accidentally meet. Feeling totally depressed and once again lost, he sits down on some steps to try to figure out where he is. A car of partiers comes by and they ask him to join them.
They arrive at a private party and the first person he sees is someone at the piano looking and sounding strangely like Cole Porter. Then a perky young woman comes over and introduces herself as Zelda and her husband Scott—Fitzgerald. He also meets Ernest Hemingway and asks him to read and critique his first attempt at a novel. Hemingway’s reaction is “no” and says he knows he won’t like it because if it is good he will be jealous and won’t like it; and, if it is bad he won’t like it. However, he offers to take it to his friend, Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), to review. This is as far as I’m going with the plot but throughout the movie various artists and writers appear such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, T.S. Eliot, Henri Matisse, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin, Degas, and many others.
This movie is superbly written and directed by Woody Allen. It is not a movie for everyone but it is refreshing to see one that is intelligently written and executed. It has many of Allen’s trademark traits such as quick patter, contemplation of life and death and life’s purpose, and a bewildered main character—all backed by a jazz soundtrack. Owen Wilson plays Gil, the main character, and fits right in with the typical Woody Allen central character who is always confused and lacking self-confidence. It is interesting to note that he somehow manages to fit his southern drawl into Allen’s quick and cryptic dialogue.
If you are tired of the one-size-fits-all type of bland movie, this is the one to see. It is the type of movie you would expect to see at the art movie houses but, gladly, it is in wide release and you can probably see it at your local neighborhood theatre. For those who prefer the art movie house atmosphere, it can also be seen at the Drexel here in Columbus or your local art theatre.
To give this movie anything less than an A would be a sin.
The State of Ohio has not only approved drilling and fracking but it is also taking Pennsylvania’s toxic waste from fracking. Pennsylvania’s governor banned fracking waste from entering their wastewater treatment plants but now it is coming to our state. Pennsylvania was alarmed by the poisoning of their waterways from the fracking process and denied permission for the waste to be treated in their treatment plants. Now the waste is being trucked to our state. Why should we take on this problem when we will have plenty of problems of our own in a few short years when the natural gas industry is in full swing? This should be a warning to us!
It has finally happened–last week Ohio’s Senate approved drilling and fracking in our state’s parks and other public areas. It is a sad day for our state’s environment.
The fourth installment of the Pirates franchise brings new life and a little more depth to the Capt. Jack Sparrow character zanily portrayed by Johnny Depp. I love watching Depp waltz through these movies as in a drunken haze. He is both wily and loopy deftly dancing across the ship’s deck and falling over obstacles yet always outfoxing the enemy at the last moment. He has met his match this time in the form of Penelope Cruz as Angelica, Blackbeard’s daughter, and Ian McShane as Blackbeard. We learn that Jack Sparrow and Angelica have a past and there might still be a spark underneath that rough Pirate’s veneer.
Penelope Cruz is both beautiful and brilliant as Capt. Sparrow’s adversary/former lover. Ian McShane is excellent playing the part of the heavy. He is formidable and dominates the screen with his presence whenever he appears. Geoffrey Rush is one of the few returning characters as Capt. Barbossa who is Jack’s sworn enemy. Who else but Rush, an excellent actor, could go from tutoring the king of England in The King’s Speech to fighting with pirates? There is also another cameo appearance by Keith Richards as Sparrow’s father who Depp says he patterned his character after.
For those who have not seen any of the previous Pirates movies, not to worry. This movie is a standalone and does not rely on previous knowledge of characters or incidents. For those who have followed the series, there is a warm sense of familiarity as in seeing old friends. Another plus is this movie is more character and story driven and relies less on special effects than those of the past.
For a good time with some crazy characters I highly recommend this movie. Who can resist warm sands, high tides, salty characters, and Johnny Depp? It ranks an A in my book.
With the name Spielberg attached to it, one can’t help but make comparisons to his big hit of the 80’s, ET. Although both movies are about young people and aliens that is where the similarities stop. This alien isn’t nearly as endearing and lovable as ET. There is one scene where the alien appears to make an emotional connection with the young hero but that moment is only in passing.
It is good to see Kyle Chandler (or Coach Taylor for Friday Night Lights fans) take on a leading role. He is excellent portraying macho gruffness hiding a hurt and vulnerable human being. He is so preoccupied with running the town in the unexplained absence of the sheriff and coping with growing hysteria that he doesn’t notice his son is sneaking out at nights to participate in the making of a home movie about zombies. While filming a night scene for an amateur movie contest, they capture a train wreck by lucky coincidence. The repercussions of the wreck and its mysterious cargo will keep you on the edge of your seat the rest of the movie.
But, the real heroes of the movie are the young teens with little or no acting experience behind them. It is a testament to Abrams and Spielberg’s genius that they are able to build a whole movie around such inexperienced actors. The only one of the young actors with much experience is Elle Fanning (sister of Dakota Fanning) who plays the innocent heroine of the zombie movie.
I usually hate horror and monster movies because I don’t like blood, gore, and slime; and things that jump out at me. This movie does not rely on those cheap tricks but actually has a good story behind it. The alien is only seen as a quick movement on screen leaving more to the imagination until the climax of the movie when we finally see the arachnid species. The two masters of super natural intrigue have teamed up to write and produce what I predict will become a classic. How can you miss with Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams, one of the creators of Lost, behind it? Super 8 is written and directed by Abrams and produced by Spielberg and has all of the sci-fi mystery and nostalgia associated with both men.
I predict big things for this movie in the future. I give it an A.
The original Hangover is one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. It opens with three men waking up after an all night bender and wondering why they have a chicken wandering around the room, a tiger in the bathroom, and a baby in the closet.
It turned out to be the highest R rated comedy in history. So where do you go from there? In true Hollywood fashion you bring the same people together and rework the formula with a different location and add a monkey, an unattached bloody finger, a missing buddy, and a tattooed face. Even though this year’s version is also raking in the dough, I can’t say I enjoyed it as much. It does have some funny scenes but I felt the humor was more on the level of a teenage boy.
My feeling is—been there, done that. I give it a D.
The battle over natural gas is heating up. This weekend I received emails from opposite camps concerning the natural gas issue. I received a notice from T. Boone
Pickens to his army asking me to urge my representatives in Congress to support
the Natural Gas Act (NAT GAS Act—HR 1380) and the next day I received a notice from a political action committee urging me to ask my representatives to
sponsor the FRAC (Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals) Act.
I originally joined Pickens Army because he was preaching less dependence on foreign oil. His arguments were very convincing because OPEC is holding us hostage with the exorbitant price of oil. He was urging use of domestic resources including solar energy
and windmills. He proposed massive windmill farms which sounded good to me. Both
windmills and solar energy are a way of harvesting free natural resources to
meet our energy needs. I guess that solution was too simple and since it is a
free resource few people will make big money. Now his emphasis is on natural
gas. What else could I expect coming from an oil man? Below is his message:
I’ll keep this short, because it’s pretty obvious what the problem is and
there’s a very obvious solution.
According to the Federal Reserve Economic Database, the U.S. imported 62% of its oil – or 362 million barrels – last month alone. That’s $41.7 billion that was sent to
foreign countries for oil.
Our oil import numbers continue to be astronomical and our country continues to suffer as a result. In a time of economic turmoil, our crippling dependence on OPEC oil represents the height of fiscal irresponsibility – particularly when we have the ability to
use our own vast domestic natural gas resources.
We simply cannot afford to let this opportunity go to waste.
The message also included a link to my representatives which
I have deleted since I no longer support his efforts to promote natural gas.
The next day I received a notice seeking my support for the
FRAC Act. As I have previously written, there are many dangers involved with
the controversial method of reaping natural gas from shale formations known as
hydraulic fracturing of fracking. Below is their information:
As an Ohioan, you’ve probably been hearing a lot lately about fracking.
High Pressure Hydraulic Fracturing (or fracking) is a method of drilling for natural gas by pumping a mixture of water and chemicals, including known toxics and carcinogens, deep underground, and it’s already responsible for more than 1000 documented cases of poisoning water in states across the country.1
Fracking wells are spreading at an alarming rate. But even more alarming, thanks to the work of Dick Cheney and his infamous energy policy, frackers don’t have to disclose the chemicals used in their fluid to the EPA, and the process is
The FRAC Act, a bill that has been in the Senate since 2009, would correct both these problems. As public concern over fracking has grown, the bill has gained some momentum, but we still need more Senators actively working to pass it. Will you urge Sens. Brown and Portman to support the bill?
While state leaders in Ohio welcome new gas drilling, fracking in other states is polluting Ohio’s water as well. Ohio has been storing, treating and dumping waste water from fracking projects in other states into Ohio rivers. 2
Fracking is currently underway in 36 states. While some state regulations do exist, they vary widely. But water contamination isn’t constrained by state boundaries, and we need a strong baseline national standard to make sure fracking chemicals are publicly disclosed everywhere fracking is taking place, and that this practice isn’t putting our nation’s drinking water at risk.
Yet somehow, the EPA has been handcuffed from regulating fracking since 2005, in what has become known as “the Halliburton loophole.” Halliburton, where Dick Cheney was CEO before becoming Vice President, patented fracking in the 1940’s and remains the third largest producer of fracking fluids. And in trademark Bush administration style, Halliburton staff were actively involved in a 2004 EPA report on fracking safety.
The “Halliburton loophole” remains a dangerous legacy of the Bush Administration and if we’re going to protect our nation’s water, we need to close it.
If you’re not familiar with the dangers of fracking, here’s a little more background: Fracking a single gas well uses as much as millions of gallons of water, and hundreds of tons of chemicals. While the exact contents of the fluid remains largely undisclosed, scientific examination reveals that it can contain diesel fuel, which includes benzene, as well as methanol, formaldehyde and hydrochloric acid and many others.3
The fluid is injected thousands of feet underground at extremely high pressure, literally cracking the earth to release trapped gas. Unfortunately, it must pass through our water table, where the fluids, along with natural gas, can leak through well casings into our drinking water.
If you’ve ever seen the picture of the man lighting his tap water on fire from the recent documentary Gasland, that was
Fracking also poses serious risks to our rivers and streams from insufficiently treated, and often radioactive waste water, and from above ground spills of fracking fluid. An important investigative series by the New York Times recently concluded that “the dangers to the environment and health are greater than previously understood.”5
Yet, the oil and gas industry is the only industry in America that is allowed by EPA to inject known hazardous materials — unchecked — directly into or adjacent to underground drinking water supplies.
That’s got to change, and the FRAC Act is an important step in providing a strong national standard to protect our nation’s water from the dangers of fracking.
Thanks for fighting the unchecked oil and gas influence threatening our water.
1. Fracking,” Food and Water Watch.
As in most controversial issues you will find “experts”
representing both sides of the issue. Many scientists, engineers, and PhDs will
say hydraulic fracturing is perfectly safe. But if it is so safe why did the
industry take steps to exempt the process from the EPA regulations and pass
legislation to keep secret the chemicals used? In addition, accidents do happen and we all
remember the disastrous mess of the Gulf oil spill last year. We don’t want the
same thing to happen in our own backyard.
Our country, and in particular our own state of Ohio, are on
the precipice of a dangerous and slippery slope. The discovery of huge gas
deposits beneath the previously unapproachable shale could be the answer to our
financial and oil crisis—if it is harvested in a safe manner. This could mean
no more dependence on foreign oil and could bring in large revenues for
personal and state bank accounts.
Everyone could profit from this discovery but it must be
done in a way that won’t destroy our clean air and water. Currently, the
fracking process is just too dangerous with too many unknowns—including what
chemicals are used and their affect on the environment—to blindly fall for this
gold rush. What benefits can we possibly reap if we are dead or too sick to
enjoy them? Please contact your state representative to halt the explosive
growth of the natural gas industry in our state until safer methods are set in
place. Hurry before it is too late.
- Fracking, the Music Video (fool.com)