A program of the West Virginia Oil & Natural Gas Association

Fracking, George Orwell and Yoko Ono

By Hoppy Kercheval | WV MetroNews | July 23, 2015

The New York Times earlier this month featured a full-page ad by Yoko Ono in opposition to a planned natural gas pipeline from the gas fields of Pennsylvania to southern New York state, where hydraulic fracturing is not permitted. The artist, widow of John Lennon and anti-fracking activist, said the pipeline would be a “scar that never heals” and even proclaimed that the pipeline’s name—the Constitution—was Orwellian.

It’s unclear exactly how naming a pipeline after the country’s supreme law is representative of Orwellian themes of repression or propaganda, but it’s probably a chilling enough accusation to ignite the passions of anti-carbon environmentalists.

The challenge for their movement, however, is that the research continues to undermine their histrionics about fracking, shipping and burning natural gas.

Just this week Colorado State University (CSU), working in conjunction with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), released a study showing concerns about the release of methane gas from natural gas transmission and storage are overblown.

Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is far more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas and many environmental groups contend that methane leakage from natural gas production negates any advantages from burning gas instead of coal.

However the CSU study, which is one of the most comprehensive to date, found that methane emission levels are about what the Environmental Protection Agency said they were in its Greenhouse Gas Inventory—about 1.3 percent of all production.  The Environmental Defense Fund has maintained that anything below the 3.2 percent threshold is safe for the environment.

The CSU findings support the data in an earlier study by EDF and the University of Texas-Austin, which also found methane emissions to be in line with EPA estimates.  Both the UT and CSU studies used on-site measurements at gas wells, pipelines and storage facilities to get the most accurate readings.

Overall, methane emissions are dropping as

industries adopt best practices. According to figures from the EPA and the U.S. Energy Information Agency, between 2008 and 2013, methane emissions declined by 13 percent while natural gas production increased by 19 percent.

Meanwhile, last month the EPA released its most comprehensive study yet on hydraulic fracturing.  It determined that fracking has notled to “widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water sources in the United States.”  That doesn’t mean there’s not some risk, as with any industrial activity, but the hysteria created by YouTube videos of burning tap water is not fact-based.

In deference to Ms. Ono, “The Constitution” does sound more like a name for an old steam engine or a riverboat, rather than a natural gas pipeline. However, if there is an Orwellian tone to this debate, it’s coming from the environmental activists who are relying on their own propaganda when it comes to natural gas production.


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