Friday, May 27, 2016

Fracking Won't Go Away

The Democrats can’t kill fracking – the process of busting open shale rock with high-pressure water that, along with horizontal drilling, has put American on the road to energy independence. But the Democrats are trying hard.

Locally, an officer of the Democratic Women’s Club of Florida who was formerly chair of the Lee County Democratic Party decried the evils of fracking in a Naples Daily News commentary. Her qualification for doing this was apparently that she was a Democrat. It certainly wasn’t that she knew anything about fracking. Her writing showed she didn’t.

Facts notwithstanding, it’s become a rallying cry for the left: Ban fracking. The so-called progressives wear their ignorance like a badge of courage. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida never misses a chance to flog fracking.  

The Feds are trying to kill it as well. The latest attempt was an EPA missive to cut methane emissions from natural gas production, nearly all of which involves fracking. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas. No matter that less than 30% of methane released to the atmosphere comes from the oil patch (most comes from natural sources, landfills and cattle flatulence). But the oil industry is an easy target.

The proposed rules require new wells to be monitored and steps taken to reduce methane releases 45% by 2025. But guess what? Even without government mandates, the industry, with continually improving technology, will easily meet that goal and more. After all, methane lost to the atmosphere is methane that can’t be sold.

No, neither the EPA nor the local Democrats will kill fracking. And neither will depressed oil and gas prices. In true free-market style, the weak producers are falling by the wayside, and the strong producers are tightening operations, focusing on the most productive plays and driving down costs.

As a result, oil and gas production remains strong. Crude has just hit $50 a barrel. When – not if, but when – crude oil returns to a sustained $60 a  barrel, the frackers will be back in force.

The majors – Exxon Mobil, Chevron and others – continue to be active players.  It’s important to keep in mind that much of U.S. land-based oil and gas recovery, even from older, non-shale wells, now involves some form of enhanced treatment, often hydraulic fracturing. Fracking is no longer a curiosity. It’s an integral part of today’s oil and gas production.

Also lost in the hand-wringing is that fact that fracking has provided big environmental benefits. Cheap shale gas has replaced coal in many power plants, dramatically reducing carbon emissions. As a result, meeting President Obama’s 2025 emission goals will be an easy matter.  

But what about climate change? Isn’t that based on undisputable evidence that fossil fuels are the villain, that reversing damage to the atmosphere can only be achieved by delivering on the Paris accords – namely getting rid of all fossil fuels, including shale gas?

For starters, the Paris conference was a fraud, a feel-good sham. Countries made voluntary promises that, even if kept, wouldn’t keep warming below the target 2-degree Celsius rise said by the experts needed to avert global disaster. And the Paris plan allows many countries to keep adding coal plants – China until 2030 – plants that, if you believe the experts, will do irreparable harm.

But those same experts are now having second thoughts. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change now says, even with greatly improved climate models, it cannot forecast atmospheric warming with any certainty. Gone is the dire warning of a 3-degree Celsius increase by 2100. The so-called experts just don’t know.

In fact, a recent study found that cold temperatures are more of an immediate threat than global heat. Of 74 million deaths recently examined, only 0.5% were found due to heat, while 7% were caused by extreme cold.

Facts are still evolving; the science isn’t yet settled.

Put it all together and the conclusion is fracking isn’t going away any time soon. The Democrats will have to try harder.


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