Skip to content

Peak Oil Matters

A fresh perspective on the concept of peak oil and the challenges we face


Tag: Hurricane Sandy








In yesterday’s post—as I and many others have shared on dozens of prior occasions—I discussed the seemingly limitless capacity of energy abundance cheerleaders to carefully select a few choice morsels from the fact tableau. Doing so affords them another chance to weave an impressive-sounding story designed to sway an already over-burdened public which has too little time or inclination to devote to energy and environmental matters.

The latest entry into that club came courtesy of this article, which relied exclusively on “expertise” from the same group of boosters referenced all the time. Their game plan is well-rehearsed, and opinions or evidence from other experts presenting a more well-rounded, evidence-based perspective won’t be found. Can’t have any contrary facts or even reality itself intrude on a script with a pre-determined conclusion, Right?

As annoying as these one-sided efforts can be, what really got (what’s left of) my hair standing on end was this casual throwaway comment [my bold/italic]:

Horizontal drilling is not new but the widespread application of it is. When combined with fracking, which uses highly pressurized water and sand to break through rock formations, usually shale, and ‘stimulate’ the movement of hydrocarbons, it has made recoverable billions of more barrels of oil and vast stores of natural gas.

“Water and sand” … that’s it?! That observation was one of those rare times when I actually uttered an out-loud “What the fuck?!”

Upon what theory does the omission of “and chemicals” from that description of fracking seem okay? Any citizen new to the topic would surely read the “water and sand” comment and utter their own “WTF?” in reply. “All the liberal-wacko-enviros are making all this noise about a process involving water and sand? Are they kidding?!”

How can one suggest that that very response and belief was anything other than precisely the reaction intended? Who cares if it’s misleading and a gross misrepresentation of this oil production process, Right?

What possible justification can be offered for the failure to mention chemicals—the third “ingredient” of fracking? Experts may disagree on the significance or consequences, but to deny the casual and understandably uninformed reader the opportunity to learn of that basic fact in the first instance? Seriously?

Frack fluid that is injected into the wells contains a toxic soup of hundreds of chemicals, including carcinogens and volatile organic compounds like benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene. Companies aren’t required to disclose what chemicals they’re using either — so it makes it difficult to test for leaks and spills, and for people to be treated for health problems that may arise from exposure.
Oh yeah, and fracking is exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act — thanks Dick Cheney! [1]

A subsequent comment in the article: “Others are worried that the drilling, most of which is occurring on private land, will create environmental problems and be blocked or stymied by new regulation,” was the only indication of any kind that fracking might involve some other issues. That’s so pathetic it almost defies description!

Repeating the nonsense about a “century’s” worth of natural gas supply and a complete failure to explain the important distinction between reserves and resources is by now par for the course. And what’s a good piece of largely fact-free story-telling without the obligatory vague-as-can-be assertion about production totals, (as evidenced by this quote: “But in many cases, he said, wells are producing more than anticipated”)? This article did not disappoint.

When the public is finally able to appreciate how much information affecting their well-being has been consistently withheld or deliberately misstated, there will be some serious hell to pay.

If a richly-deserved comeuppance was the only outcome, it would be a delightful show to observe. Unfortunately, the longer the public is denied important information about the reality of fossil fuel production and supply, the more difficult it will be for society, government, and industry to develop appropriate plans and responses. So we’ll suffer the long-term consequences of strategies with a small, select group of short-term beneficiaries—at our collective expense. Wonderful!

Duly acknowledged that fracking has generated impressive production increases of late, but “water and sand?” Awful!

I recently concluded a seven-part series on fracking/natural gas in which I cited a wide range of experts—easily Googled—whose assessments (with facts and everything; such a concept!) on fracking and energy potential tell a different story about the realities of energy supply and production. (Here’s the link to the last post of that series; links to the other six are contained therein.)

Just a couple of other facts from that series of mine which didn’t make it into this ridiculous piece of propaganda:

Evelyn Nieves and Nicholas Kusnetz in particular (here and here) offered wonderful overviews of what residents in North Dakota have been dealing with since fracking became a prime industry there. The titles of those two articles each offer a glimpse of the storylines: ‘The North Dakota Oil Fracking Boom Creates Clash of Money and Devastation’ and ‘North Dakota’s Oil Boom Brings Damage Along With Prosperity.

“Devastation” and “damage” are probably not good things, one could safely assume. Also left unmentioned (of course) are the investment concerns of fracking and the effects of the financial difficulties encountered by oil producers; the extensive damage to the communities (e.g., infrastructure, financial burdens to companies and organizations); the rapid depletion of fracked wells; the millions of gallons of water required per well, and the actual environmental and property damage left in the wake of exiting producers….

Trivial considerations when profits are to be made before it’s too late, I realize, but couldn’t this article have at least mentioned them? I guess that depends on the objective: attract investors, or provide readers with all of the relevant information.

Tough choice, Right?

* My Photo: from Salt Island at Good Harbor Beach, MA – 07.05.08


[1]; 5 reasons natural gas won’t save us by Tara Lohan – 01.11.13





But, honestly, it’s time to get real about things. Honestly, it’s time for someone to ‘politicize’ this storm for what it is.
Based on what the various candidates actually have told the people whose votes they are soliciting, over the past 48 hours, it has been far better for the nation that Barack Obama and Joseph Biden are running the executive branch than it would have been had those jobs been held by Willard Romney and Paul Ryan. Both of the latter are on record — and on audiotape, and on video, and all over the Intertoobz, and, for all I know, bellowing from the fillings in your teeth — as recommending that the federal government’s responsibility for things like disaster relief be either handed back to the states, or privatized entirely. They have made this argument in public. They have made this argument as part of the reason why you should vote for them. They also have similar plans for the National Weather Service, and for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and they have made those arguments as part of the reason why you should vote for them. If those ideas had prevailed, and those plans had been passed through the Congress, and signed by President Romney, more people would have died because of this storm, and more people would still be dying from this storm two or three weeks from now.
What they are saying now in an attempt to walk back their earlier arguments is almost assuredly nothing but a barrel full of lies. They’d be out there saying the very same things today if they hadn’t gotten blindsided by this storm. Do you honestly think, absent the arrival of Miss Sandra along the east coast, Willard Romney and Paul Ryan would be out there refining their opinion on federal disaster relief? That they would have abandoned the notion of handing disaster relief back to the states, or to their various corporate cronies. That they would have distanced themselves from barely camouflaged bigots like John Sununu, who repeatedly calls the president ‘lazy’? [1]

Can any of us rationally contemplate what kinds of relief efforts might be taking place right now in the eastern third of the country under a Republican “leadership” which believes that disaster relief is better left to the states; better still to private industry? [See this.] Whatever efforts might be employed would of course take place after decreased funding for the very research and technology which enabled forecasters to serve us all so well in the many days leading to the arrival/onslaught of Hurricane Sandy. [See this.] The good news is that the very wealthy would get a tax break! I guess that evens it out?

Ideological pronouncements have their place, but in the real world, actions and words have consequences. Ideological beliefs which serve as the foundation for policies and non-policies likewise have consequences. Followers who blindly accept the rantings of “leaders” whose interests clearly diverge from those millions whom they arguably serve are not immune to what happens in the real world. They too will have to endure the repercussions of limited government in a world where the rare catastrophes aren’t so rare any more.

How’s that going to work for us?

Ask residents of New York City (where our daughter has been without power since the storm hit) or New Jersey how delighted they would be with scores of state agencies and private companies tripping over each other as they each try to get a handle on the thousands of considerations which must be addressed in an undertaking of this scope. Who needs coordination and the power of a national operation when you can have chaos instead?

And through it all, the media can’t even get Mitt Romney to acknowledge their presence, let alone answer a simple but important question: What does he plan on doing with FEMA and other federal government disaster relief efforts? We’ve all seen his answer already, which pretty much amounts to “Good luck to all of you!” [See this terrific summary by Alex Kane.]

Of course, by the time you read this, it’s entirely possible Romney will have completely reversed his position, as he has with tax policy, the auto bailouts [see this and this], and on and on it goes [for example] … but I digress.

As we regain our footing in the aftermath of the awesome display of power Hurricane Sandy wielded at the expense of millions of residents, we have some other issues to ponder as well before next Tuesday.

So between now and the election, I’m going to take advantage of my little soapbox and offer some observations/quotes worth noting … and pondering further, as we approach the election. Thinking for ourselves would be a good thing, and each of us is capable of doing just that.

I’ll reserve most of my comments on each for other times. For now, the narrative offered via these independent yet interrelated quotes are sufficient on their own.

I’ll do so for reasons admirably expressed by the always-reasonable and thoughtful Jared Bernstein:

Yes, it’s time to start thinking again, but more pointedly, it’s time to realize what a potentially wonderful country we have here in America and to once again embrace the responsibility for its stewardship.  Right now, that means making the effort to see through shape-shifting flim-flammers whose platform reduces to ‘tell me what you want and I’ll tell you that I can give to you at absolutely no cost.’ [2]

Facts matter.

* My Photo: The Day After Sandy – Long Beach, Rockport, MA


[1]; Sandy: Evidence That Romney Is the Wrong President by Charles P. Pierce – 10.30.12
[2]; How Did Things Get So Screwed Up? by Jared Bernstein – 10.28.12