"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Fracking’

Exaustive Study Finds Atmospheric Concentrations Of Methane Gas Up To 75% Higher Than EPA Estimates

In Uncategorized on February 25, 2014 at 8:51 pm

America's natural gas system is leaky and in need of a fix, new study findsOldspeak: “Duh. When you understand that methane (b.k.a. “Natural’)  gas extraction; “fracking” creates “alarmingly high” uncontrolled gas emissions into the atmosphere. indefinitely. When you understand that methane gas leaks are persistent throughout the extraction, production and consumption cycle, this cannot be surprising. What is surprising to me is that anyone took the EPAs estimates seriously, when they for some reason, excluded natural methane sources, like wetlands and geologic seeps. With the largest sea floor methane seep in the fucking world  right off the coast of the Carolinas, and scientists have no idea how many more are out there, this makes no sense. And for some other ridiculously corrupt reason allowed methane gas extracting corporations to “self report” the emissions levels from their operations. That’s right. They don’t have to allow EPA access to their sites unless they feel like it. They just tell EPA whatever they like, and EPA has zero authority to trust but verify the numbers provided. And if Obama gets his wish to dramatically expand Methane gas extraction operations, ignoring the environmental destruction and contamination its extraction begets, we can expect this madness to get worse. Short explaination? We’re fucked.” -OSJ

By Mark Golden @ Stanford  News Service:

A review of more than 200 earlier studies confirms that U.S. emissions of methane are considerably higher than official estimates. Leaks from the nation’s natural gas system are an important part of the problem. This finding has important implications for natural gas as a possible replacement fuel for coal.

Oil and gas processing plants are significant sources of methane, Stanford researchers have found. (INSAGO / Shutterstock)

The first thorough comparison of evidence for natural gas system leaks confirms that organizations including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have underestimated U.S. methane emissions generally, as well as those from the natural gas industry specifically.

Natural gas consists predominantly of methane. Even small leaks from the natural gas system are important because methane is a potent greenhouse gas – about 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. A study, “Methane Leakage from North American Natural Gas Systems,” published in the Feb. 14 issue of the journal Science, synthesizes diverse findings from more than 200 studies ranging in scope from local gas processing plants to total emissions from the United States and Canada.

“People who go out and actually measure methane pretty consistently find more emissions than we expect,” said the lead author of the new analysis, Adam Brandt, an assistant professor of energy resources engineering at Stanford University. “Atmospheric tests covering the entire country indicate emissions around 50 percent more than EPA estimates,” said Brandt. “And that’s a moderate estimate.”

The standard approach to estimating total methane emissions is to multiply the amount of methane thought to be emitted by a particular kind of source, such as leaks at natural gas processing plants or belching cattle, by the number of that source type in a region or country. The products are then totaled to estimate all emissions. The EPA does not include natural methane sources, like wetlands and geologic seeps.

The national natural gas infrastructure has a combination of intentional leaks, often for safety purposes, and unintentional emissions, like faulty valves and cracks in pipelines. In the United States, the emission rates of particular gas industry components – from wells to burner tips – were established by the EPA in the 1990s.

Since then, many studies have tested gas industry components to determine whether the EPA’s emission rates are accurate, and a majority of these have found the EPA’s rates too low. The new analysis does not try to attribute percentages of the excess emissions to natural gas, oil, coal, agriculture, landfills, etc., because emission rates for most sources are so uncertain.

Several other studies have used airplanes and towers to measure actual methane in the air, so as to test total estimated emissions. The new analysis, which is authored by researchers from seven universities, several national laboratories and federal government bodies, and other organizations, found these atmospheric studies covering very large areas consistently indicate total U.S. methane emissions of about 25 to 75 percent higher than the EPA estimate.

Some of the difference is accounted for by the EPA’s focus on emissions caused by human activity. The EPA excludes natural methane sources like geologic seeps and wetlands, which atmospheric samples unavoidably include. The EPA likewise does not include some emissions caused by human activity, such as abandoned oil and gas wells, because the amounts of associated methane are unknown.

However, the analysis also finds that some recent studies showing very high methane emissions in regions with considerable natural gas infrastructure are not representative of the entire gas system. “If these studies were representative of even 25 percent of the natural gas industry, then that would account for almost all the excess methane noted in continental-scale studies,” said a co-author of the study, Eric Kort, an atmospheric science professor at the University of Michigan. “Observations have shown this to be unlikely.”

Natural gas as a replacement fuel

Even though the gas system is almost certainly leakier than previously thought, generating electricity by burning gas rather than coal still reduces the total greenhouse effect over 100 years, the new analysis shows. Not only does burning coal release an enormous amount of carbon dioxide, mining it releases methane.

Perhaps surprisingly though, the analysis finds that powering trucks and buses with natural gas instead of diesel fuel probably makes the globe warmer, because diesel engines are relatively clean. For natural gas to beat diesel, the gas industry would have to be less leaky than the EPA’s current estimate, which the new analysis also finds quite improbable.

“Fueling trucks and buses with natural gas may help local air quality and reduce oil imports, but it is not likely to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Even running passenger cars on natural gas instead of gasoline is probably on the borderline in terms of climate,” Brandt said.

The natural gas industry, the analysis finds, must clean up its leaks to really deliver on its promise of less harm. Fortunately for gas companies, a few leaks in the gas system probably account for much of the problem and could be repaired. One earlier study examined about 75,000 components at processing plants. It found some 1,600 unintentional leaks, but just 50 faulty components were behind 60 percent of the leaked gas.

“Reducing easily avoidable methane leaks from the natural gas system is important for domestic energy security,” said Robert Harriss, a methane researcher at the Environmental Defense Fund and a co-author of the analysis. “As Americans, none of us should be content to stand idly by and let this important resource be wasted through fugitive emissions and unnecessary venting.”

One possible reason leaks in the gas industry have been underestimated is that emission rates for wells and processing plants were based on operators participating voluntarily. One EPA study asked 30 gas companies to cooperate, but only six allowed the EPA on site.

“It’s impossible to take direct measurements of emissions from sources without site access,” said Garvin Heath, a senior scientist with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and a co-author of the new analysis. “But self-selection bias may be contributing to why inventories suggest emission levels that are systematically lower than what we sense in the atmosphere.”

The research was funded by the nonprofit organization Novim through a grant from the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation. “We asked Novim to examine 20 years of methane studies to explain the wide variation in existing estimates,” said Marilu Hastings, sustainability program director at the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation. “Hopefully this will help resolve the ongoing methane debate.”

Other co-authors of the Science study are Francis O’Sullivan of the MIT Energy Initiative; Gabrielle Pétron of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Colorado; Sarah M. Jordaan of the University of Calgary; Pieter Tans, NOAA; Jennifer Wilcox, Stanford; Avi Gopstein of the U.S. Department of State; Doug Arent of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis; Steven Wofsy of Harvard University; Nancy Brown of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; independent consultant Richard Bradley; and Galen Stucky and Douglas Eardley, both of the University of California-Santa Barbara. The views expressed in the study are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. government.

A False Choice For The Ages – Capitalism Or The Environment: On A Dying Planet You Can’t Have Both

In Uncategorized on October 8, 2013 at 11:40 am

https://theoldspeakjournal.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/698e1-cap_env.jpgOldspeak: “The capitalist drive to maximize profits explains the externalizing of environmental costs. Capitalism allows small minorities to profit at the expense of others. Private ownership of what are social means of livelihood allows capitalists to make decisions that pass the real costs of industry to communities, workers, future generations and other species… Worse, capitalism requires constant growth because it always needs more profit. Making ever more profit is what motivates people to make investments. But what happens when the environment needs a smaller human footprint? When, at least in wealthier countries, we must learn to live with much less stuff? Supporters of capitalism claim the system is based on freedom and choice, but when it comes to the environment for many people this amounts to the freedom to choose between destroying the planet or having a job…. The business pages are full of stories quoting the captains of the carbon-industrial complex as telling us what amounts to: “You must choose between economic prosperity and what is good for the environment, because you can’t have both.”…some so-called environmentalists look to capitalism for solutions. That’s like asking the fox to fix the hen-house. You can’t be a serious environmentalist and support capitalism. A sustainable economy is incompatible with a system that constantly demands more profit.” –Gary Engler

“How do we free ourselves from the ruthlessly cannibalistic drives of our hyper-violent, destructive and unsustainable economic system & choose the life of our planet, and by extension, us, over the extractive, exploitative, real cost externalizing, computer generated “profit” generating machine that is Capitalism? A fellow blogger over at Cyber Street Soap Co.  has the idea OSJ has been advocating for years- Withdraw your support for it. When they says “…freedom must be built from the inside out, starting with yourself. It cannot be done by sitting in your comfy home “truthing” about our evil rulers. It can’t even be done by standing around with a sign, after which you will probably return to your comfy home feeling all proud of yourself, then go back to your shit corporate job because you “need the money.” Sorry, but this just won’t work….As long as you keep laboring for their corporations to get some of their money, so you can continue buying their products in their fucking stores… nothing will change. Period. If you continue obeying their laws and seeking their permission, nothing will change. But if enough of us stop playing into their system, real things will happen. Not one shot needs to be fired. Not one fist needs to be raised in violence (or even protest) against our leaders. If you stop watering the plant, the plant will wither away. Simple.” -Bradely Durden. We have no choice. We simply cannot continue to support a system that is slowing and surely destroying us and our planet. Planet must trump “profit” and “growth”. We must make the environment and its continued sustainablility the center of our economic system. “we must hardwire the health of the ecosystem directly to the standard measurements of economic health so that the state of the environment is immediately visible in all economic transactions. Global finance, trade and investment must all be conducted within a system that makes the preservation of the climate, rather than profit, the highest priority. One possible approach is the introduction of a global “eco-currency.” The international community would establish an international currency, an “eco-currency,” whose value is linked directly to the state of the climate (both globally and locally) and that currency would serve either as a universal currency within which international transactions take place, or it could be a factor that significantly impacts all the global currencies.” –Emanuel Pastreich. The end of the world as we know it is the only possible outcome if we continue on this omnicidal course. There is no Capitalism on a dead planet.” -OSJ

By Gary Engler @ Dissident Voice:

If all you care about is making more stuff, capitalism may be the best system ever. But if you want to save the planet from environmental catastrophe our current economic system is a dead end.

I remember in my socialist youth often being told: “Your ideas sound good but that’s just not how things work in real life.”

In my socialist sixties these same words seem appropriate as an analysis of mainstream environmentalism today.

Here is the harsh reality:

The capitalist drive to maximize profits explains the externalizing of environmental costs. Capitalism allows small minorities to profit at the expense of others. Private ownership of what are social means of livelihood allows capitalists to make decisions that pass the real costs of industry to communities, workers, future generations and other species.

Worse, capitalism requires constant growth because it always needs more profit. Making ever more profit is what motivates people to make investments. But what happens when the environment needs a smaller human footprint? When, at least in wealthier countries, we must learn to live with much less stuff?

All the evidence shows capitalism is really lousy at dealing with declining markets. Every time the economy shrinks for a sustained period capitalism goes into a crisis. Banks crash, unemployment rises and wars are often necessary to get capitalism out of its crisis.

Supporters of capitalism claim the system is based on freedom and choice, but when it comes to the environment for many people this amounts to the freedom to choose between destroying the planet or having a job. The promoters of tar sands, fracking, coal mining and pipelines are explicit about this and, in fact, go even further. The business pages are full of stories quoting the captains of the carbon-industrial complex as telling us what amounts to: “You must choose between economic prosperity and what is good for the environment, because you can’t have both.”

If we continue with capitalism, they are correct.

Yet some so-called environmentalists look to capitalism for solutions. That’s like asking the fox to fix the hen house. You can’t be a serious environmentalist and support capitalism. A sustainable economy is incompatible with a system that constantly demands more profit.

Now that the human population has passed seven billion, it should be obvious that we inhabit a planet of finite resources. But population growth is not the problem. Human energy remains our most precious and underutilized resource. Once basic material needs for food, clothing, housing and health care have been met, human well-being depends less on consumption than on opportunities for education, employment, social participation and social recognition.

Science leaves little reasonable doubt that the burning of currently known reserves of coal, oil and natural gas will push atmospheric carbon dioxide levels past a tipping point, after which rising global temperatures will irreversibly undermine the conditions on which human life as we know it depends.

Despite the weight of evidence and the urgency of the problem, capitalism rests on the expansion of fossil fuel production and use.

Around the planet trillions of dollars are being spent to develop massive deposits of shale oil and gas. In Canada capitalist investment is focused on expanding oil production from tar sands. The promoters claim that these developments will create jobs. But the funds required to develop and transport that fuel will create far fewer jobs than would be produced if equivalent amounts were spent on the development of solar, wind and geothermal power. Far more jobs could be produced with investments in domestic employment for domestic markets, in the production and distribution of local agriculture, clothing, shoes and communications products. More jobs would be created by investments in child care, elder care, social housing, public transit and other green infrastructure.

But capitalism prefers investments in fossil fuels because corporate profits now largely depend on cheap fuel. Equivalent profits cannot be made meeting actual human needs.

So, we have some important choices to make: Support capitalism or support the environment. Build a different sort of economic system that can prosper in harmony with the environment or fiddle with capitalism as our planet burns.

Gary Engler is an elected union officer and co-author of the just released New Commune-ist Manifesto — Workers of the World It Really is Time to Unite, an updating of the original designed to provoke discussion about the future of unions and the Left. Read other articles by Gary.

Message from Mexico: U.S. Is Polluting Water Reservoirs It May Someday Need to Drink From

In Uncategorized on January 29, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Oldspeak:”U.S. environmental regulators have long assumed that reservoirs located thousands of feet underground will be too expensive to tap. So even as population increases, temperatures rise, and traditional water supplies dry up, American scientists and policy-makers often exempt these deep aquifers from clean water protections and allow energy and mining companies to inject pollutants directly into them. the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued more than 1,500 permits for companies to pollute such aquifers in some of the driest regions. Frequently, the reason was that the water lies too deep to be worth protecting. –Abrahm Lustgarten. From the Department of Galatically Stupid Policy Planning. The U.S. government has allowed ancient, unspoiled sources of an essential building block of life crucial to our survival;  water,  to be poisoned by short-sighted, profit-polluted energy corporations.  These industries ironically use untold trillions of gallons of water, to extract refine death energy. This despite devastating droughts through the summer of 2012 that rendered half of U.S. counties “natural” disaster areas. Despite reports of perpetual drought becoming an increasingly intractable problem in the coming decades, with scientists predicting the devastating conditions of “The Dust Bowl” in the 1950 becoming the new normal. The U.S. President takes every oppurtunity he gets to tout 100 years of energy independence to be gained from drilling for “natural” gas, but never mentions how much precious and irreplaceable water is lost to secure this “independence”. What will it take for policy makers to understand that they’re lining their pockets with riches begotten of  devolution, death, destruction? What will it take to make them understand that there is no prosperity, no power, no prestige, on a dead planet? “Ignorance Is Strength”, “Profit Is Paramount”

By Abrahm Lustgarten @ Pro Publica:

Mexico City plans to draw drinking water from a mile-deep aquifer, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. The Mexican effort challenges a key tenet of U.S. clean water policy: that water far underground can be intentionally polluted because it will never be used.

U.S. environmental regulators have long assumed that reservoirs located thousands of feet underground will be too expensive to tap. So even as population increases, temperatures rise, and traditional water supplies dry up, American scientists and policy-makers often exempt these deep aquifers from clean water protections and allow energy and mining companies to inject pollutants directly into them.

As ProPublica has reported in an ongoing investigation about America’s management of its underground water, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued more than 1,500 permits for companies to pollute such aquifers in some of the driest regions. Frequently, the reason was that the water lies too deep to be worth protecting.

But Mexico City’s plans to tap its newly discovered aquifer suggest that America is poisoning wells it might need in the future.

Indeed, by the standard often applied in the U.S., American regulators could have allowed companies to pump pollutants into the aquifer beneath Mexico City.

For example, in eastern Wyoming, an analysis showed that it would cost half a million dollars to construct a water well into deep, but high-quality aquifer reserves. That, plus an untested assumption that all the deep layers below it could only contain poor-quality water, led regulators to allow a uranium mine to inject more than 200,000 gallons of toxic and radioactive waste every day into the underground reservoirs.

But south of the border, worsening water shortages have forced authorities to look ever deeper for drinking water.

Today in Mexico City, the world’s third-largest metropolis, the depletion of shallow reservoirs is causing the ground to sink in, iconic buildings to teeter, and underground infrastructure to crumble. The discovery of the previously unmapped deep reservoir could mean that water won’t have to be rationed or piped into Mexico City from hundreds of miles away.

According to the Times report, Mexican authorities have already drilled an exploratory well into the aquifer and are working to determine the exact size of the reservoir. They are prepared to spend as much as $40 million to pump and treat the deeper water, which they say could supply some of Mexico City’s 20 million people for as long as a century.

Scientists point to what’s happening in Mexico City as a harbinger of a world in which people will pay more and dig deeper to tap reserves of the one natural resource human beings simply cannot survive without.

“Around the world people are increasingly doing things that 50 years ago nobody would have said they’d do,” said Mike Wireman, a hydrogeologist with the EPA who also works with the World Bank on global water supply issues.

Wireman points to new research in Europe finding water reservoirs several miles beneath the surface — far deeper than even the aquifer beneath Mexico City — and says U.S. policy has been slow to adapt to this new understanding.

“Depth in and of itself does not guarantee anything — it does not guarantee you won’t use it in the future, and it does not guarantee that that it is not” a source of drinking water, he said.

If Mexico City’s search for water seems extreme, it is not unusual. In aquifers Denver relies on, drinking water levels have dropped more than 300 feet. Texas rationed some water use last summer in the midst of a record-breaking drought. And Nevada — realizing that the water levels in one of the nation’s largest reservoirs may soon drop below the intake pipes — is building a drain hole to sap every last drop from the bottom.

“Water is limited, so they are really hustling to find other types of water,” said Mark Williams, a hydrologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “It’s kind of a grim future, there’s no two ways about it.”

In a parched world, Mexico City is sending a message: Deep, unknown potential sources of drinking water matter, and the U.S. pollutes them at its peril.

 

 

Fracking Insiders Score Big In New Gas Bill, But Americans Not Told The True Costs Of Massive Drilling Plan

In Uncategorized on April 11, 2011 at 10:35 am

Oldspeak: “Drill Baby Drill: Redux. Yet another demonstratably dangerous and unclean alternative energy source Obama has thrown his weight behind. Nevermind  everywhere land is fracked people not having clean water to drink and exponentially increased cancer risks from all the acutely toxic poisons used to extract “natural gas”. When Obama is touting the virtues of the “Pickens Plan” by the T. Boone Pickens who bankrolled the vicious and libelous “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” Campaign against John Kerry in ’04, somethin ain’t right. When Pickens morphs into Obama’s biggest cheerleader and Pickens and his lot have contributed cash to Obama and the bills other major sponsors, one has to wonder if this is really about “securing america’s energy future”.

By Steve Horn @ PR Watch:

Corporate insiders peddling the claim that drilling for methane gas will solve America’s energy needs just scored big in Washington — and for these insiders fracking [5] for gas isvery lucrative business. House Resolution 1380, given the feel-good moniker of the “New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act ” or “NAT GAS Act,” was announced on Wednesday, April 6, in the U. S. House of Representatives. The bill [6] is 24-pages long and rewards the fracking industry with tax credits and products to help “drive” consumption. The bigger the vehicle, the more tax credits given.

This initiative to expand the controversial fracking [5] process — which has already resulted in contaminated wells and rivers [7] and even ignitable tap water [8] for some — is beingspearheaded in Congress [9] by Reps. John Sullivan (R-Oklahoma) [10], Dan Boren (D-Oklahoma) [11], John Larson (D-Connecticut) [12], and Kevin Brady (R-Texas) [13]. The bill has77 co-sponsors [14], with 40 Democrats [15] in support, and 37 Republicans [16], from 33 different states [17].

But, perhaps its most powerful supporter or potential supporter is President Barack Obama [18]. Just two weeks ago, he alluded to being a strong supporter of a bill of this nature in a speech on March 30 [19] on “America’s Energy Security” at Georgetown University. In that address, he specifically mentioned T. Boone Pickens [20]’s name when discussing legislation to support expanded fracking for methane.

Pickens Hearts Methane: A Quick Review

As has been documented by PR Watch [21], T. Boone Pickens is a diehard advocate of methane gas [22] drilling in the Marcellus Shale [23] basin of the U.S. and elsewhere, vis-a-vis what he has coined as the “Pickens Plan [24]”.

Announced in July of 2008, his PR pitch is about “getting off of foreign energy sources” and “using the resources we have at home.” In theory, these soundbites could refer to greater investment in renewable resources like wind and solar energy. In practice, it has meant a push by Pickens for relentless fracking for methane in virtually every crevice of American land.

Though hailed by Pickens and other uncritical observers as an “energy efficient solution” and a “clean” energy resource, this PR spin ignores the true dangers and consequences of fracking and of the methane distribution and consumption process. Fracking [25] — using a drilling technique pioneered by Halliburton [26] that forces a concoction of hazardous chemicals and drinkable water into shale–has been well-documented in movies like Gasland [27], as well as by the Center for Media and Democracy’s Water Portal[28], as a dangerous and destructive process that shortchanges land owners, enriches drillers, and spoils land and water.

Obama Embraces the Pickens Plan

President Barack Obama [18] has fully embraced the Pickens Plan. In his March 30th speech [19] at Georgetown, Obama gave a shout out to the plan, saying,

But the potential for natural gas is enormous. And this is an area where there’s actually been some broad bipartisan agreement. Last year, more than 150 members of Congress from both sides of the aisle produced legislation providing incentives to use clean-burning natural gas in our vehicles instead of oil. And that’s a big deal. Getting 150 members of Congress to agree on anything is a big deal. And they were even joined by T. Boone Pickens, a businessman who made his fortune on oil, but who is out there making the simple point that we can’t simply drill our way out of our energy problems.

Obama also referenced [29] Pickens in a March 11 address, using the same “This is one emergency we can’t drill our way out of” talking point. In an interview after the March 11 address, Pickens praised [30] Obama in appearances on Fox News [31] and CNN [32]’s Larry King Live [33].

The headline [34] of a March 30 Dallas Morning News article gets the headline right on what just happened: “Obama endorses Pickens plan for natural gas vehicles.” Seconding that, the Miami Herald headline [35] from April 3 reads, “Obama, oilman Pickens allied on natural gas push.” The lead of that article states, “The centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s new energy policy mirrors the plan trumpeted for more than two years by a one-time GOP juggernaut: Dallas oilman T. Boone Pickens.”

This is the same oilman who was a huge funder of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth [36] — he gave some $3 million, according to a story by Politico.com [37], to the organization that is infamous for the smear campaign it ran against [38] John Kerry [39] in the 2004 Presidential Election [40].

Obama [41] and Pickens [42] both also claim that, for “national security” purposes, we need to end our addiction to foreign oil, particularly from OPEC [43] countries. Yet, government reports show that gas companies are exporting an increasing amount of methane gas drilled throughout the U.S. to other countries [44], thus adding to the profits of the industry as it depletes the gas supply available to Americans.

Furthermore, the Wall Street Journal [45] reported [46] that two big Houston, Texas methane gas drilling companies, Freeport LNG [47] and Cheniere Energy [48], are entering the export market. U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), one of the bill’s original four sponsors, represents Texas’s 8th congressional district [49], which is located just outside of Houston. These two [50] companies [51], lo and behold, are headquartered in Houston.

The Wall Street Journal article also mentioned [46], “Major gas producers, including Chesapeake Energy [52] Corp. and EnCana Corporation [53], are enthusiastic about the idea.”

Additionally, a cursory look toward Afghanistan [54] and Iraq [55], two countries the United States military is currently occupying, shows that fossil fuels are on the minds of the powers-that-be and will be for years to come. The Trans-Afghainstan Pipeline [56], located in the heart of Pipelineistan [57], was a project spearheaded [58] by U.S. oil companyUnocal [59]. The pipeline procures methane gas.

Similarly, the Sourcewatch article titled “Oil and War in Iraq [60]” also shows that Iraq sits on one of the largest oil reserves in the world, much of it consisting of methane gas. That article, citing a Sept. 2008 report from The Guardian [61], states, “In September 2008, oil giant Shell [62] became the first western oil company to win significant access to the energy sector in Iraq since the 1970s, in a $4 billion deal…Shell signed an agreement with the Oil Ministry to form a joint venture with the South Oil Company [63] … to process and market natural gas extracted on 19,000 sq km (7,300 sq miles) of land.”

A National Security concern? Certainly a concern for big profits, accompanied by big spin [64].

How the “NAT GAS” Bill Story Broke and What that Tale Tells

The way the story on the bill was broken reveals a lot about how the bill came to be. The first four entities to break the story are all, as will be seen, in some way, shape and form, well-connected to Pickens: School Transportation News [65] (STN) and Natural Gas Vehicles for America [66] (NGVA), and the American Natural Gas Alliance [67] (ANGA), andClean Energy Fuels [68] (CEF). All four originally broke the story before the bill was publicly available.

ANGA consists of all of methane’s key players [69], including Cabot Oil and Gas [70], Chesapeake Energy [52], Seneca Resources [71], and EQT [72], among others. (SourceWatch has new profiles on these companies and the political donations and activities of their leaders.) ANGA showered Obama’s March 31 address with praise [73].

NGVA, on the other hand, is called a “peer group partner” of the so-called “American Clean Skies Foundation [74].” NGVA has a programming agreement through the Foundation’s PR channel, Clean Skies TV Network [74], and the Foundation is funded by Chesapeake Energy CEO, Aubrey McClendon [75]. NVGA’s spokesperson is the author of its press release on the announcement of the NAT GAS Act, and Denise McCourt, according to her LinkedIn page [76], is the former Industry Relations Director of the American Petroleum Institute [77] (API). Before that stint, she was the Director of General Membership and Member Relations.

CEF is another “peer group partner” of the American Clean Skies Foundation [74] that has a programming agreement with Clean Skies TV Network. Coming full circle, Pickens sits on its Board of Directors [78], as does John S. Herrington [79], the former United States Secretary of Energy under Ronald Reagan [80] during his second term as President. The President and CEO of CEF, Andrew J. Littlefair, according to his biography [81] on their website, is also the President of NGVA. According to that same biography, he formerly served as President of Pickens Fuel Corporation. A glance at the American Clean Skies Foundation webpage shows that he also sits on the Board of Directors [82] with McClendon.

Pickens Fuel Corporation is the predecessor of CEF, which Littlefair co-founded in 1997 with Pickens. It was reincorporated [83] as CEF in 2001. CEF dedicated [84] its first Liquified Natural Gas plant to Pickens in May 2006, according to its website. The plant is called the “Pickens Plant.” CEF’s homepage includes links to the American Clean Skies Foundation [85], Clean Skies TV Network, and the NGVA website.

A bit trickier to figure out, STN, according to its website [86], “is a monthly news and feature magazine serving the field of pupil transportation.” Two of its “industry contacts” for “vendors and suppliers” in the “alternative fuel and equipment” category include, lo and behold, NGVA [87] and CEF [88].

An e-mail exchange with the Editorial Director of STN and the author of STN’s article on the House’ introduction of the NAT GAS Act [65], John Gray, confirms that he had not yet seen a copy of the legislation when he wrote his article, but was flagged about it via a direct contact from a representative from the NGVA. Gray predicts that NGVA “were likely key authors of the legislation. My hunch is that they helped write it. Standard procedure in DC. They are a lobby.”

Many Questions to Answer, and Avenues to Explore

To be fair, it is unfortunately not uncommon for lobbyists to write drafts of legislation but that does not make it not unseemly. This situation does raise legitimate questions. The age-old questions are about wealthy interests dictating law to willing servants in the legislature. Or to put it another way, the question is whether the gas industry’s money is basically throwing its voice, like a ventriloquist, through the public’s (or industry’s) servants in Congress. And, relatedly, given all the access expensive lobbyists and donations can procure in Congress, what access if any has been given to ordinary people who have deep concerns about the the methane industry’s grand plans? Here are some more specific questions:

1. If well-connected and multi-billion dollar industries represented by groups such as CEF, the ANGA, and NGVA were the first to see this bill and know its details before it was available to the general public, did they actually write the thing, in part or in whole, themselves, as Gray suggested? Why and how did they get a head start?

2. Was there some sort of bargain negotiated between President Obama and Pickens in their mid-August 2008 meetings [89] before he became President? Did candidate Obama[90] promise to support drilling in those pre-election meetings [91]?

3. Did the $4,800 Pickens that gave to two the bill’s sponsors, Rep. John Sullivan (R-Oklohoma), and Rep. John Larson (D-Oklahoma), (figures according to the Center for Responsive Politics [92]) have any influence on their decision to propose this bill? How about the $10,000 Pickens gave to two swing states’ [93] Democratic Parties in the 2008 Presidential election, Colorado and New Mexico? Both [94] of these states [95] also sit on huge potential beds [96] of gas. How often have these reps or their staff been meeting with gas lobbyists and how much time has been given to citizens with concerns?

4. How much influence did the $327,400 campaign cash [97] doled out [98] in the 2010 election from the hand of [99] Big Oil [100] (much, but not all of which comes from methane gas companies) have on these four representatives?

5. How about the $11,000 from Aubrey McClendon [75] ($4,800 to Boren and $4,800 to Sullivan, as well as $2,300 to Obama)? How about the $37,000 that the corporation he is CEO of, Chesapeake Energy [52], doled out to the bill’s four co-sponsors? Did that money carry with it any clout?

6. Will there be any public hearings that will let people like Josh Fox and others who have documented concerns about fracking be allowed to testify before Congress?

The Center for Media and Democracy plans to keep digging into this troubling proposal and its details in the coming days and months ahead.