DON’T FRACK NEW YORK: Dangers of Hydraulic Fracturing

Josh Fox‘s new movie vividly dramatizes the dangers of Hydraulic Fracturing. The other month I saw a screening of the movie in upstate New York – at once ground central for proposed Gas and New York’s main aquifer – and it makes for grim viewing.

Hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) is a means of natural gas extraction employed in deep natural gas well drilling. Once a well is drilled, millions of gallons of water, sand and proprietary chemicals are injected, under high pressure, into a well. The pressure fractures the shale and props open fissures that enable natural gas to flow more freely out of the well.

Horizontal hydrofracking is a means of tapping shale deposits containing natural gas that were previously inaccessible by conventional drilling. Vertical hydrofracking is used to extend the life of an existing well once its productivity starts to run out, sort of a last resort. Horizontal fracking differs in that it uses a mixture of 596 chemicals, many of them proprietary, and millions of gallons of water per frack. This water then becomes contaminated and must be cleaned and disposed of.

What is the Halliburton Loophole?

In 2005, the Bush/ Cheney Energy Bill exempted natural gas drilling from the Safe Drinking Water Act. It exempts companies from disclosing the chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing. Essentially, the provision took the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) off the job. It is now commonly referred to as the Halliburton Loophole.

What is the Safe Drinking Water Act?

In 1974, the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was passed by Congress to ensure clean drinking water free from both natural and man-made contaminates.

What is the FRAC Act?

The FRAC Act (Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness to Chemical Act) is a House bill intended to repeal the Halliburton Loophole and to require the natural gas industry to disclose the chemicals they use.

How deep do natural gas wells go?

The average well is up to 8,000 feet deep. The depth of drinking water aquifers is about 1,000 feet. The problems typically stem from poor cement well casings that leak natural gas as well as fracking fluid into water wells.

How much water is used during the fracking process?

Generally 1-8 million gallons of water may be used to frack a well. A well may be fracked up to 18 times.

What fluids are used in the fracking process?

For each frack, 80-300 tons of chemicals may be used. Presently, the natural gas industry does not have to disclose the chemicals used, but scientists have identified volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene.

In what form does the natural gas come out of the well?

The gas comes up wet in produced water and has to be separated from the wastewater on the surface. Only 30-50% of the water is typically recovered from a well. This wastewater can be highly toxic.

What is done with the wastewater?

Evaporators evaporate off VOCs and condensate tanks steam off VOCs, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The wastewater is then trucked to water treatment facilities.

What is a well’s potential to cause air pollution?

As the VOCs are evaporated and come into contact with diesel exhaust from trucks and generators at the well site, ground level ozone is produced. Ozone plumes can travel up to 250 miles.

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China: Leader in Labor Abuse, Solar Power

Underage, underpaid workers working 15-hour shifts, sexually predatory security guards, hourly pay of just 52 cents per hour after deductions for the canteen food. No talking during work hours, no listening to music, no bathroom breaks. These are just some of the conditions that workers at China’s KYE Systems Corp. plant in Dongguan City have to endure. The factory produces hardware for U.S. companies, including Microsoft, and its work practices have been documented in a report by the National Labor Committee. What would the directors of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation say to all this?
China currently owns 50% of solar energy production capacity. Solar energy is popular because it is clean and abundant. The problem is that it remains expensive. According to recent calculations by the International Energy Agency, power from photovoltaic systems (solar cells) costs $200-600 a megawatt-hour, depending on the efficiency of the installation and the discount rate applied to future output. That compares with $50-70 per MWh for onshore wind power in America, by the IEA’s reckoning, and even lower prices for power from fossil fuels, unless taxes on greenhouse-gas emissions are included. The costs of solar are dropping; in some sunny places it may, in a few years, be possible to get solar electricity as cheaply from a set of panels as from the grid, and later on for solar to compete with conventional ways of putting electricity into the grid. But for the moment there would be no significant market for solar cells were it not for government subsidies.
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Green: Chevy Volt, Future Bikes

The Chevy Volt Gets 230 MPG. So What?
GM announced Tuesday that the much-ballyhooed plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt will get 230 mpg. At first glance, that’s a mind-blowingly high rating, and GM knows it. That’s why the automaker’s early marketing campaign for the car touts the number. But what does it actually mean?

2007 Chevrolet Volt Concept

An Olympic cyclist puts together some of the coolest bike-tech out there to create a vision for the next-generation urban two-wheeler.
chris boardman bike


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Green Marketing: Starwood Chargepoints, Tesco Allotments, ReBurbia

Element Lexington Tells Hybrid Drivers to Plug It In
Starwood has partnered with Carbon Day Automotive to install a ChargePoint™ Networked Charging Station at Element Lexington. Hybrid-driving guests and travelers alike can charge their vehicles via the unobtrusive station, equipped with a universal plug-in for all kinds of electric vehicles, including cars, buses, Segway scooters, and bikes. Drivers can use Google maps to locate the station and determine whether it’s unoccupied.

Tesco has stepped up its commitment to environmental issues by announcing plans to create allotments for recession-hit customers who want to grow their own vegetables. The supermarket giant has applied for planning permission for the 30 allotments on land next to its Southport store in Lancashire which, if granted, will see the sites rented out from next spring.

tesco allotment

Calling all future-forward architects, urban designers, renegade planners and imaginative engineers:
Show us how you would re-invent the suburbs! What would a McMansion become if it weren’t a single-family dwelling? How could a vacant big box store be retrofitted for agriculture? What sort of design solutions can you come up with to facilitate car-free mobility, ‘burb-grown food, and local, renewable energy generation? We want to see how you’d design future-proof spaces and systems using the suburban structures of the present, from small-scale retrofits to large-scale restoration—the wilder the better!
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Eco News: HP’s Carbon Reducing Bag, Sahara Forest

  • In a brilliant and ‘why didn’t I think of that’ move, HP has begun shipping its new Pavilion dv692 laptop in its very own padded messenger bags made of recycled material. Instead of wrapping each computer up in a ton of cardboard and Styrofoam, each laptop will be placed in it’s own carrying case with just a bit of bubble wrap and then shipped in packs of three, reducing HP’s individual consumer packaging by 97 percent! The system is currently being utilized at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club.
  • hp laptop bag

  • Recently a trio of entrepreneurs announced an incredible solution for the world’s resource problems: turn the Sahara desert into a source for food, water, and energy. The Sahara Forest Project is a solution that combines seemingly disparate technologies – Concentrated solar power and Seawater Greenhouses – and turns them into a mean, green super-massive biomachine. The elegant system could potentially produce enough energy for all of Africa and Europe while turning one of the world’s most inhospitable regions into a flourishing oasis.