When children are very young, their parents are like god.
That doesn’t last long. As children grow up, they start to question. If you are a smart parent, you support the questioning, admit when you are wrong, and apologize often.
My youngest son is 21-years old so he stopped taking my word for things years ago. He questions everything because that’s how I taught him, and he makes up his mind after reading peer-reviewed studies.
This is what he said to me last night: “In my life, I’m going to suffer a lot.”
I could have said something to try to make him feel better but I would be lying and he would know it. So I just looked at him and said nothing.
I didn’t sleep much last night and I’m damn cranky today. It’s doesn’t have to be this way. We can do something right now to slow climate change almost immediately. But the oil and gas industry and fracking owns America and taking her back won’t be easy. It will take sustained, intense effort.
Slow climate change immediately: Cut methane emissions
Reducing methane emissions now will significantly slow the rate of climate change almost immediately.
Updated to add this quote from Professor Robert Howarth – follow him on Twitter @howarth_cornell
This is because methane is more powerful at warming the planet than CO2.
The IPCC now states that methane is 86-times more powerful at warming the planet than CO2 over a 20-year period with (carbon feedback). (Chapter 8, Table 8.7 on page 8-58)
It might seem like a reasonable request to ask the oil and gas industry to cut their emissions for the sake of our children’s future. But the oil and gas industry is anything but reasonable. They knew for years their activities were causing climate change but spent millions on a disinformation campaign. AND, over the years, I have come to believe that they can’t keep the methane from blasting into the atmosphere even when they try.
In California an unimaginable amount of methane is spewing into the air and the industry doesn’t know how to stop it. Here’s a summary of what went wrong:
The well had a sub-surface safety valve but “The records indicated that it had not been inspected since 1976.” Maybe that’s because the valve wasn’t there…”We removed that valve in 1979,” They removed it because it was old and they decided not to replace it. That’s how the oil and gas industry rolls. Cut corners and save money any way you can.
There are over 100 storage wells at this facility. “Many other wells are just as old, or older, and according to SoCalGas they also lack sub-surface safety valves. If one of them were to crack, this disaster could easily happen again.”
This leak has been ongoing for several months and the only chance to stop it will take several more months and drilling 8000 feet hoping to hit a 7-inch target. The court has order SoCalGas to evacuate 5000 residents and pay $8500/mo for each household. That will rack up at least $1 billion before the leak is even plugged.
There are hundreds of these natural gas storage wells all over the U.S. One could be near you.
Pointing out the obvious here: These kind of “accidents” make slowing climate change immediately by cutting methane emissions seem daunting.
We also must deal with the allowable methane emission events.
This video shows an allowable methane emission event.
When a tank thief hatch is opened for liquids unloading or thieving, the methane and VOCs blast out. This can happen many times during the day and night from hundreds of thousands of oil and gas facilities all across the U.S. These emission are not covered under the new EPA methane rules.
This video shows pipeline venting in North Dakota. Pipeline venting is not covered under the new EPA methane rules.
These are only two examples. There are endless others.
We have to stop building natural gas infrastructure. Methane leaks from all of it, at every stage.
Natural gas is worse for climate than coal
James Hansen was asked whether the UK would do well to switch from coal to natural gas:
“Well, that’s screwing your children and grandchildren. Because if you do that, there’s no way to avoid the consequences of multi-meter sea-level rise. But we can’t do that. And that’s what the science says crystal clear. And yet politicians pretend not to hear it, or not to understand it.”
If you build a new power plant, you don’t plan to shut it down in 10 years. There’s way too much gas in the ground. It would put us way over 2C, 3C, 4C. There’s a huge amount of gas in the ground. What political leaders have been unwilling to face is that you can’t burn all of that. They’re allowing, even bragging about, having found the technology to get more gas out of the ground with fracking.”
For at least a decade, we have heard how clean natural gas is. Industry says that and people have generally accepted it because natural gas is cleaner burning than coal but it still pollutes. Here is the big problem with natural gas.
Natural gas is methane. If the industry could keep the methane in their pipes, it would have some slight climate benefit over coal. Depending on the source, methane leak rates must stay below 2.8% or 3% or 3.2% for there to be any benefit over coal. All measured methane leak rates are well above those percentages.
- NOAA – 4% in Denver: Led by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Colorado, Boulder, the study estimates that natural-gas producers in an area known as the Denver-Julesburg Basin are losing about 4% of their gas to the atmosphere — not including additional losses in the pipeline and distribution system. Source
- NOAA – 9% Uintah Basin: The measurements show that on one February day in the Uintah Basin, the natural gas field leaked 6 to 12 percent of the methane produced, on average, on February days. Source
- Purdue in PA: A survey of hydraulic fracturing sites in Pennsylvania revealed drilling operations releasing plumes of methane 100 to 1,000 times the rate the EPA expects from that stage of drilling, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Source
- EDF in Texas: Overall, the studies found that emissions of methane in the Texas Barnett Shale were 50 percent higher than estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Source
- Climate Impacts of Methane Losses from Modern Natural Gas & Petroleum Systems
- PSE Methane Summary
No parent wants to know that their child will suffer. It’s even worse when your child knows they will suffer. But it doesn’t have to be this way. What are you willing to do to prevent your children’s suffering?
- You cannot depend on industry to do the right thing.
- You cannot depend on politicians to do the right thing.
- We must depend on each other.
I promised my son that I was going to do everything possible to change his bleak prediction.
How much are you willing to do?
Can we depend on you?
You don’t have much time to decide.
Update 3-2-2019 with new information and ways you can help: I wrote this blog post in 2015. Sadly we are still headed in the wrong direction.
In 2014, I was ITC certified as an optical gas imaging (OGI) thermographer. In 5yrs, I have conducted over 1,000 individual investigations in over 15 U.S. states and 2 foreign countries using a FLIR GF320 camera. Visit Earthworks’ YouTube channel to see some of the videos I have taken and our Community Empowerment Project for more information.
Seeing is believing.
New research from a NASA led study released in 2018 found:
- 68% of the global spike in methane is from oil and gas. Not cows folks, but cows are a problem so stop eating them or eat them less often.
- The methane spike correlates with the fracking boom.
The IPCC says that we “have 12 years to avoid climate change catastrophe,” but that was last year so now we have 11 years to become net zero carbon emissions. That won’t be easy but it is possible because there are plans and solutions at The Solutions Project. Follow Professor Mark Jacobson on Twitter @mzjacobson
The biggest obstacle we have right now is the Permian Basin boom in Texas and New Mexico. Keep watching Zach Toombs @zachtoombs for information on release of a new documentary, Blowout, from Newsy, Texas Tribune, Center for Public Integrity, and AP. It looks at the fossil fuel’s climate change impact by following the fracking boom from the west Texas Permian all the way to Asia. The most excellent written portion of the Blowout project is HERE, READ IT
Professor Nick Cowern @NickCowern
Professor Michale Mann @MichaelEMann and read his book The Madhouse Effect
Dr. Sandra Steingraber @ssteingraber1
Professor Katherine Hayhoe @KHayhoe
Professor Kevin Anderson @KevinClimate
Bethany McLean @bethanymac12 and read her book Saudi America about the hinky finances of fracking
And follow Me @TXsharon
The three most important things you can do are:
- Learn the truth about climate change
- Talk about what you are learning to your neighbors, friends, and family. It’s a hard subject but we need to #talkaboutit
- Only vote for candidates that make stopping climate change a priority. In other words…
About Sharon Wilson
Sharon Wilson is considered a leading citizen expert on the impacts of shale oil and gas extraction. She is the go-to person whether it’s top EPA officials from D.C., national and international news networks, or residents facing the shock of eminent domain and the devastating environmental effects of natural gas development in their backyards.
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Excellent information–methane leaks are bad for our climate. ALSO, it has become known to me that even with no leaks, the eventual burning of that “clean natural gas” fuel is increasing our air volume. This air volume increase is increasing the air density AND this increase is effecting our climate in ways that are additive to the already recognized climate changes.
We’re going to suffocate.