Saturday, 11 August 2012

Misleading shale gas videos

Here's a great pair of videos to examine some of the highly misleading scare stories put out by the anti-fracking activist community.

Here's the first video. It consists of infra-red videos of drilling natural gas platforms, and it purports to show large quantities of fugitive methane emissions from well heads. Large amounts of fugitive methane emissions would have an impact on global warming, as methane is a potent greenhouse gas, as well as having impacts on local air quality. So if these fugitive emissions are true, this would be worrying.

The video is narrated by Robert Howarth, a professor at Cornell who has gained a fair bit of notoriety for some widely debunked anti shale gas papers.

So what are these gas-like emissions that appear to be rising from these drilling platforms? It turns out, these are just exhaust from the diesel generators and pumps working on the sites. This video explains all. There are clear differences between what methane emissions look like and what hot diesel engine exhaust emissions look like, and these are clearly the latter.

I found it really hard watching to be honest - it becomes apparent that Howarth and the CBF have deliberately and intentionally lied about what the emissions are in order to produce a scary, high-impact anti-shale-gas video. It's shocking, frankly, and unfortunately it's what we've come to expect in the highly polarised shale gas debate.

Meanwhile, of course, increasing natural gas use has lead to significant drops in US CO2 emissions since 2008 back to 1992 levels, while in Europe our energy policies have actually lead to an increase in coal use.

As I've said numerous times, there is a rational debate to be had about shale gas extraction. For example, as we can see in the videos, they require large diesel engines for pumping during drilling and fracking. This is an industrial process, and when any industrial practice moves into a new area it should be after a frank and open debate with people living in that area (and not activists bussed in from Brighton), including both the positives (the economic benefits to the region, a cheaper and less CO2-intensive energy source) and the negatives (increased truck traffic, water use, unsightly rigs, the potential for low-level seismicity). Unfortunately, the debate about shale gas has already become too polarised, and blatently misrepresentative 'scare' videos like this one really don't help with anything.