Senate Hearing on Obama's Fracking Panel Excludes External Testimony, Glosses Over Threats

Tue, 2011-10-04 14:54Carol Linnitt
Carol Linnitt's picture

Senate Hearing on Obama's Fracking Panel Excludes External Testimony, Glosses Over Threats

When President Obama decided to include unconventional gas as a central pillar in his “Blueprint for a Clean Energy Future” he must have had an idea that this was going to create controversy. Some would say that a clean energy future and fracked gas are, to put it lightly, at odds with one another.  Perhaps that is why the President directed his Secretary of Energy Steven Chu to form a special advisory board to investigate the growing number of scientists, doctors, independent experts, environmental NGOs, and media outlets - DeSmogBlog included - concerned that fracking for unconventional gas threatens public health, the environment and the global climate.

Secretary Chu’s panel is officially known as the Natural Gas Subcommittee and is a project of the U.S. Energy Advisory Board. This panel, now often referred to as Obama’s Fracking Panel, has been formally discredited by a coalition of leading scientists and also by a collective of leading citizen and environmental groups. Most notoriously, the panel was called out for its strong financial ties to the gas industry.   
 
The panel was given 90 days to document their preliminary findings, which they released in a report on August 18th. Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing to examine those early findings.   
 
From the outset, the hearing looked like the perfect opportunity for the subcommittee to congratulate itself for its own work. 
 
Dr. Daniel Yergin, one of the most formidable witnesses to testify at the hearing, is perhaps a good indicator of what today’s proceedings were designed to do. Already something of a natural gas convert, Yergin’s perspective is shaped by the background conviction that fracking should and will proceed. 
 
It looks as though the panel's investigation is framed around the question of how to develop our unconventional gas assets, and not whether to.   
 
A brief look at the other participants, such as Dr. Stephen A. Holditch and Dr. Mark D. Zoback, show they hold a similar bias.

Dr. Holditch began his testimony [.docx] today with the expert-ish sentence, “Shale gas is for real.” He then went on to belittle concerns about the fracking process, repeating standard industry excuses about how fracking chemicals are similar to products we all have in our homes, like Clorox, Dawn dish soap and food products like guar gum. (Minus all the other toxic fracking chemicals he failed to mention, of course.)

Dr. Holditch did not hesitate to state his opinion “that the United States has a real opportunity to develop it’s [sic] unconventional gas reservoirs (shale gas, coal gas and tight gas).”

After acknowledging that the panel and the industry did not have all the relevant information to make declarative statements about the safety of fracking, and confirming that “there are real issues with water, air emissions, and community impact that must be addressed by the oil and gas companies” - Holditch nevertheless stated, “It is my opinion that current drilling and hydraulic fracturing activity does not adversely affect shallow drinking water aquifers.” 
 
Unfortunately the committee failed to invite any external reviewers, independent experts who could provide the outside criticism needed to keep the investigation directed at its end goal: increasing the standards, safety and oversight of fracking operations while limiting the associated risks to human and environmental health.
 
It is left to the Senate to ask the hard questions necessary to hold this panel accountable for their findings. But at this stage, there is little indication that this entire process will amount to the kind of tough crackdown the reckless gas industry warrants. 
 

Comments

then go to bank.

Another excellent piece by Carol.

I like this line: Dr. Holditch began his testimony [.docx] today with the expert-ish sentence.

"Expert-ish" reminds me of 'truthiness'

Judging from the Gas industry's resistance to scrutiny and government's cozy relationship with it, I fully expect Ezra Levant's next book to be about Ethical Fracking.

Obama is nuts for thinking these guys are anywhere near being remotely on his side.

 

Probably the most important factor that is not being told here is that the President as well some committee members have other critical addenda at hand. For more than 50 years the US has been dependant on foreign energy. During the late 60's the US began to see this as a problem but had no solution. 1970 and 1973 drove this point home. It proved that another country or group of countries could control at will our very lifestyle. But still yet our imports have continued to rise. This in fact has been the root cause of conflict abroad between other countries and many times involving the US directly. In recent times the stability in the Middle East has been increasingly unpredictable. We have managed to maintain a strong country but that was starting to degrade. At least until now when new technology has shown that we have energy right here in our country. Do we need to be a super power country? Yes, someone must be. We have to have a stance to let the world know that if a couple of other countries start lobbing nukes at each other we will obliterate the both of them. Sounds kinda like a tough stance but when the nukes start going off even if on the other side of the world the CO2 in the air is not going to make a hill of beans. Energy is power and that is what our leaders are looking at. Post after post on this website supports “STOP THE FRACKING”. Not going to happen people. If you stop the fracking then we will be importing not 60% of our energy but 90% or more.

 

“Unfortunately the committee failed to invite external reviewers, independent experts”

 

Who are you calling an expert? So far all your so-called experts have published information that is fraudulent, misleading, or down right lies about this stuff. In a jury trial one of the strongest bearings on the case is to defile the testimony of an expert witness. You are not even being badgered by a lawyer and defile yourself. So you need to find some new experts that lie and deceive without getting caught by the defense.

 

The best approach is to actually come to the table with an approach to solve the problems. No just simply shut off the energy. 

Interesting - well I think the model that the left prefers is a strong United Nations council rather than a strong US.

Anyway it's hard to imagine a situation where the US deploys a nuke. All the emphasis is on smart bombing specific targets rather than nuking a general area.

On the other hand the world is a crazy place and I can understand why you would want an especially strong US to maintain some semblance of order.

If we conduct policy based on the assumption that the world is basically reasonable, fair minded and sensible then we are in a fantasy land.

Never did I say we would nuke anybody. I said annihilate. As for depending on the United Nations, The United Nations (League of Nations) failed to take action in 1935 this catastrophic inaction brought the death of 60 million people. We should learn from history. If needed we should be powerful enough to take action ourselves. Pakistan, India, North Korea, Israel, and probably Iran in the near future. They know better than use one now because of us. I would hope in the future we could actually be a global power for peace. Right now we are a global power for oil.     

"Never did I say we would nuke anybody. I said annihilate."

Wow....I used to think Rick was right wing. Now I realize he is a conservative moderate.

 

"Interesting - well I think the model that the left prefers is a strong United Nations council rather than a strong US."

Wait.......it was created by the U.S, it's based in the U.S & no one listens to them anyway. E.g. Bush's invasion of Iraq went against the advice & demands of the UN. Please explain why the left want a strong UN?

"If we conduct policy based on the assumption that the world is basically reasonable, fair minded and sensible then we are in a fantasy land."

If you keep sticking your noses into other countries business, then you just build resentment. You certainly don't win any fans that way & it just means you have to defend many fronts at once. I guess thats why the USA has to spend 6 times more than it's nearest rival on it's military...nearly 1 Trillion a year! Because of the potential need to wage war simultaneously on several fronts at once.

Every other super power in history has learnt the hard way that picking fights everywhere, plus stretching yourself so far & spending so much on your military, has predictable results. It's a case of doing the same thing over & over & expecting a different result.

 

 

 

 

"At least until now when new technology has shown that we have energy right here in our country."

Troy, what you say sounds like a false dichotomy. You give the impression that there are only two choices. Get fossil fuels from abroad....or get them from home. When in fact there is a 3rd choice...... renewables. Advocates of nuclear would say a 4th.

With renewables you don't have any pollution risks or contamination risks . You get  economic growth, new employment streams, energy self sufficiency as a nation & at the same time, address climate change. The USA pioneered much of the clean tech on the market today & then stood back & watched as lobbyists convinced the public that there was only one alternative....fossil fuels. Mean while, China sees you have dropped the ball & have realized, it doesn't look like you want it & are happy to be the innovators, manufacturers & exporters of all cleantech. It's like stupid to the power of 10.

"We have to have a stance to let the world know that if a couple of other countries start lobbing nukes at each other we will obliterate the both of them."

Thats some mighty provocative talk Troy. I'm not sure why the USA feels it needs to be the world cop. Too often it gets minds everyones business but it's own. That sort of talk is just 80's paranoia. Everyone who has nukes know it's for bluff. If anyone dared to use them it would mean mutually assured destruction. Thats a lot of innocents killed because of political power struggles of a few. On top of that innocent loss of life, you want to assure that just in case there were a few innocent women & children left alive are killed as well?

"If you stop the fracking then we will be importing not 60% of our energy but 90% or more."

Unless you use renewables.

"The best approach is to actually come to the table with an approach to solve the problems. "

Errr, I thought thats pretty much what this blog & other pro agw science blogs are advocating & already have the solutions. It seems many countries are acting for vested interests & not national interest.

"No just simply shut off the energy."

Not even political parties you would describe as left wing like the Greens are advocating just shut the energy off. I'm not sure where you get that. It sounds like Fox news or Limbaugh hyperbole.

 

 

 

 

 

Am I missing something? Did somebody invent something I have not heard about? To what fuel do you refer?   

"Am I missing something? Did somebody invent something I have not heard about? To what fuel do you refer?"

Maybe we are thinking of the application of CSG in different ways. I am thinking of it for power generation, you are apparently thinking of it for fuel for transport.

Either way , renewables play a role. Cleantech for power generation & full electric for cars. For the transport sector & everything else we need oil for, we can just get it domestically or import it like everyone else for the time being.

 

Every other country that has no fossil fuel deposits has to get by this way. Just don't pick fights with other countries & it's all good. CSG produces much less CO2 than brown & black coal, but it still produces a lot when compared to renewables. The idea is to make a transition from fossil fuels, not breath new life into a product that is damaging a planet that we all share.

 

How about Energy Saving measures? -if we were half serious about saving energy we would move everything by rail wherever possible. Get the trucks off the interstate - get the cars off the interstate - get the interstate off the interstate and largely shut down air travel too - Everything goes on rails and I mean slowly like 30 mph - none of this high speed, high waste, high flying, lap of luxury foolishness.

 

We aren't half serious about saving energy.

Why rail? Do you work for the railroad? Actually we should just shut it all down. We did not have any of these things when we founded this country.

rail is just more efficient for moving stuff. It comes down to steel wheels on a steel highway. Much less friction and much less fuel per pound of goods moved.

I like cars and trucks. I'm just saying there's a more efficient way to go if we are worried about energy.

"rail is just more efficient for moving stuff. It comes down to steel wheels on a steel highway. Much less friction and much less fuel per pound of goods moved.

I like cars and trucks. I'm just saying there's a more efficient way to go if we are worried about energy."

 

Hurray Rick! Finally something I agree with you on. Obviously, we need trucks for small trips & short haulage, but really, rail can just carry so much.

However, I believe you are pulling the leg.

Rick you just really get under my skin sometimes with your simple minded crap. But then I start thinking maybe that is how I should be talking to these people. Take it slow like baby steps and work from there. But these people have actually been led to believe that you can just flip a switch and everything will be green. How do these people get led to believe this? Any Ideas on how to explain the reality of the situation?

"But these people have actually been led to believe that you can just flip a switch and everything will be green."

Troy, that is just a strawman & hyperbole created by deniers to attack a position that never existed in the first place.

Please provide evidence of legislation that has been proposed by anyone or any scientist that has said we can convert to a green economy by a flip of the switch.

"Rick you just really get under my skin sometimes with your simple minded crap."

Rick has echoed your exact words on this blog numerous times of which I have argued with him over. You may not have seen his comments every day so may have missed it, but he has pretty much echoed your words exactly.

It would be good if you both could provide evidence of someone that has said we should just shut it all down or flick a switch & green tech automatically comes online & provides the base load we have now. It's a strawman. It doesnt exist. You are just try to exagerate the pro AGW science position. Everyone, even the greens parties know, it will take decades to make the transition.

"How do these people get led to believe this?"

They don't. It's quite simple.

 

"How about Energy Saving measures? -if we were half serious about saving energy we would move everything by rail wherever possible."

Agree.

"get the cars off the interstate - get the interstate off the interstate and largely shut down air travel too - Everything goes on rails and I mean slowly like 30 mph - none of this high speed, high waste, high flying, lap of luxury foolishness."

Now you are just being sarcastic.

"We aren't half serious about saving energy."

Agree.

 

 

“I’m not sure where you get that”

 

Carol is stating that this panel will not listen to the people she wants them to listen to. Included in the article was the letter trying to discredit the panel. The last two names on this letter have made their stance clear. This is from her September 19 article.

 

(Howarth and Ingraffea’s final words: “gas should remain safely in the shale”)

 

Go just two articles up from here and you see a picture of Carol’s fan club. They are holding signs that say FRACKING that have the circle with the slash through it. I was thinking this meant “NO   FRACKING” What is this intended to imply?

 

NO FRACKING and LEAVE IT IN SAFELY IN THE GROUND

 

“Not even political parties you would describe as left wing like the Greens are advocating just shut the energy off”

 

If they are not advocating shut it off then maybe you can explain this differently?

"If they are not advocating shut it off then maybe you can explain this differently?"

They are talking about fracking only. There is no need to open up a new stream of fossil fuel use that is potentially harmful to the environment & planet, when we now have the technology to create energy with no emissions, no risk to aquifers, no risk to public health &  no energy security concerns.........in fact......it's a no brainer.

I have never seen anyone one except skeptics say that anyone wants to just shut off our entire fossil fuel industry overnight. Even if we were to look at the policies of the greens who you would probably consider to be the far left, you see suggested time frames of which are 30-40 years away from the present.

The Greens Australia:

http://greens.org.au/policies/climate-change-and-energy/climate-change-and-energy

"The Australian Greens want:

  1. Australia to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions as soon as is feasible and by no later than 2050 with a minimum of 40% reduction on 1990 levels by 2020."

The Greens Canada:

"An opening offer to reduce Canadian emissions 30% below 1990 levels by 2020, and to 85% reduction below 1990 by 2040 regardless of what other countries do."

http://greenparty.ca/vision-green/p2

The Greens USA:

"A series of challenging yet feasible targets should be set, with the ultimate goal - complete freedom from fossil fuel dependency - to be achieved by 2050. The federal government should take the lead by setting targets for federal facilities. Achievement of annual targets should be cause for public celebration."

http://www.gp.org/committees/platform/2010/ecology.php#761301

 

That is what the "far left" has to say about it. 30-40 years away. Plus at present they command about 1% of the vote.

The progressive parties like the Labour/Labor parties of Canada & Australia , plus the Democrats in the USA are more like Conservative parties of 30-50 years ago. Desmog is posting a new story nearly every day on the democrats involvement with the fossil fuel industry. Here in Australia, the Labor party has approved dozens of new Nat gas & Coal projects. The Democrats in the USA, the keystone project.  There is literally no talk from anyone about just shutting off the fossil fuel industry. An immediate stop to one tiny section (fracking) of the fossil fuel sector, yes. But an overnight shut down of all fossil fuels across the board? It's just not going to happen & no one is suggesting that.

 

 

[x]

A legal controversy — critics would say scandal — has erupted in Alaska's statehouse over the future of its natural gas bounty.

It's not so much an issue of the gas itself, but who gets to decide how it gets to market and where he or she resides.

The question of who owns Alaska's natural gas and where they're from, at least for now, has been off the table. More on that later.

At its core, the controversy centers around a public-private entity called the Alaska Gasline Development...

read more