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Friday, November 04, 2011

I really should leave this to the professionals.
Posted by Jill | 5:37 AM
David Brooks has become almost too easy a target, but when he comes up with an opinion of this level of idiocy, I just can't keep quiet. The only thing I can tell you is to keep your eye on Driftglass, TBogg, and John Cole today, as they are the Holy Trinity of Brooksiana.

Brooks is recognized among those who still have gray matter in their crania as being perhaps the most unfairly still employed man in America. I heard a colleague tell the other day of someone she used to work with -- a Ph.D. researcher -- who is working at a Target because there are no jobs for scientists. While visiting family in North Carolina recently, we encountered a wonderful waitress who is a veterinarian who can't find full-time work in her field, so she works part time in her field and supplements her income by waiting tables. She's back where she was in college, before spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on education. These are people whose talents are being wasted -- thrown away by a Washington establishment that is willing to throw them in the garbage in their pursuit of absolute power (Republicans) or corporate campaign cash (Democrats).

But Brooks is still getting paid to write stuff like this:
The U.S. now seems to possess a 100-year supply of natural gas, which is the cleanest of the fossil fuels. This cleaner, cheaper energy source is already replacing dirtier coal-fired plants. It could serve as the ideal bridge, Amy Jaffe of Rice University says, until renewable sources like wind and solar mature.

Already shale gas has produced more than half a million new jobs, not only in traditional areas like Texas but also in economically wounded places like western Pennsylvania and, soon, Ohio. If current trends continue, there are hundreds of thousands of new jobs to come.

Chemical companies rely heavily on natural gas, and the abundance of this new source has induced companies like Dow Chemical to invest in the U.S. rather than abroad. The French company Vallourec is building a $650 million plant in Youngstown, Ohio, to make steel tubes for the wells. States like Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York will reap billions in additional revenue. Consumers also benefit. Today, natural gas prices are less than half of what they were three years ago, lowering electricity prices. Meanwhile, America is less reliant on foreign suppliers.

All of this is tremendously good news, but, of course, nothing is that simple. The U.S. is polarized between “drill, baby, drill” conservatives, who seem suspicious of most regulation, and some environmentalists, who seem to regard fossil fuels as morally corrupt and imagine we can switch to wind and solar overnight.

The shale gas revolution challenges the coal industry, renders new nuclear plants uneconomic and changes the economics for the renewable energy companies, which are now much further from viability. So forces have gathered against shale gas, with predictable results.

The clashes between the industry and the environmentalists are now becoming brutal and totalistic, dehumanizing each side. Not-in-my-backyard activists are organizing to prevent exploration. Environmentalists and their publicists wax apocalyptic.

Like every energy source, fracking has its dangers. The process involves injecting large amounts of water and chemicals deep underground. If done right, this should not contaminate freshwater supplies, but rogue companies have screwed up and there have been instances of contamination.

The wells, which are sometimes beneath residential areas, are serviced by big trucks that damage the roads and alter the atmosphere in neighborhoods. A few sloppy companies could discredit the whole sector.

These problems are real, but not insurmountable. An exhaustive study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology concluded, “With 20,000 shale wells drilled in the last 10 years, the environmental record of shale-gas development is for the most part a good one.” In other words, the inherent risks can be managed if there is a reasonable regulatory regime, and if the general public has a balanced and realistic sense of the costs and benefits.

"A reasonable regulatory regime"? And just where in his Republican dreamland -- the one that's going to take place next November no matter what people who are actually allowed to use a voting machine decide, is this reasonable regulatory regime going to happen? And what is a "realistic sense of the costs and benefits" when one of the costs is this:
Two small earthquakes near Blackpool in northwest England earlier this year were probably caused by hydraulic fracturing, a technique of grinding underground rocks to extract natural gas.

It’s “highly probable” that fracking, as the process is known, at the Preese Hall-1 site caused the quakes, U.K.-based shale explorer Cuadrilla Resources Ltd. said in a report published today. The geological circumstances were “rare” and the strongest possible tremor, of a magnitude of 3, wouldn’t be a risk to safety or property on the surface, it said.

Do YOU want to rely on a Republican regulatory climate in the face of this:

Look, I live in a town where my neighbors finally got their power back yesterday. I have colleagues from Connecticut who aren't expected to have their electricity back until Sunday. I understand how dependent we are on energy. But risking mass contamination of drinking water and relying on corporate executives' assessments of safety should hardly give us confidence in their assessment of long-term and short-term risks of this practice.

Fracking is being done by corporations, one of them being Halliburton. Does that make you feel all warm and fuzzy? It shouldn't. These companies are about making a profit, and energy companies in particular have shown little inclination to have concerns about safety. Just like the rest of the companies that are determined to suck everything they can out of this country, then leave a polluted, smoking shell behind and find someplace else to plunder, these companies should not be trusted.

That David Brooks think they should is just another example of why no one should take him seriously.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
" if the general public has a balanced and realistic sense of the costs and benefits." They do -- they pay the costs and the corporations get all of the benefits !

Blogger Pangolin said...
Well, aside from the earthquakes, the water pollution, the surface blight and the continued economic centralization of the power supply that shale gas represents there is one especially nasty catch.

Shale gas, also known as methane, is a very powerful greenhouse gas much more effective at trapping heat than CO2. Some of it always leaks and the stuff you burn turns into CO2 and water.

So unless you're preferred climate is either Texas style drought or the kind of deluge that drowned Nashville and much of Vermont maybe, just maybe, we better leave off.