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Home / Articles / Views / Danish Plan /  Fracking out of a recession
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Thursday, July 12,2012

Fracking out of a recession

By Paul Danish
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Let’s begin with a short quiz.

 

What two things do the following nine states have in common: Colorado, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Ohio, Louisiana, Texas, Montana, Oklahoma and North Dakota?

No, they are not all swing states in the coming election. Most aren’t, in fact.

The two things they have in common are that 1) all of them have unemployment rates that are below the national average (8.2 percent in June and May), and 2) all of them are experiencing shale gas and oil booms that have been made possible by horizontal drilling and fracking.

In North Dakota, the state with the lowest unemployment rate in the country (3 percent), the job market has become so hot in the state’s oil patch that local McDonald’s restaurants are offering signing bonuses to attract help. In Colorado, where unemployment is just below the national average (8.1 percent), the pace is less torrid, but is about to heat up. Last month, Noble Energy, which has leased 880,000 acres in the Denver-Julesburg Basin, revealed that in the years 2012-2016 it planned to invest $8 billion in its Colorado acreage.

Anadarko Petroleum, which has 350,000 acres in the Wattenberg Field, is investing $1 billion a year in leases.

I can’t think of companies in any other industry that are contemplating investments of that magnitude in Colorado. And Noble and Anadarko are just two of a dozen or more oil and gas companies that are operating in Colorado. The industry could easily be spending $3 billion to $5 billion a year in Colorado over the next few years.

It may drive the peace and justice/ occupy Wall Street crowd wild to hear it, but oil and natural gas are looking a lot like Colorado’s ticket out of the recession. And it’s all due to fracking.

But what of the environment? The environmental objections to fracking have for the most part been debunked as fast as they have been raised. The biggest one, that fracking poses a threat to groundwater, was based on a handful of examples (out of half a million wells fracked over 50 years) that failed to stand up to scrutiny. In the most serious case, in Pennsylvania, water wells were found to have been contaminated due to improperly installed casing in a nearby gas well, not because of fracking.

A second objection — specific to Colorado — is that fracking uses too much water to be done in a semi-arid state like ours. Hogwash. Currently fracking in Colorado uses some 33,000 acre feet of water a year, less than 1 percent of the state’s water resources. What’s more, drillers are increasingly reclaiming and recycling the water they use.

Water is not life’s only necessity. A typical Colorado household uses 90,000 cubic feet of gas a year, and there are a couple million of them. Thirty-three thousand acre-feet of water is a small price to pay for a stable, cheap supply of gas.

However, one environmental impact of the fracking-enabled oil is beneficial and trumps all the complaints — the swift displacement of coal by natural gas as the largest source of U.S. electric power.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in April electric power generated by natural gas-fired power plants nearly equaled the amount created by coal-fired plants.

This has never happened. Coal and natural gas each accounted for 32 percent of the country’s electricity during in April; 96 million megawatt hours of electricity was generated with coal, 95.9 million megawatt hours with natural gas. The natural gas plants produced only half as much CO2 as the coal-powered plants.

As recently as five years ago, America got more than 50 percent of its electricity from coal. Thanks to a deluge of cheap natural gas produced by fracking, coal’s share of electricity production has plunged. If the drop holds, utility coal use could be down by as much as 400 million tons annually. Replacing that amount of coal with natural gas reduces U.S. CO2 output by about 550 million tons.

In other words, fracking is responsible for a larger reduction in U.S. CO2 output than all the renewable energy sources combined.

I suspect the real objection to fracking is that it has led to a phoenix-like resurrection of the domestic oil and gas industry, which enrages the Left.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the domestic oil and gas industry is leading the recovery, and producing a major near-term reduction in CO2 emissions — and assorted other pollutants from coal, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury and uranium.

Maybe it’s time for greens, progressives, and Democrats to end their pathological vendetta against the oil and gas industry, and show a decent respect for its accomplishments.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.


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REPLY TO THIS COMMENT

A serious issue Mr. Danish ignores is our farmer's having to let their crops die due to lack of water -- while the frackers have outbid them- and then they destroy it to extinction (it can only be injected into wells never to be reused, thus removed from the hydrologic cycle - which is finite).

Can Mr. Danish eat/drink oil/gas? I think it would give him a severe tummy ache along with emphysema, cancer, and all the other kinds of illness associated with fossil foolishment.

 

Mr. Danish mentions that fracing uses less than 1% of Colorado’s available water in a year period. Stop and think about the scale of this for a moment. One acre foot of water equates the volume of water that would cover 1 acre of land at the depth of one foot, which translates to 325,851 gallons of water. At 33,000 acre feet of water we are talking about 10,753,083,000 gallons of water a year. Not exactly a miniscule amount! While Mr. Danish is happy to tout the company line and make light of the valuable resource that water actually is I wonder if he would like to chance living without it. Humans are able to adjust and live without natural gas being fraced out of the ground in large volumes, however we are not able to live very long without water, nor can our sources of food. Just think of all the crops, lawns and humans that can be watered with that mere 1%.

 

Can you live without your computer that wrote your comments with? It might surprise you to know that much of what you enjoy on a daily basis is courtesy of the oil industry. Please stop driving your car, painting your house, heating and cooling it and multitudes of other things you enjoy that are provided by oil then you might just be credible. Until then you are no more than hypocritical.

 

I think Mr. Danish has his facts wrong about water usage per well. According to a 2009 report by Western Resource Advocates entitled, “Water on the Rocks: Oil Shale and Water Rights in Colorado,” six energy companies, including Shell and ExxonMobil, are collectively entitled to divert at least 6.5 billion gallons of water from rivers in western Colorado, as well as almost 2 million acre-feet of water from the state’s reservoirs, which is enough to supply the Denver metro area for six years. Unfortunately, at this time, 56% of the continental United States is experiencing drought. The increasing scarcity of water in Colorado as a result of the drought may adversely impact the industry’s ability to increase production capacity. According to a Noble Energy communique in 2010, the average water use to ‘frack’ one well was 4 million gallons. To put this in perspective, companies working the Bakken formation in North Dakota are drilling 167 wells per month. This, and environmental concerns are the main threat to Oil and Gas over the next few years.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT

Bravo! This article is spot-on. Well done, Paul.

For everyone concerned about farmers, keep in mind that natural gas is the primary input for fertilizer manufacturing. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, from 2000-2006, natural gas price increases more than doubled the cost of fertilizer.

http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/wrs-international-agriculture-and-trade-outlook/wrs-0702.aspx

Given that fracking uses only one-thousandth of the water used in agriculture in Colorado, the impact fracking has on lowering fertilizer costs would most likely offset any increases in water costs.

For the stats on water use, see the following report from the Colorado Department of Water Resources:

http://cogcc.state.co.us/Library/Oil_and_Gas_Water_Sources_Fact_Sheet.pdf

 

 
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