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John Daly

John Daly

Dr. John C.K. Daly is the chief analyst for Oilprice.com, Dr. Daly received his Ph.D. in 1986 from the School of Slavonic and East European…

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Fracking to be Gutted in Obama's 2nd Term?

Fracking to be Gutted in Obama's 2nd Term?

Well, the votes are in, and America’s first black President, Barack Hussein Obama, has handily won a second term.

The U.S. energy companies, having heavily backed Obama’s opponent, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, are now nervously contemplating their future on many levels, as they massively supported his opponent. Romney promised to get the federal government, most notably the Environmental Protection Agency (ironically, established by a Republican President, Richard Milhous Nixon, in 1970)  to back off their practices, as well as opening up to their interests both federal lands and offshore areas to energy companies in a search for U.S. energy autonomy.

As the newest but most impressively productive of America’s newer energy assets, the hydraulic fracturing companies, which have unleashed the potential of the U.S. shale gas reserves, are clearly nervous that a second Obama administration will impose additional federal regulations on their activities. Had Romney won, fracking would have remained largely regulated by state legislatures, without countrywide mandates on the controversial practice.

There was no equity in America’s major energy conglomerates in funding the rivals’ campaign. As Bloomberg News, a dispassionate economic website focused solely on the bottom line reported, “Oil, gas, coal and electricity interests donated in this election as if their fate depended on it. Together, energy companies spent more than $115 million on the election, more than on any campaign since at least 1990, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ aggregation of federal data. Eighty percent of candidate donations went to Republicans.”

Now, what, especially for natural gas fracking companies, which in less than a decade, have managed to insinuate themselves into America’s energy matrix? Environmental groups are ramping up their lobbying efforts with centrist Democrats like Obama to tighten regulations on fracking even as efforts on pressuring Congress to battle climate change fall by the wayside.

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Heightening the industry’s concerns, earlier in 2012 the Obama administration delayed decisions on exporting vast new natural gas field finds developed by fracking to any nations besides those with which Washington already has free-trade agreements.

What’s at stake?

In 2011 the U.S. produced a record amount of natural gas, primarily from fracking and horizontal drilling, with shale gas well output alone quadrupling nationwide 2007-2010.

But that impressive increase in output has come at a cost -each hydraulic fracturing well is drilled with 2 to 4 million gallons of fluid, and it is the component of those fluids injected that are raising concerns, as fracking companies insist that releasing their components would violate industrial trade secrets. Even the U.S. Department of Energy notes that the fluids injected contain hydrochloric acid.

Some states allow water used with fracking to be recycled into the public water supply, while others require it to be buried in underground tanks. A Romney victory would have reined in federal oversight, leaving it to states, even as at the local level, studies are attempting to assess possible health and environmental effects.

It is the disparity between state and federal regulation that will mark the next several years of American energy policy. The Republicans, as they recover from their electoral loss, are already attempting to redefine the fracking debate parameters. In an article prior to the election, the Washington Times ran an article by Thomas Mullikin, “a lawyer, ecologist and climate change expert,” headlined, “Obama EPA set to derail fracking, kill 1.7 million jobs - Administration’s energy regulations stifling the economy.”

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At least until 2012, when the next round of Congressional elections are scheduled, the Obama administration will be in the driver’s seat of national energy policy – this is not rhetoric, simply a fact. Accordingly, fracking companies and proponents can either accept that reality and work with federal agencies to allay rising public and state concerns about the procedure or they can obstruct requests for such information as the components used in the process, hoping for better days when more energy friendly congress and, after 2016, presidency, might assist in swatting off pesky requests about their methods.

And Democratic Congressional members are already investigating. According to the “Chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing” report prepared for the “United States House of Representatives Committee on energy and Commerce Minority Staff, April 2011,”  after noting, “Hydraulic fracturing has helped to expand natural gas production in the United States, unlocking large natural gas supplies in shale and other unconventional formations across the  country,” the report added, “Between 2005 and 2009, the oil and gas service companies used hydraulic fracturing products containing 29 chemicals that are (1) known or possible human carcinogens, (2) regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act for their risks to human health, or (3) listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. These 29 chemicals were components of more than 650 different products used in hydraulic fracturing.”


For those readers who will undoubtedly whine about how partisan this article is, “Appendix A lists each of the 750 chemicals and other components used in hydraulic fracturing products between 2005 and 2009.”

The information, both pro and con, is out there for those willing to seek it.

Long and short – the fracking industry will come under renewed scrutiny, and decrying environmental tree-hugger groups and Congress members is unlikely to prevent increasing scrutiny.

By. John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • Randy on November 13 2012 said:
    Let's start the "whining!" (as per the third to last paragraph)

    First, John digs-out a report written and prepared by the 'staff' of two of the most left-wing Congressmen on Capital Hill today, Henry Waxman and Edward Markey. Really? You believe that the 'staff' of these two (insert invective here) wrote an ubiased assessment of the merits of fracking? Are you kidding me? Did you know that 99.5% of the total volume of fracking water is composed entirely of sand and water? Only .5% are chemical additives. Just for your info John, there are more carcinogens in the salad you ate for lunch than there are in the fracking water coming out of the depths of the Marcelus shale. There might be even more carcinogens in the dandruff shampoo that you used this morning. That report that you referenced above is total nonsense. Waxman? Markey? C'mon. Those aren't independent analysts looking at the fracking technology with a cold eye. Those are hard left-wing ideologues.

    Read this for a more thoroughly understanding of the water used in fracking: (whining has ceased!)

  • Fred on November 14 2012 said:
    Well, even with 0.5% of 4 million gallons per well, that's 20,000 gallons of hazardous chemicals per well. Multiply that times the number of wells being drilled and the potential for a major environmental disaster (pollution of a major freshwater aquifer) is an almost certainty. We can live without gas but we can't live without water - common sense. How about I pour you a glass of fracking fluid and see if you'd rather drink it or eat that salad for lunch!!
  • Randy on November 14 2012 said:
    Er, Fred, did you read the report on fracking referenced in my post? Didja? Ya see, it's not, NOT,....like they're taking fracking water and dumping it back into water aquifers. Really. That's apples and oranges. Fracking water, like sewage water, is treated as per state/federal regulations and released in proscribed manners. See the difference? The only way aquifers can be affected during the fracking process is through a rupture in a steel or iron casing, a remote possibility. It's kinda like the odds of a sewer pipe rupturing in your basement, and thus creating a 'major environmental disaster.' And yes, I would much rather drink treated fracking water than common sewage water. You betcha. If John Daly had any real scientific knowledge on the risk of carcinogens, he would too!
  • Leslie on November 14 2012 said:
    Obama a centrist democrat? Pardon me while I LOL!
  • Carol Adams on November 19 2012 said:
    There is a company out of Canada GasFrac that uses Nat'l Gas to Frack. They have been licensed
    by Hailiburton and Chevron to use a technique that they discovered.

    The costs of fracking with GasFrac is higher than
    the water fracking companies, but with little clean up and faster start up, costs are offsets.
  • Daphne Burdman on November 19 2012 said:
    What ABOUT LPG FRACKING which is NOT hydraulic, and does NOT use water . Instead it uses propane and butane which are hydrocarbons, and FULLY RECOVERABLE in the final step of the LPG fracking process. There is therefore NO pollution of underwater sources, and NO wastage of water as in the hydrofracking process.
    This prevents dispersion of the huge amounts of water NOT AT ALL recoverable by the hydrofracking process.
    An attempt to stop the LPG fracking would be a political act geared to 100% favor the alternate energy processes which Obama for many reasons, good and, appears to favor.
  • slapdogchicken on January 06 2013 said:
    I agree totally with Fred. Clean water is crucial to our existence. There is no way to prevent these toxic chemicals from entering our ground water. The idea that these drilling companies can circumvent the Clean Water laws is criminal.

    If anyone has seen videos of homeowners putting a match to their tap water faucetts and lighting them up or of tap water systems blowing up and burning down houses or of the illnesses that are caused by drinking tap water that has been effected by fracking companies you could not possibly be in favor or fracking. It's only delaying our push toward clean energy,..solar and wind,...while destroying our environment.

    Say NO to fracking until the technology is safe for the environment,...our water,...and our citizens.
  • Nick on February 07 2013 said:
    No points for guessing where Randy gets his information and/orfunding from. It's like listening to the climate change nay-sayers that gave up common sense long ago and put personal gain ahead of care for the planet's future.
    Fracking is incredibly dangerous to communities and the environment. Wake up and smell the benzene, not to mention all the other carcinogens.
    Solar, wind, tidal and other technologies are far better solutions to a sustainable energy future. It's just that the oil and gas companies prefer quick and dirty profits over long-term and possibly lower returns on investments.
    It's up to us to lobby for a cleaner, sustainable future.
  • mae anderson on April 26 2013 said:
    I agree with Nick. Fracturing is really dangerous. It will just put the public at risk by contaminating the air and water. It is really hazardous. Why not think of better ways to have energy?

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