Better World Club

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What The Frack?!?!?

The Oil and Gas Industries are Pumping Millions of Gallons of Dangerous Chemicals Into the Ground, and Nobody's Regulating Them

Gosh, the EPA Must Be Too Busy Regulating Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Cars... No, Wait, They're Not Doing That Either

Well, Maybe They're All Too Busy Lining Up Jobs in the Oil, Chemical, and Mining Industries Before January 2009



Fracturing ("fracking") fluids are toxic chemical cocktails that companies drilling for oil or natural gas use to break up rock below ground. The ingredients that make up these fracking fluids are a closely held and unregulated secret, and can include almost any set of chemicals.

The EPA okayed the use of these fluids in 2004, deeming them safe for groundwater and the environment. In 2005, Congress exempted fracking fluids from the Safe Drinking Water Act, due to the fact that they are usually pumped into the ground far below water tables.

Pumping millions of gallons of toxic chemicals into the ground? Great idea! What could possibly go wrong? Well, plenty. Recently, an employee at an energy-services company in Colorado got caught in a fracking fluid spill (that was never officially reported). The worker experienced headaches and nausea and was taken to the emergency room. The chemical stench given off by the sick man was so great that the ER was locked down and hospital staff were ordered to wear protective masks and gowns. The nurse who attended the sick man got sick herself several days later and was admitted into the intensive care unit with a swollen liver, erratic blood counts, and lungs filling with fluid.

This incident was caused by a mere 130-gallon spill. Millions of gallons of fracking fluid are being pumped into the ground. With all of the new drilling permits being issued by our fossil fuel-loving president (in the Rocky Mountain region alone, 33,000 new wells have been approved since 2001), it's only a matter of time before a major spill occurs.

Also, what about the long-term effects of pumping unregulated toxic chemicals into the ground? Not to be a baby about this, but our food and drinking water come from the ground, too. You think maybe we should be paying more attention to what we're pumping down there?

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Pelosi Wants to "Save The Earth"

Hmm...How About Wanting to "Save Our Economy and Defend Our Country and the Environment"?

We're all for Nancy Pelosi being attracted to the title of "Environmentalist-in-Chief" as reflected by her comment that she wants to "save the earth". But she must do a much better job of educating the American people that her desire to get off fossil fuels reflects concerns about the economy and national security as well as the environment.

The Speaker could start by teaching the American people that environmental damage is an example of marketplace failure. The market does not require business to internalize the cost to the environment. Just the opposite, it encourages them to externalize these costs and impose them on others--whether it is global warming (which is just another form of pollution), oil spills, impact on health... whatever.

Product prices should reflect all of their costs. Otherwise, businesses are receiving a form of subsidy, hardly the only hidden oil subsidy given the amount of military spending to protect its delivery.

But these subsidies hide the real cost of fossil fuels--as well as impede the development of new technologies. Gasoline, like other products, should be priced so that the environmental and other costs are internalized. Of course, gasoline prices would be higher than people desire--and other policies should then be adjusted to help people cope. But Americans need to be wedded to economic rationality, which includes full internalization of costs.

This argument also should be built on the fact that there is no "marketplace", at least as we think of it, in oil to begin with, as the supply is controlled by a cartel.

The Dems have also been pointing to the disconnect between the oil companies holding "unproductive" leases yet wanting more. But the case has not been well made. How can there be predictions of over 100 billion barrels of untapped oil reserves on US property, when so many leases are unproductive? This seems to mean either that the oil companies are holding back on exploiting productive leases or that the reserves aren't nearly as great as the oil industry claims. Which is it? This loop needs to be closed.

Finally, if U.S. oil is so valuable and if we hold only a fraction of the world's reserves, should we be running to use all of it? Should we be draining America first?

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