I am a patriotic American, apolitical and nonpartisan. My first concerns are for the health and welfare of our planet and all the life forms that our planet supports. From the smallest one-celled creatures to we humans, who consider ourselves the most developed and intelligent of all Earth residents--we comprise the chain of life. And if we truly are the most developed and intelligent creatures on Earth, it is our duty to be stewards of our planet, and at the very least, not to purposely harm our environment so as to make our planet unlivable for ourselves and other life forms, both present and future.
In my mind, this should be the first concern and consideration for all humans.
There comes a time in the life of every patriot when they must speak out if they believe their chosen leaders are not adhering to these basic principles of life.
Though I mean to impugn no one with my opinion and my commentary, I am appalled at the lack of sensible environmental direction that those we have chosen as leaders now exhibit. Those who are—or would be--our chosen leaders, bear a greater responsibility; to visibly and morally lead by example and to have the strength of character to be incorruptible in their actions and their dedication to the principles that protect the health and welfare of our citizens, our country and our planet. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
It was a disappointing and frustrating experience for any enlightened and realistic American who watched President Obama’s televised State of the Union address on January 24, 2012. Americans who expected to hear a comprehensive, environmentally-constructive and intelligent discussion of U.S. energy policy for the present and the future—including a necessary transition toward renewable energy and renewable fuel,—got none of the above.. In regard to energy policy, Mr., Obama's State of the Union address was just another misguided, "Drill, Baby, Drill" speech.
It appears that the same, sheer, lunatic chanting that cost McCain and the Republican Party the 2008 Presidential election, will now become the mantra for Mr. Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.
Drilling for gas and oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWAR) is the President’s only segment of fossil fuel policy missing from the Republican fossil fuel energy platform of their failed 2008 campaign. Surely that pristine location is the next to be encroached-upon after offshore drilling is permitted (as announced) to go forward in the recreational and tourist destinations of the Atlantic and Pacific coastal waters, as well as the pristine waters of the Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea, and Cook Inlet off Alaska’s coast.
Under the title, “Scientists Beg Obama To Slow Arctic Drilling Rush”, on the website www.thinkprogress.org, the following letter was sent to President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar by 573 of the world’s leading scientists:
“Dear President Obama and Secretary Salazar,
Decisions about resource extraction on the Outer Continental Shelf should be based on sound scientific information. Your administration first displayed a strong commitment to science during the President’s inaugural address in 2009. This commitment was underscored by Secretary Salazar’s announcement on March 31, 2010 when, as a part of a three-pronged approach to Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas development, he directed the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to conduct an evaluation of science needs and gaps in the U.S. Arctic Ocean. The evaluation would help the Department of the Interior determine how best to "…conduct scientific analyses to gather the information we need to develop resources in the right places and the right ways."1
1 Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey overview, from Office of the regional executive, 4210 University Drive, Anchorage, Alaska 99508
“The USGS completed its task in June 2011, releasing USGS Circular 1370: An Evaluation of the Science Needs to Inform Decisions on Outer Continental Shelf Energy Development in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, Alaska . The report is commendably objective and broad-ranging. We are grateful to the Secretary of the Interior for commissioning it and to the authors of and contributors to the report for their hard work. The report’s 62 recommendations indicate many pressing needs including:
further research on the physical and biological environment of the region,
studies on specific aspects of the life history of important species,
the development of a comprehensive monitoring program that can detect environmental change and identify the drivers of such change,
the synthesis of existing information in order to answer key questions including the identification of ecologically significant areas,
an assessment of cumulative impacts from multiple sources,
greater inclusion of the traditional knowledge of Arctic residents,
the creation of a data management system that provides timely sharing of information from all research activities, and
a closer integration of scientific studies and findings with decisions being made about offshore industrial activity.”
“We, the undersigned 573 research scientists, call upon the Administration to follow through on its commitment to science by acting on the USGS recommendations. Doing so prior to authorizing new oil and gas activity in the Arctic Ocean will respect the national significance of the environment and cultures of U.S. Arctic waters and demonstrate the value that your Administration places on having a sound scientific basis for managing industrial development of the Outer Continental Shelf.”
(My comment: The names and titles of 573 concerned scientists follow the above letter.)
I simply can't believe that our President has the naivety and audacity to ignore all scientific evidence of the danger to our planet from the continued burning of fossil fuels, and to further advocate the environmental misadventure of increased deep-water drilling for oil in the coastal waters of the United States, including Alaska’s coastal waters.
Further, a newly-released report by the Center for American Progress, titled
“Putting a Freeze on Arctic Ocean Drilling—America’s Inability to Respond to an Oil Spill in the Arctic”, by Kiley Kroh, Michael Conathan, and Emma Huvos, outlines numerous reasons why it would be nearly impossible to respond to an oil spill in Arctic waters.
(Direct quote from Mr. Obama’s State of the Union address):
“Nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American-made energy. Over the last three years, we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight I’m directing my Administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources. Right now, American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years.”
How many more BP, Deep-water Horizon, “Gusher in the Gulf” tragedies can our planet endure before a responsible and enlightened leader is elected who will guide our nation toward a sustainable energy policy of renewable energy, overall, and renewable fuel, in particular?
Worse yet is President Obama’s mandate to increase the drilling for natural gas in our nationwide neighborhoods, and to proclaim it our fossil fuel energy source for the next 100 years.
Every American should make it an immediate priority to watch the (Josh Fox) documentary, "Gasland”. Having received an Academy Award nomination for documentaries just last year, it had been suspiciously absent from discussion and media coverage since that time (until yesterday, February 2, 2012, when Josh Fox was arrested on the floor of the House of Representatives while filming its sequel, “Gasland II” (which purportedly will showcase the collusion of government and gas/fossil fuel interests). “Gasland” accurately portrays the environmental affront to clean air and pure water by Hydraulic Fracturing (or, “fracking”), a drilling process developed by Halliburton in 1949 to extract gas and oil from rock.
A group of doctors attending a "fracking" seminar in suburban Virginia just last month (January, 2012), called for a moratorium on the practice of hydraulic fracturing until health consequences for humans can be evaluated. Good luck with that--since it now has become President Obama’s designated top-priority fossil fuel energy project for the next 100 years..
Everyone reading this article must ABSOLUTELYl google "hydraulic fracturing" and read the human and environmental health concerns connected with the practice that the Obama Administration promises to immediately implement, and note how the Bush/Cheney deviant duo (“Dick and Dub”), circumvented both clean air and water environmental law to exempt the process in 2005.
“Fracking” a natural gas well uses millions of gallons of water and many hundreds of toxic compounds (of which 650 have been identified as known or possible human carcinogens) delivered under pressure to shatter rock in the drilling process, in order to drill each well. Dick and Dub also allowed many of these chemicals to be unidentified and exempted from existing environmental law because fracking companies deemed them “proprietary”.
(That’s a novel approach to circumvent environmental law: Question: may a gas company, with full knowledge and consent of government, compromise human health and environmental safety because they’re using a proprietary carcinogen? Maybe if Americans weren’t distracted by those two Middle Eastern wars, they would have questioned such hypocrisy from its onset.)
(A direct quotation from the State of the Union address):
“We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly one hundred years, and my Administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy”.
This energy is being is being extracted from the earth as I write, and it is being done in the very manner that I previously noted. The harmful human health and environmental effects of fracking are well-documented in communities across the country, in, “Gasland”, in Wikipedia, and numerous other sites on the internet.
Water is by far the largest component of fracking fluids. The initial drilling operation itself may consume from 65,000 gallons to 600,000 gallons of fracking fluids. Over its lifetime an average well will require up to an additional 5 million gallons of water for the initial fracking operation and possible restimulation frac jobs.
Chemical additives used in fracturing fluids typically make up less than 2% by weight of the total fluid. Over the life of a typical well, this may amount to 100,000 gallons of chemical additives. These additives (listed in a U.S. House of Representatives Report) include biocides, surfactants, viscosity-modifiers, and emulsifiers. They vary widely in toxicity: Many are used in household products such as cosmetics, lotions, soaps, detergents, furniture polishes, floor waxes, and paints, and some are used in food products. Although some of the chemicals pose no known health hazards, some are known carcinogens, some are toxic, some are neurotoxins. For example: benzene (causes cancer, bone marrow failure), lead (damages the nervous system and causes brain disorders), ethylene glycol (antifreeze, causes death), methanol (highly toxic), boric acid (kidney damage, death), 2-butoxyethanol (causes hemolysis).
The 2011 US House of Representatives investigative report on the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing shows that of the 750 compounds in hydraulic fracturing products “[m]ore than 650 of these products contained chemicals that are known or possible human carcinogens, regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, or listed as hazardous air pollutants” (12). The report also shows that between 2005 and 2009, 279 products (93.6 million gallons-not including water) had at least one component listed as “proprietary” or “trade secret” on their Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) required Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).
The MSDS is a list of chemical components in the products of chemical manufacturers, and according to OSHA, a manufacturer may
withhold information designated as “proprietary” from this sheet. When asked to reveal the proprietary components, most companies participating in the investigation were unable to do so, leading the committee to surmise these “companies are injecting fluids containing unknown chemicals about which they may have limited understanding of the potential risks posed to human health and the environment” (12). Third-party laboratories are performing analysis on soil, air, and water near the fracturing sites to measure the level of contamination by each of the chemicals. Each state has a contact person in charge of such regulation.  A map of these contact people can be found at FracFocus.org as well.
Another study in 2011, titled “Natural Gas Operations from a Public Health Perspective” and published in Human and Ecological Risk Assessment: An International Journal, identified 632 chemicals used in natural gas operations. Only 353 of these are well-described in the scientific literature; and of these, more than 75% could affect skin, eyes, respiratory and gastrointestinal systems; roughly 40-50% could affect the brain and nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems and the kidneys; 37% could affect the endocrine system; and 25% were carcinogens and mutagens. The study indicated possible long-term health effects that might not appear immediately. The study recommended full disclosure of all products used, along with extensive air and water monitoring near natural gas operations; it also recommended that fracking's exemption from regulation under the US Safe Drinking Water Act be rescinded.
Some states have started requiring natural gas companies to “disclose the names of all chemicals to be stored and used a drilling site,” keeping a record on file at the state’s environmental agency, such as the case in Pennsylvania with the Department of Environmental Protection and in New York with the Department of Environmental Conservation. However, the continuing concern of some activists who oppose hydraulic fracturing is the lack of information really provided. According to Weston Wilson in Affirming Gasland, "about 50% or so of these MSDS sheets lack a specific chemical name, and some MSDS sheets simply claim 'proprietary' status and list none of the chemicals in that container." As a result, some activists are calling for specific disclosure of chemicals used, such as the Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) number and specific chemical formulas, and increased access to such information. In his State of the Union address for 2012, Barack Obama stated his intention to force fracking companies to disclose the chemicals they use.
Hydraulic fracturing. (2012, February 4). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 14:42, February 5, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Hydraulic_fracturing&oldid=475046480
(May I make a correction to the www.wikipedia.org entry above. I have the full text of President Obama’s State of the Union address in front of me, and he did NOT state his intention to force fracking companies to disclose the chemicals they use. He only stated the following):
(Direct quotation from Mr. Obama’s State of the Union address):
“Experts believe this will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade. And I’m requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use. America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.”
The operative words here are, “ON PUBLIC LANDS”.
One has only to google, “What percentage of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas is done on public lands” to learn the following, from www.energyvox.org , by Allison Fisher:
“Chemical Disclosure Requirement Would Only Apply to a Small Percentage of Wells”
“President Obama followed his endorsement of natural gas development by stating that he will require all companies that drill on public land to disclose chemical use “because America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.” This proposed disclosure requirement, which is currently making its way through the Department of Interior rulemaking process, seems intended to soothe public anxiety around the practice of hydraulic fracturing or fracking. However, the rule referenced here would apply only to gas drilling on public land.
According to the Bureau of Land Management, only about 11 percent of all U.S. natural gas production occurred on federal land, and the department estimates that hydraulic fracturing is used for about 90 percent of gas wells drilled on public lands.
The vast majority of fracking is done on private land, and only a handful of the 33 states where fracking occurs have adopted some kind of requirement that the chemicals used be disclosed to the public. In fact, according to a report prepared by the Wilderness Society for the Department of Energy’s subcommittee on natural gas, “only one [state] requires full public disclosure of the chemical components of hydraulic fracturing fluids: Wyoming. Three other states (Arkansas, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee) provided some disclosure of chemicals, but not to the public or in sufficient detail.”
Disclosure Requirements are Not Enough
And while it is clear that we need a national standard for disclosure of fracking chemicals, this alone would not safeguard the public against the risks associated with fracking. Many questions about the safety of this practice remain unanswered. There have been more than 1,000 documented cases of water contamination near drilling sites around the country. Meanwhile, the industry is drilling new wells at an alarming pace. According to a ProPublica investigation, between 2003 and 2008, the number of new wells drilled in fracking states increased 42 percent. Aside from the rulemaking for drilling on public lands being undertaken by the Department of Interior, the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency are conducting studies on the safety and impacts of hydraulic fracking.
At the minimum, fracking should be halted before the conclusion of these studies. And it goes without saying that the president should not be promoting an under-regulated and unproven technology as a central component of his energy platform.”
Whether Mr. Obama intended to mislead or, perhaps, was simply not familiar with the subject matter, for those of us who are all too familiar with fracking for natural gas, the contradictory statements leaped out at us. Simply requiring fracking companies to report the chemicals they use in the tiny portion of fracking done on public lands (9.9%--and, indeed, nothing was said about PROPRIETARY chemicals) is no assurance ,whatever, that America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk; the facts are quite to the contrary.
And these statements, in context with the misstatements of the actual amount of natural gas available, and the number of years it will be available, and the number of jobs that will be created, is disturbing, at best.
“In his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, President Barack Obama embraced the development of unconventional natural gas. In step with the theme of the address, the president highlighted both the abundance of the domestic resource and its job creation potential.
President Obama Overstates the Benefits of Natural Gas
In response, anti-fracking groups including the National Grassroots Coalition, United for Action, Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy and Protecting Our Waters immediately challenged the resource supply and job statistics cited by President Obama, saying in an email to supports, He was referring to industry-produced studies predicting 600,000 jobs as estimates from “experts”, but the real experts — the Bureau of Labor Statistics — predict less than one-fourth of that number by 2018. And the president, like the industry, fails to estimate how many jobs will be lost — far too many farmers, for example, have already lost their livelihoods due to extreme pollution and animal deaths caused by shale gas drilling. The President overstated the amount of shale gas believed to be recoverable: proven reserves will provide 7 to 11 years, and unproven (speculative) reserves may provide up to 20 years, which does not add up to 100. The federal Energy Information Agency just dropped its estimate from Marcellus reserves down to 6 years from its previous estimate of 17 years.
Disagreement about the amount of natural gas that can be recovered from shale and how many jobs could be created by this industry is certainly an important discussion, but it is secondary to the discussion of whether or not extracting this resource can be done safely.”
Many patriots feared that when the President postponed a decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline just days ago it was merely a political maneuver to gain time (and additional financial support from the fossil fuels industry) for his ongoing 2012 election campaign. For many, his proclamation to immediately increase drilling for oil and gas within our borders and off our shores confirms those suspicions. Environmentalists and realists should not be deluded into believing that postponing a decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline is akin to scrapping the concept.
Unless every responsible American voices their opposition and makes this the national cause for concern that it must be, you can believe the Keystone XL Pipeline will smoothly proceed as planned after obligatory (and predetermined) study is completed. Google "Keystone XL Pipeline", also, and learn what a foolhardy environmental adventure it is.
Scientists have been warning for years about the dangers associated with climate change caused by the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere (and in ocean waters) from burning fossil fuels, and regularly reiterate that we must begin NOW to transition from fossil fuels to renewable fuel, before the planet suffers irreversible damage.
Why must we continue to elect leaders who collude with special interests and deny science, and who continue to implement energy policy that will cause the demise of the planet and its inhabitants?
What has become of the development and implementation of biofuels programs--of American farmers producing both ethanol and biodiesel from crops grown within our own borders, with no harm whatever to the environment, and exponential benefit to the economy?
(Next installment: examining further issues and policies of concern in the State of the Union address, including solutions and job creation realized by the implementation of environmentally-responsible energy policy.)