Two days ago, the New York Times reported that the French Parliament is “leaning” towards a ban on hydraulic fracturing, the American-made technological revolution in production that has vastly increased the known economically recoverable global reserves of natural gas. According to the article,
French lawmakers opened debate on Tuesday on proposals to ban a method for extracting oil and gas deposits from shale because of environmental concerns, throwing up the first serious stumbling block to firms that want to use the practice.
Looking with alarm at the experience in the United States, where shale gas is booming, even members of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s governing conservative party have come out against the practice, known as hydraulic fracturing, in which water, sand and chemicals are pumped deep underground under high pressure to free scattered pockets of oil and gas from dense rock formations.
The article, while interesting, misses the big picture. For starters, it’s unclear why French lawmakers would look “with alarm” at the U.S. experience. While there is some evidence that poorly built “fracking” rigs could lead to the escape of methane into local groundwater wells, this isn’t as disturbing as it sounds. Methane (ie, natural gas) does not make water poisonous, and there is no evidence that the fluids used in the process, which could be toxic, have leaked into well water. Much more importantly, there is ZERO evidence that the process affects water tables used for utility scale water supply, although environmentalist special interests are quick to try to conflate well-water methane contamination with water table contamination. The upshot is that hydraulic fracturing has been used in this country for fifty years, without harming public health and environment.
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CEI’s Iain Murray has an op-ed in The Washington Times today explaining what can be learned from the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan.
Here’s an excerpt:
Without this vigorous defense of nuclear, the Obama energy plan will have a massive hole at its core – one that cannot be filled by wind and solar power any more than it can be filled by fairy dust. The obvious answer is for the administration to stop its war on coal, but that is unlikely. The only other plausible choice is natural gas, derived by hydraulic fracturing – a procedure that environmentalists are already trying to ban. If they want to keep their plan going in any workable form, the president and Mr. Chu need to tell Americans unequivocally where their future power is going to come from, and push back against ideological environmentalists who are trying to ban practical sources of energy.
Read the rest here.
Keith Bradsher and Hiroko Tabuchi report in the New York Times today:
Years of procrastination in deciding on long-term disposal of highly radioactive fuel rods from nuclear reactors are now coming back to haunt Japanese authorities as they try to control fires and explosions at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.
Some countries have tried to limit the number of spent fuel rods that accumulate at nuclear power plants: Germany stores them in costly casks, for example, while China sends them to a desert storage compound in the western province of Gansu. But Japan, like the United States, has kept ever-larger numbers of spent fuel rods in temporary storage pools at the power plants, where they can be guarded with the same security provided for the plants.
Now those temporary pools are proving the power plant’s Achilles’ heel, with the water in the pools either boiling away or leaking out of their containments, and efforts to add more water having gone awry. While spent fuel rods generate significantly less heat than newer ones do, there are strong indications that some fuel rods have begun to melt and release extremely high levels of radiation.
The reason why the United States stores spent fuel rods on site is because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has been able to block building the Yucca Mountain nuclear depository in Nevada for years. In 2009, President Barack Obama cancelled Yucca Mountain entirely.
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