Monday, August 26, 2013

Fracking as a bad T in I=P*A*T

Over at Kunstler's blog last week, I riffed on the environmental impact equation* by noting that "fracking is a perfect example of technology in the service of population and affluence increasing impact."  That reminded me that I had been sitting on several stories on the subject of fracking besides Discovery News reviews 'Gasland'.  Follow over the jump for more on this hot topic.

I begin with Susan Phillips of NPR reporting on Lifelong Gag Order Imposed on Two Kids in Fracking Case
Two young children are forbidden from speaking about Marcellus Shale or fracking for the rest of their lives. The court action stems from a settlement in a high-profile Marcellus Shale lawsuit in western Pennsylvania.

The two children were 7 and 10 years old at the time the Hallowich family settled a nuisance case against driller Range Resources in August 2011. The parents, Chris and Stephanie, had been outspoken critics of fracking, saying the family became sick from the gas drilling activity surrounding their Washington County home.

According to court testimony released Wednesday, the parents were desperate to move and reluctantly agreed to a gag order that not only prevents them from speaking of Marcellus Shale and fracking, but also extends to their children.
Two weeks later, Steven Colbert used that story as the basis of "The Word" from his last show of the summer.

The Colbert Report
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As Huffington Post described the segment, 'Paying For Silence Is Catching On Like Tapfire.'

Finally, here's Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) writing in LiveScience: Fracking is Draining Local Communities (Op-Ed), a story I included in last week's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (IPCC report leaked) on Daily Kos.
Brenda and Richard Jorgenson have farmed in the White Earth Valley of North Dakota for more than 30 years. They built a home in the valley's sloping hillsides and planted crops around its native prairie grasses. They have weathered the rugged conditions of the Northern Plains because they love working the land, but now their way of life is threatened by a powerful new force: the Bakken oil boom.

A frack pad sits roughly 800 feet from the Jorgenson home, a pipeline is being dug through their ranchland and a waste-disposal facility is planned nearby. The Jorgensons and many neighbors oppose the projects, but energy companies come armed with leases, lawsuits and threats of eminent domain. Local residents have little recourse.

Sally Jewell, Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior visited North Dakota earlier this month. She toured the oil patch and heard Governor Jack Dalrymple's request to "streamline" the permitting process for fracking on federal lands.

I hope she also met with residents like the Jorgensons who are living on the front lines of the fracking explosion — the ones who know that fracking has been linked to air pollution, water contamination and reduced property values in communities across the country.
And that's this month's fracking news.

*I mentioned that equation before in Lisa Hymas of Grist expounds on the A in I=P*A*T, where explained it as follows.
I teach my environmental science students the following equation to describe environmental impact: I=P*A*T, where I is impact, P is population, A is affluence, and T is technology. It's the A and inefficient T that is multiplying the impact of the effect of the relatively small P in the developed world, especially in North America...

If people in the developed world, but especially in North America, want to maintain anywhere near the current levels of affluence, they'd better hope that more efficient technologies can reduce the T to less than one (there is some evidence this is possible) before the resources run out, or everyone will be TSOL. Unfortunately, technology inadequate to the task is one of the barriers to sustainability, along with change resistance--but that's another lesson.
I think I just presented fracking as an example for that lesson.

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