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The fracking President

February 9, 2012

I see by the recent State of the Union speech that Obama is making a bid to be remembered as “the fracking President.” He repeats the industry claim that there is 100 years’ worth of natural gas in the U.S., and that we are the “Saudi Arabia of gas.”

According to an article that appeared on slate.com by Chris Nelder, an energy analyst and journalist (co-author of “Investing in Renewable Energy”), who claims not to be anti-gas and discounts environmental concerns, this assertion is unsubstantiated. The estimate of 100 years’ worth of gas represents 2,192 trillion cubic feet (tcf) being burned at the current rate of 24 tcf/year. It is based mainly upon a total of various categories: 273 tcf, or 11 years, of “proved” reserves; 537 tcf of “probable” reserves; 688 tcf of “possible” reserves; 518 tcf of “speculative” reserves; and 176 tcf of coalbed methane, of which only 19 tcf is “proved.” This leaves an 89-year supply, which may or may not exist or be recoverable.

In addition, if the people Obama is shilling for get their way, the expanded use of natural gas—trucks, power plants, etc.—will soon jack up the present usage rate, reducing the duration of supply even further.

I have a stupid question. Methane is being released from the melting permafrost, and great plumes of the gas are ascending from the warming ocean floor and, as far as I know, heading straight for the “greenhouse roof.” Why frack when it would seem that you can more easily capture the methane at the earth’s surface?

Judith L. Osterman
Loch Sheldrake, NY