Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Malthusianist Doomerism Haunts Environmental Left

From Paul Erlich's warnings of a population bomb to The Club of Rome's "Limits to Growth," contemporary ecological politics have consistently embraced [leftist] green Malthusianism despite the fact that the Malthusian premise has persistently failed for the better part of three centuries. Indeed, the [capitalist agri-tech] revolution was exponentially increasing agricultural yields at the very moment that Erlich was predicting mass starvation and the serial predictions of peak oil and various others resource collapses that have followed have continue to fail.

One good recent example of frustrated Malthusianism is natural gas supply. Peak oil doomers declared an impending "peak natural gas" throughout the first decade of the 2000s. Even now, in the face of a shale gas bonanza sprouting up over the last few years, the doomers are frantic to justify their Malthusian true faith -- resorting to false claims of rampant water pollution from fracking fluids etc.
Within a year, U.S. recoverable shale gas reserves alone rose from 340 trillion cubic feet to 823 tcf, the Energy Department estimates. That’s 36 years’ worth, based on what the USA currently consumes from all gas sources, or the equivalent of 74 years’ of current annual US oil production. The reserves span the continent, from Barnett shale in Texas to Marcellus shale in Eastern and Mid-Atlantic states – to large deposits in western Canada, Colorado, North Dakota, Montana and other states (and around the world).

Instead of importing gas, the United States could become an exporter. The gas can move seamlessly into existing pipeline systems, to fuel homes, factories and electrical generators, serve as a petrochemical feedstock, and replace oil in many applications. States, private citizens and the federal government could reap billions in lease bonuses, rents, royalties and taxes. Millions of high-paying jobs could be “created or saved.” Plentiful gas can also provide essential backup power for wind turbines.

...Environmentalists voiced alarm. HBO aired “Gasland,” a slick propaganda film about alleged impacts of fracking on groundwater. Its claims have been roundly debunked (for instance, methane igniting at a water faucet came from a gas deposit encountered by the homeowner’s water well – not from a fracking operation). A politically motivated Oscar was predicted, but didn’t happen.

The Environmental Protection Agency revealed a multiple personality disorder. Its Drinking Water Protection Division director told Congress there is not a single documented instance of polluted groundwater due to fracking. (Studies by Colorado and Texas regulators drew the same conclusion.)

EPA’s Texas office nevertheless insisted that Range Resources was “endangering” a public aquifer and ordered the company to stop drilling immediately and provide clean water to area homes. EPA officials then failed to show up at the hearing or submit a single page of testimony, to support their claims.

Meanwhile, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced plans to conduct a “life-cycle” or “cradle-to-grave” study of hydraulic fracturing drilling and gas production techniques, to assess possible impacts on groundwater and other ecological values. Depending on whether the study is scientific or politicized, it could lead to national, state-by-state or even city-by-city drilling delays, bans – or booms. _MasterResource_via_OilPrice

While scientists argue whether water wells located within a mile of shale gas wellheads contain higher levels than normal of dissolved methane, there has been no evidence of water contamination or public health hazard from fracking fluids. Given the incredible financial wealth potential of shale gas deposits, it makes far more sense to let individual states regulate shale gas fracking. This is particularly true when the US government is controlled by an administration packing an "energy starvation agenda."

Malthusian lefty-Luddite Greens litter the landscape of European capitals, and under Obama have become a national hazard in the US as well. Their extreme alarmist rhetoric and anti-commerce stance threatens economies across the western world.
Human technology and ingenuity have repeatedly confounded Malthusian predictions yet green ideology continues to cast a suspect eye towards the very technologies that have allowed us to avoid resource and ecological catastrophes. But such solutions will require environmentalists to abandon the "small is beautiful" ethic that has also characterized environmental thought since the 1960's. We, the most secure, affluent, and thoroughly modern human beings to have ever lived upon the planet, must abandon both the dark, zero-sum Malthusian visions and the idealized and nostalgic fantasies for a simpler, more bucolic past in which humans lived in harmony with Nature.

Cross-posted to Al Fin

More on the safety of shale gas fracking:
Study upon study has concluded that hydraulic fracturing doesn’t pose a risk to drinking water. In fact, the last comprehensive study on the issue was conducted by the federal government in 2004, in which EPA found no substantiated cases nationwide of fracturing fluid contaminating groundwater. That evidence stands today.

Anti-gas activists haven’t let a dearth of evidence silence their claims though. A very telling example is a bizarre report just released by Duke University that set off a media frenzy by attempting to draw spurious conclusions based on the presence of methane in drinking water wells and the proximity of those wells to shale gas drilling sites.

The headlines, however, failed to mention that the report itself admits “the study found no evidence of contamination from hydraulic fracturing fluids or saline produced waters.”

Researchers also failed to collect baseline data on the quantity of methane that existed in the wells before drilling began. This is critical, as methane occurs naturally in water in the region where the study was conducted. In fact, the gas presence is a key tool in finding gas resources. Without this baseline information, it’s impossible to understand the significance of this correlation.

The larger problem stems from the way portentous headlines distract from the real issue. Additives injected deep underground in a well-constructed shale well don’t affect the quality of our water in the same way chemicals contained in a well constructed jet engine don’t affect the health of passengers in the plane. The key is ensuring proper well design and proper wastewater treatment/disposal.

Thankfully, state regulators have been working harmoniously with industry representatives to achieve that goal. Unfortunately, this kind of effective collaboration just doesn’t make for good doomsday headlines. _EnergyTribune

And that is what Malthusian lefty-Luddite dieoff.orgy Greens hate about safe and abundant energy: There is nothing to be alarmed about. Doomers have made the apocalypse into a religion and an addiction. Visit any peak oil forum or carbon hysteria website, if you feel the need for a quick mainlined dose of doom.

Of course, if you are more about solutions and means for creating a better life, you may want to work within a fact-supported reality.

More: Pennsylvania's shale oil and gas helping to prevent a double dip recession in the Quaker State

Still More:  Everything you've heard from the mainstream media about fossil fuels is wrong  

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