Drilling, mining boom does not spell environmental doom

December 31, 2013 

The myth that the gas boom spells doom is typical of the environmental movement’s propaganda against natural gas, oil and coal.

There are countless local and national opinions that the Earth is in peril, but there are few facts to support this green train of thought.

If we turn off all of the electric lights and the heat in our homes for just 24 hours, we would be more than left out in the cold; we would be frozen.

Life as we enjoy it would cease to exist without Pennsylvania’s natural gas and coal, which provide good-paying jobs to thousands of residents.

And without natural gas, no one would be able to ride a CATA bus.

Solar, wind and geothermal energy can be supplemental sources to our energy needs but will not in the next 50 years be available in the amounts needed to sustain our present way of life and grow our nation’s economy so that the unemployed can be weaned off the rolls of government assistance.

It is the growth of the private sector not the burgeoning, exploding rolls of those needing government aid that will improve our level of existence.

Those who think hydraulic fracturing contaminates our water supply have their heads in the sand.

According to “A Quick Guide to Groundwater in Pennsylvania,” 2007 report by the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, the aquifer and water well common range maximum depth is 200 feet below the earth’s surface.

The typical Marcellus Shale gas well is drilled 5,000 to 9,000 feet vertically below ground level. As a gas well is drilled through the layers of rock, sand and gravel that contain our water resources, steel piping is placed in drilled sections and cemented into place to avoid contamination of the aquifer.

Pennsylvania regulations require this pipe to be cemented to a minimum of 50 feet below the deepest local groundwater sources, according to Penn State’s Public Media for Public Understanding report “Exploring Shale.”

According to the same report, gas wells drilled up to August 2012 consumed less than 0.08 percent of the total land mass of Pennsylvania. Water consumed by all the 1,500 wells fracked in 2011 used just 0.8 percent of the 9.5 billion gallons of water used daily in Pennsylvania.

Other Western nations are returning to coal for electric power generation expansion, further refuting the myth that solar, wind and geothermal energy sources are being relied on for near-future electrical power generation needs.

Late last year, Germany started the first of 10 new coal-fired electrical-power-generating plants scheduled to go on line in the next two years. Why are the Germans returning to coal? With insufficient natural gas resources, Germans do not want to have to rely on Russia as a natural gas resource due to the political uncertainty of Vladimir Putin’s expansionist ideas.

Also late last year, Tokyo Electric Power announced that it would build two coal-fired power-generating stations to efficiently produce 20 percent more electric power than older coal-powered facilities. These new operations will in part replace Japanese nuclear plants shuttered as a result of the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident. Although Japan has relatively few natural resources, it can affordably import from coal-rich sources such as Australia and Indonesia.

Even the Environmental Protection Agency recognizes that carbon dioxide emitted from coal-fired electric-generating plants can be utilized, according to a recent Associated Press story published in the CDT.

Four coal-fired power plants in the United States and Canada are planning to sell their carbon dioxide waste to oil companies that can inject it into low-volume production oil wells to increase oil output. The CO2 would remain permanently entrapped underground.

If there are fewer windmills, more endangered bats and birds will be saved. We have learned from experimenting with government-subsidized corn-based ethanol production that a side result was higher food prices and using valuable farm land and water resources.

Doom is not approaching.

Antarctic sea ice has reached its highest level in 35 years, and a just completed chilly Arctic summer has resulted in an increase of 533,000 square miles, or 29 percent of (north) polar ice, according to a September article in the Daily Mail of London.

Our children and grandchildren can sleep well.

Dave Schellberg is an employee of McLanahan Corp., a Hollidaysburg manufacturer of processing equipment for the mining industry. Readers may write to him at dbsmcl@yahoo.com.

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