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Dear Editor: I write in response to the “Facts about Fracking” event which took place last Thursday, sponsored by the Harris Centre.

Although the two engineering experts Drs. James and Dusseault spoke of the feasibility and safety of fracking, I was disappointed that the presenters did not discuss a very significant issue associated with fracking — climate change.

When one considers the impact of fracking for oil and gas on climate change, it becomes obvious that fracking cannot offer a viable energy future for us.

Fracking is an energy-intensive method that requires the burning of fossil fuels at multiple stages of the process, from building the fracking rig, to transporting the water and fracking chemicals to the site, to powering the rig, to transporting the fuel and fracking waste, to disposing the waste, processing the fuel, transporting the finished product, combusting the finished product ... and so on.

Let us not forget the flaring of uncaptured methane gas, a potent contributor to climate change, a process that seems to be increasing dramatically in places like North Dakota and Alberta.

To the assurances given by the two engineering experts, I present the work of Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, a professor of engineering at Cornell University who developed fracking technology but has come to realize that deploying it will compromise our ability to stop climate change.

He has given many presentations to this effect. In a major peer-reviewed paper, quoted in a recent article in the Globe and Mail, Ingraffea proved how the overall carbon footprint of fracking for oil and gas far outstrips conventional fossil-fuel extraction, mainly because of the fugitive methane leaking and venting.  

I believe we have to pursue alternative energy sources.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released its 2013 report telling us with 95 per cent certitude that climate change is happening because of human activity, and that if we don’t act now, the consequences could be devastating.

If we continue expanding our fossil-fuel sector, I fear we might lose the struggle against climate change and we will feel it here in Newfoundland and Labrador very profoundly. I encourage readers to have a look at the provincial website, Turn Back the Tide, which explains what climate change means for our province.  

Climate change is not just about rising temperatures, it is also about extreme weather, including flooding and violent storms that will happen more frequently. I believe we must turn our sights to alternative energy sources such as wind power. Green energy is a technology that is, relatively speaking, still in its infancy, but one that very much beckons our great capacity for technological innovation.

Alternative energy is already being developed elsewhere to great effect. The logistical challenges seem daunting, but that must have been the case as well when fossil fuels were being developed over 100 years ago.

Now it is time to move to the next stage and, time is of the essence, because we are running out of time.

Edwin Bezzina, Corner Brook

Organizations: Dear Editor, Harris Centre, Cornell University Globe and Mail United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Geographic location: North Dakota, Newfoundland and Labrador, Corner Brook

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Recent comments

  • FullDisclosre_VestedInterest
    February 05, 2014 - 11:23

    A few points: 1. There is no such thing as a fracking rig. 2. Fugitive methane leaking and venting occurs even if fracking is not done. 3. Cathles of Cornell found "Ingraffea's" study "Seriously flawed". Thank you to everyone for pushing the energy industry to be more responsible.

    • Edwin Bezzina
      February 06, 2014 - 10:31

      I’d like to respond to the comments made above. The use of the word “rig” follows the language of the oil exploration companies themselves (i.e. 2013 summer report of the Black Spruce Exploration uses the words multiple times). In any case, maybe it would be better to use the word “fracking site” as it conveys the much larger gamut of machinery, generators, containment tanks and ponds, and equipment that is involved in the fracking operation. With regards to the study by Cathles, which I was aware of, I didn’t reference it in the article because Howarth, Ingraffea et al. issued a rejoinder in the journal Climate Change, vol. 113 (2012), p. 537. I found this response to Cathles’ criticism to be far more convincing, in that Ingraffea’s work measures the methane release according to decades rather than centuries (the former makes sense because climate change will most likely happen in increments over the next few decades). I appreciate the comment made above about making the energy industry more responsible. Perhaps the fracking process could be made safer, but I personally do not believe that they will ever solve the long-term cumulative problems of heavy water usage, the disposal of the fracking chemicals, the energy needed to extract the oil and gas, and so on. It is undeniable, in my mind, that as fossil fuels become less accessible, they will require more energy to extract, which will entail of course the burning of more fossil fuels. The methane flaring in North Dakota can be seen from outer space, for example. We cannot afford to keep doing this, and I wish that the scientists who gave those talks could somehow turn their expertise to developing an alternative and more viable energy future for us all.

    • FullDisclosre_VestedInterest
      February 06, 2014 - 18:27

      Hi Edwin, the correct term would be "well site". Unfortunately, that does not have the word "frack" in it. There are drilling rigs, service rigs, etc. but no fracking rigs. You are correct that as fossil fuels become less accessible they will require more energy to extract. Luckily, fracking is much more efficient than the alternative fossil fuel extraction method: drilling a well every few metres. The problems of water usage, disposal of fracking chemicals, and flaring (which can occurs on any oil or gas well, fracked or not) will continue to improve with the pressure of the public on oil and gas companies and government regulators.

  • Joe Wiseman
    February 05, 2014 - 10:42

    The fossil fuel industry has no interest in dealing with climate change. For them it is a money losing proposition. We cannot continue with raising global temperatures and fossil fuels do just that. Corporate greed trumps common sense once again.

  • Graham Oliver
    February 05, 2014 - 10:11

    I respect the views of Mr. Bruce. He is an economist. And there is no question that his feathers may have been ruffled at Professor Dusseault’s presentation. Why? Because there were many people in the audience who were well-researched on the topic of fracking and frankly, they were not going to sit there and listen to a man who purports to be an expert and then spills out statements like: “200,000 wells drilled and not one problem with groundwater contamination”. That statement is right out of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers Playbook. It’s Big Oil propaganda, at its best. And those of us engaged in the Fracking Awareness Movement will not tolerate such statements without responding. I was the one who promptly walked up to the front of the room at the end of Dusseault’s presentation and gave him a copy of Jessica Ernst’s peer-reviewed research paper listing numerous cases of groundwater contamination in Canada related to fracking. I wanted to set the record straight. If that move was disconcerting to Mr. Bruce, then he had better get use to it. And so should the very supportive Corner Brook Board of Trade. And Mr. Bruce is also correct about me making a statement (his termed it a speech) referencing Lac Megantic where 47 unsuspecting residents of that small Que. town were incinerated in an inferno caused by a railway tanker car explosion. The train was carrying fracked crude from the Bakken. H2S and benzene were two highly volatile components in the crude oil that exploded on that July 6th day. For Prof. Dusseault to rush through an abbreviated list of chemicals found in fracking fluid and not even mention BENZENE is a disgrace. He was supposed to be delivering “the facts”. Ask the people in Lac Megantic what they think of benzene. My one question after my less than 3 minute (not 15 minute as he stated) speech, was: “Mr. Dusseault, are you saying there is NO benzene in fracking fluid?” His response after consulting with Dr. James was, “There’s no benzene in fracking fluid.” For the record, benzene is listed as a dangerous carcinogen commonly found in fracking fluid. In my opinion, Dusseault did not conduct himself as an expert, nor as an academic. He presented a Big Oil narrative and that’s what Mr. Bruce may have wanted to hear. Some profoundly unusual quotes from Dusseault’s presentation were: “Don’t believe what you see on the internet. It’s garbage!” and “Don’t believe peer reviewed research.” Quite amazing indeed from a published academic! Mr. Bruce … I suggest that you get use to hard questions at pro-fracking presentations and if you can’t stand the heat, you might just have to leave the kitchen.

    • FullDisclosre_VestedInterest
      February 06, 2014 - 17:42

      Hi, me again, just a few points on this as well: I agree, Mr Dusseault was incorrect in saying that no Benzene is used in fracking fluids. It is used in some, but not all frack treatments. Both benzene and H2S are also natural constituents of crude oil. If you would like to see the components of frack fluids used in recent wells in AB and BC you can visit the website. Frack fluids have become more environmentally friendly (or less environmentally harmful) over the past few years thanks to public pressure. It is not perfect, but it is much better than the napalm used decades ago. As per Dr. James equation, this is working to reduce the severity aspect of the risk.