Methane: Just Another Excuse for Business as Usual

The federal administration is still wedded to it 2012 State of the Union message of one hundred years of methane.  This excuse for facing economic and ecological facts is nothing short of an ecocidal scam.

Here is what Richard Heinberg has to say in his Snake Oil: How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future


  • Hydraulic fracturing technology has a strong environmental track record.


  • Fracking consumes millions of gallons of freshwater, pollutes groundwater and air, and— thanks to leaking methane— may contribute more to climate change than burning coal.
  • An EPA report demonstrated that fracking wastewater is too radioactive to be dealt with safely by municipal treatment plants.
  • One study showed that average methane concentrations in water wells near active fracking sites were 17 times higher than in wells in inactive areas.
  • Fracking can lead to ozone pollution, which inflames lung tissues, causing coughing, chest pain, and asthma. Children and the elderly suffer the most.

Climate science has the following to add to this. The global mean temperature increase is determined by the sum total of carbon dioxide emissions added up over the globe since the beginning of the industrial era.[1]

Humanity has to live within a finite carbon emission budget. To remain within our limits, we have to cut emissions by 6% per year globally, starting today.  If we continue business as usual, the budget will be exhausted by 2027. After that, continued emissions will lead self-amplifying, possibly run-away consequences beyond humanity’s control.[2] This will add to the irreversible changes we have already triggered, such as the unstoppable collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

With respect to the greenhouse effect of methane, the federal administration’s claim that “[b]urning natural gas is about one-half as carbon-intensive as coal” is highly misleading.

Burning is only the final step of the energy productions. One has to account for leakage of  methane, a vastly more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, during extraction and transportation.  On the whole, as mentioned by Heinberg, the greenhouse gas footprint per unit of usable energy of shale gas is likely to be considerably greater than that of coal or diesel oil.[3]

The planned methane pipeline expansions [4] ignore all of the above and are unacceptable. The only one way to break our addiction to the capitalist model of infinite growth on a finite globe, and to ward off climate chaos is to say no to fossil fuels, now!

New England’s governors and US Senators are in denial of this reality with their support of Spectra Energy Corporation’s Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) Project.

We have a monumental disconnect between words and deeds: all New England governors sign on to methane pipeline expansion while they talk about the global climate as if they understand what’s going on. See attachment B of this link.  The same applies to the New England’s US Senators, with the possible exception of the Massachusetts delegation.

Meanwhile, the federal administration just issued its National Climate Assessment National Climate Assessment, which acknowledges that:

Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present. Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington State, and maple syrup producers in Vermont are all observing climate-related changes that are outside of recent experience. So, too, are coastal planners in Florida, water managers in the arid Southwest, city dwellers from Phoenix to New York, and Native Peoples on tribal lands from Louisiana to Alaska. This National Climate Assessment concludes that the evidence of human-induced climate change continues to strengthen and that impacts are increasing across the country.

At the same time, the very same Wall Street-owned administration fast-tracks “a $3.8 billion facility (12 times the cost of the NFL Ravens stadium) ‘to liquefy gas from all across Appalachia.”

Clearly, we are still in the grip of the bipartisan “drill, baby, drill” rhetoric, which perpetuates and exacerbates our dirty-energy addiction.

The risks of ignoring these energy challenges are immense. Developed nations like the United States consume (on a per capita basis) four times as much energy as China and seventeen times as much as India. Most of the future growth in energy consumption is projected to occur in the developing world. Constraints in energy supply are certain to strain future international relations in unpredictable ways and threaten U.S. and global economic and political stability. The sooner the real problems are recognized by political leaders, the sooner real solutions to our long term energy problem can be implemented.[5]

To those who are not willfully blinded by the National Media Propaganda Complex the conclusion must be obvious: we are dealing with a serious disconnect between words and deeds.

Ye shall know them by their fruits!


[1] H. D. Matthews, N. P. Gillett, P. A. Stott, and K. Zickfeld, The proportionality of global warming to cumulative carbon emissions, Nature 459, 829 (2009) .
[2] James Hansen et. al, Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change”: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature;  also see this short version.
[3] Robert W. Howarth,Renee Santoro, Anthony Ingraffea, Methane and the greenhouse-gas footprint of natural gas from shale formations
[4] US Energy Information Administration, What is shale gas and why is it important?
[5] Drill, Baby, Drill: Can Unconventional Fuels Usher in a New Era of Energy Abundance? J. David Hughes