As many of you may know, the city of Denton, Texas has just won a battle against the shale gas industry banning the use of hydraulic fracturing within the corporate city limits. I was present last Tuesday along with many other supporters of the ban, including former Dish, Tex. mayor Calvin Tillman, at the Denton City Council meeting that officially entered the ban proposal into the record. Upon reading the council’s vote on file # ID 14-0756, the crowd exploded in applause and cheers. But the fight as we all know has just begun.
City of Denton council votes to ban fracking in their city
To date two lawsuits have been filed against the city to challenge Denton citizens’ right to impose such a ban.
The Texas Oil and Gas Association filed for an injunction in state court in Denton Wednesday morning to stop the ban from being implemented. And the Texas General Land Office, which controls oil and gas leases that fund public education, has sued the town too, calling the ban, “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable.” SOURCE
At the head of the fight for ban supporters is the Denton Drilling Awareness Group (DAG), the same people who were behind the initiative to get the new ordinance to ban fracking in the city on the ballot this last election. According to their Facebook page DAG is “very close to retaining national and local attorneys who are familiar with and successful in working on these type of cases.”
Part of the battle will be to win over the hearts and minds of people, not just in Denton but around the country and perhaps even around the world to put pressure on both the ban supporters and ban opponents. It will naturally revolve around a war on words. One of the words that fracking supporters will be using is the word clean or its superlative, cleaner. It’s an effort by ban opponents to convince people how clean natural gas is than the other dirtier sources of energy, oil and coal.
The “clean energy” concept underlies the message of the shale gas industry’s use of fracking that touts a cheaper source of energy that consumers are experiencing at the gas pump. For most people who pay little attention to the details of what is involved in our use of fossil fuels, which natural gas is part of, this clean and cheap meme can attract followers where growing concern about the effects of climate change from man-made global warming are raising concerns.
The pro-fracking crowd will use the words of the EPA to support their “cleaner” energy concept:
At the power plant, the burning of natural gas produces nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide, but in lower quantities than burning coal or oil. Methane, a primary component of natural gas and a greenhouse gas, can also be emitted into the air when natural gas is not burned completely. Similarly, methane can be emitted as the result of leaks and losses during transportation. – The United States EPA
But note that this refers to natural gas burned “at the power plant”, not what transpires as we drill for this natural gas thousands of feet below the earth’s surface. At natural gas well sites, methane burn-offs pose serious problems.
Not Really the Best Choice We have
Essentially saying “we are not as bad as the other guys” is hardly a stable plan for our energy future. To say natural gas is cleaner than oil and coal misleads the public into believing that the threats to human health and the environment are significantly diminished. In our battle to reduce green house gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere the use of natural gas does have a reduction effect on the CO2 output but other toxic emissions like methane not only undercut this benefit while volatile organic compounds foul the air we breathe and the water we drink.
The method of fracking requires millions of gallons of precious water that in drought-stricken Texas is becoming harder and harder to come by. Add to this the air pollution derived from all the ancillary traffic required to sustain a gas well along with the threat of earthquakes and the notion of “clean” energy loses its effectiveness.