Thursday, May 26, 2011

What The Frack?

Fracking for natural gas is supposed to be very dangerous.
But is it? [pdf].

55. All technologies have environmental risks. Press coverage that talks about `toxic‘, `carcinogenic‘ and `radioactive‘ `chemicals‘ is meaningless. Vitamin A is toxic. A single cup of coffee contains more known carcinogens than the average American ingests from pesticide residues in a whole year. Bananas are radioactive. Dihydrogen monoxide is a chemical. The question that needs to be posed is always: how toxic, how carcinogenic, how radioactive?
And it has to be balanced against the gains.
76. Gas is a common feedstock for the chemical industry; so is ethane, a glut of which is now coming out of shale gas wells as a byproduct. Thus the shale gas revolution has already begun to draw chemical companies back to the Gulf of Mexico from the Persian Gulf, and hand them a competitive advantage. As well as being a fuel, gas and natural-gas liquids such as ethane are used in the manufacture of plastic, specialty chemicals, agrochemicals and pharmaceuticals. Shale gas is therefore revitalising the chemical industry wherever it can be produced.

77. Much environmental criticism of modern high-output farming argues that it is unsustainable because it depends of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser, which is manufactured from air and natural gas. Some have argued that famine will result when the gas, and therefore the fertiliser, runs out. It is now clear that the gas will not run out and will probably remain low-cost, so highoutput farming using fertiliser is indeed sustainable and affordable for the foreseeable future. This ensures not only food availability, but less pressure to convert wild lands to agriculture.
There are nearly 100 bullet points in the report and an introduction by Freeman Dyson. Read the whole thing.

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