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The Secret Danger Liberals Don’t Want You to Know: Fracking is Safe

Somewhat Reasonable - January 02, 2014, 5:30 PM

Hydraulic fracturing started out as an “exploding torpedo” back in 1865. Today, nearly 150 years later, the actual process has made giant technological strides, but now, it’s the topic that’s explosive.

While the White House has been encouraging Christmas dinner table conversation to center around Obamacare, in my experience, it is fracking that came into the conversation—and when it did, the results had the potential to be as explosive as the early practice.

Over the holidays two young adults came home for Christmas. Somehow hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” came into the conversation. Dad, a reader of my column whose employment is also peripherally connected to the oil-and-gas industry, spoke up in support of the practice that has unleashed America’s natural resources and made us the world leader in energy production. His children, and their friends who had gathered in his home, were shocked and spouted the usual claims of water contamination, harsh chemicals, and flaming faucets. The topic became so explosive that his kids packed up and left before the festivities even began.

I was in California for Christmas. I visited a cousin in Napa Valley whose adult son is in the wine business. He was at her home when I arrived. She told him what I do and stated that he had many friends in the oil-and-gas business. I smiled and said: “I can talk oil, gas, coal, nuclear, fracking, whatever…” My cousin quickly interrupted and stated: “We probably don’t want to talk fracking.” I took the hint, and we moved on to another topic. Driving back to my brother’s house, I wondered: “When did fracking become an explosive topic.”

With the Christmas prime rib consumed, my family and friends were still gathered around the table. Once again fracking came up. I shared the previous two recent stories. One woman asserted that if her sister, who was arriving in a few days from Boulder, Colorado, was there and we talked fracking, the results would be explosive, too.

Because they are not in the industry, I found that the group gathered around our table had misconceptions about the process that they’d picked up from the media.

While I don’t have an exact date when the topic of fracking became explosive, I do know, from my speaking and writing on the topic, from radio interviews with listener call-ins, and private conversations, that the explosive reactions are due to a lack of understanding about the process—with the two biggest concerns being about water and chemicals.

Water

As I’ve written previously, there are accusations that fracking is taking billions of gallons of water out of the hydrologic cycle. Especially in the southwest where water is scarce and drought conditions persist, this poses a problem.

The process of hydraulic fracturing has advanced from the first nitroglycerin “torpedo” that was shot down a well hole on April 25, 1865, and well acidizing that was used in the 1930s to enhance productivity, to the modern mix of high pressure, water, and chemicals—and it continues to evolve and become more economical.

In a piece addressing water used in fracking, The Economist describes the process this way: “Water injected at high pressure into rock deep underground during the process of hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking,’ often returns to the surface as brine, having picked up a lot of salt on its journey. It is also contaminated with chemicals from the fracking process itself.”

Today, less and less freshwater is being used—especially in the arid southwest where water for drinking and agriculture is at a premium. A typical frack job can use as much as 5 million gallons of water and lasts about 3 days. The procedure can result in decades of oil or gas production.

With the development of new technologies, the fracking process can be done with brackish water that may be as much as ten times as salty as seawater. A recentreport from Reuters, titled “Fracking without freshwater at a west Texas oil field,” documents some of the advancements. Billions of gallons of brackish water are located far below the fresh water aquifers. Producers in west Texas are fracking with the brackish water from the Santa Rosa aquifer. They are then recycling the produced water—a byproduct of oil and natural gas drilling, and the flowback water—the fluid pushed back out of the well during fracking. Both forms of wastewater have historically been trucked to underground disposal wells.

A couple of months ago, I participated in the Executive Oil Conference in Midland, Texas where a panel of water experts addressed the crowd of more than 800 attendees and discussed the new technologies.

Now, instead of trucking wastewater to a remote location, mobile systems can treat the water onsite and condition it to meet almost any specification the driller wants—resulting in a reduction of expensive truck traffic. The portable systems can treat 20,000-30,000 barrels of water per day. For bigger frack jobs, additional units can be added—making the system totally flexible.

These new water solutions can reduce the total dissolved solids in the water from as high as 200,000 to below 200. For reference, the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard for drinking water is 500. The same water can be recycled and used over and over again. Addressing the new technologies, James Welch, Global Business Development Manager, Water Solutions, with Halliburton, told the crowd: “Produced water is not a waste. It is an opportunity. It is an offset to freshwater usage.” Halliburton is able to fracture with water that’s 280,000 TDS.

The result of these new procedures is, according to The Economist: “Clean water …pure enough to be used for irrigation, or even drinking water. …Alternatively, it can be re-injected into the ground during the next frack.”

Rather than taking water out of the hydrologic cycle, the oil-and-gas industry is actually often taking formerly unusable water, using it in fracking and then cleaning it up to a level where it can be introduced into the cycle as either irrigation or drinking water.

Stan Weiner, Chairman and CEO at STW Resources, was one of the panelists. He summed up the new water solutions by saying: “Now we’ve figured out a way to clean it up economically. There’s no reason not to use it. Companies nationwide, worldwide, all want to do this. We get no resistance from them. They want to see it work. It’s a go.”

GE (as addressed in The Economist), Apache Corp. (as covered by Reuters), Halliburton, and STW Resources are just a handful of the many companies, which are developing revolutionary water treatment processes that neuter one of the biggest arguments against fracking.

Chemicals

In our Christmas conversation, someone asked: “Why do they need chemicals? Why don’t they just frack with water?” She’d heard stories.

I explained that the so-called chemicals are needed to provide lubrication for the tiny particles of sand that hold open microscopic cracks in the “fractured” rock that allow the oil or gas to escape. “As a woman, I am sure you’ve had your fingers swell. That makes it hard to get your rings off.” She nodded. “What do you do then?” I queried. “Soap my hands up,” she replied.

Bingo!

That is the role the chemicals play in the fracking process. But those chemicals are now mostly food-based and can be consumed with no ill effects—both Governor Hickenlooper (D-CO) and CNBC’s Jim Cramer have had a drink.

So, even if the chemicals did somehow defy geology and migrate several miles from the fracked well through the layers of sedimentary rock to the aquifer, they are not harmful.

To illustrate the point, I am in the process of organizing what I am calling “the great New Mexico fracktail party.” I have several state legislators lined up—and am looking for more. I need to find an operator who is willing to invite us onsite when a frack job is being done. The legislators, industry folks, and anyone else who wants to participate, will be invited to the location with cocktail glass in hand (umbrella, fruit, olive—whatever—included). With media cameras rolling we’ll pour the fracfluid from the tank to our glasses and toast to American energy freedom.

My sister-in-law asked: “What about the flaming faucets?” “Those are real,” I explained. “But they have nothing to do with fracking.” Natural gas, or methane, was found in water wells long before any fracking was done in the area. In fact, it was the gassy smell that often alerted explorers to the potential oil and gas in the region. Oil-and-gas drilling didn’t cause the flaming faucet phenomenon. Quite the contrary. The presence of gas near the surface brought about the “don’t smoke in the shower” adage. While the water is harmless to consume, a gas build up in the house could cause an explosion.

Lies about hydraulic fracturing are rampant. If fossil fuel opponents can spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt about fracking—with the goal of causing a federal fracking ban, they can virtually stop oil-and-gas development in America, as it is estimated that 90 percent of producing wells have been fracked. Without American ingenuity and increasing production, gasoline prices and utility bills will skyrocket. Economic ruin will reign. America will, once again be beholden to increasingly hostile foreign sources.

A fracking conversation shouldn’t be explosive. Today’s hydraulic fracturing is really benign, American technology that is ecologically sound and economically advantageous. Keep these facts in mind. As my stories illustrate, not everyone will listen—but if more people, such as my brother and sister-in-law, know the truth they can help de-fuse the explosive conversation.

[Originally published on Townhall.com]
Categories: On the Blog

New Obamacare ‘Fee’ Assails Small Business and Jobs

Somewhat Reasonable - January 02, 2014, 7:26 AM

Jobs, jobs, and jobs are on the minds of legislators, as they should be, not only at the federal level, but also here in Illinois.

On October 24, 2011, President Obama said:

Without a doubt, the most urgent challenge that we face right now is getting our economy to grow faster and to create more jobs.  . . .  We can’t wait for an increasingly dysfunctional Congress to do its job. Where they won’t act, I will.

Counter productive was the Obama administration’s jobs plan based on a greening of the economy. Candidate Barack Obama said in 2008 that he would create five million well-paying “green” jobs within 10 years.

Solar panel company, Solyndra, was one of many boondoggle companies that went belly up after being the recipient of government largess (taxpayer’s money) through stimulus funds intended to boost the green economy. A Johnson Controls plant in Michigan, toured by Obama to much fanfare in 2011, was able to produce 150 jobs with its $300 million in conservation grants at a cost of $1 million per position.

Despite Obama’s initial pledge to create millions of well-paying green jobs, 88% of all jobs created in 2013 were “part-time” jobs. Considered a plus was that the unemployment rate declined in November of 2013 from 7.3% to 7.0%, although millions still remain out of work, not counted because they are no longer looking for work.

How did Illinois fare in 2013 at the state level with job creation? With a ranking of 48 out of 50 states on economic outlook and 47 out of 50 in economic performance, Illinois’ performance could rightly be called dismal and unacceptable. In the Monthly Rankings of Unemployment Rates for States, Illinois was ranked 48th at 8.7% by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for November, 2013.

Some areas of Illinois even experienced double the national average of unemployment, which, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dropped to 7.0% in November (This 7% figures fails to consider those who have dropped out of the work force because they are unable to find jobs.)

Three of the ten top Illinois cities with the worst unemployment in 2013 were: 1) East St. Louis, 14.8%; 2) Harvey, 14.4%; and North Chicago, 14.3%.

Illinois legislators were chided by Illinois Chamber of Commerce President, Doug Whitley, when both the Senate and House failed to follow through on bills offering tax breaks for companies to stay or move to Illinois, but instead left town after the pension vote on Tuesday, December 4. Since lawmakers aren’t due back until January, the issue was pushed ahead into 2014.

According to Brent Pollina, head of Pollina Corporate Real Estate in suburban Chicago, whose firm helps companies find new locations:

It seems like Illinois can’t get its act together. Illinois really is behind the times when it comes to the concept of economic development and helping work with business.

Not so, according to Illinois lawmakers. Their first concern was to deal with the state’s roughly $100 billion pension crisis that had diverted money from other services and had led to repeated credit downgrades. Nevertheless, House Speaker Michael Madigan did tell reporters that “It’s still under consideration” to give tax incentives to corporations when lawmakers return to Springfield in late January.

While other states are in competition to snag large businesses here in Illinois — governors from Texas and Florida have waged public campaigns trying to get Illinois companies to move out of state — it is Illinois’ own messy state finances and incomes taxes that are presenting obstacles to what remains at the heart of America’s engine of growth for economic success and job creation. It is small businesses and start-up companies established through entrepreneurship that create new jobs.  In-state large corporations generally do quite well without incentives, even here in Illinois.

Talk to any small business owner in your community and you will find that many are just barely making it. It is not uncommon for a small business to go bankrupt and go out of business almost overnight.  But what has Illinois does to help small businesses survive in this time of economic uncertainty?

On January 1, a new drag was imposed on small business with a large new tax, compliments of Obamacare. It is the levy on health insurance premiums that targets small business and individual markets. Although the IRS classifies the tax as a “fee”, it functions like an excise tax on premiums.

Most gold-plated public, private and labor plans are exempt from the “fee” IRS regulations imposed last November which excluded “any entity that is a self-insured employer to the extent that such employer self-insures its employees’ health risks.” This political selectivity means that the tax burden will fall on those who work for small businesses, the self-employed and individuals. These are the people who can least afford the large, new Obamacare tax.

According to the research arm of the National Federation of Independent Business, these higher insurance costs will shrink hiring by 146,000 to 262,000 jobs over the next decade, with 59% of the losses hitting small business. Also prevalent will be the temptation to dump insurance coverage and send workers to the mercies of Obamacare, which most likely was the preferred outcome from the start.

Editorial page editor Paul Gigot discusses the new health-care tax on premiums that starts on January 1 via a video presentation at: Opinion: “Obamacare’s Coming Assault on Small Business.”

In case you’re feeling safe and secure from the reaches of Obamacare, not so fast! Surprises will be in store for you on your insurance premiums and income tax bills. Taxes and fees will be listed as a line item titled “Affordable Care Act Fees and Taxes.”

The government thinks we should surrender without complaint even though it is trying to make us buy something many of us don’t want. To add insult upon insult, government is now forcing us to pay additional taxes for what the government is demanding we buy, taxes that are set to increase year after year.

In my mind this results in the government’s confiscation of our liberty and freedom. What about you?

[First posted at Illinois Review.]

Categories: On the Blog

Obama’s 2014 Big Lie: Income Inequality

Somewhat Reasonable - January 02, 2014, 12:12 AM

As the liberal disaster called Obamacare unfolds, President Barack Obama is already embarked on his next Big Lie: income inequality.

It’s useful to visit some of the planks of Karl Marx’s 1848 Communist Manifesto. They included abolition of private property — the keystone of capitalism — and the application of all rents of land to a public purpose. Marx advocated a heavy progressive or graduated income tax whereas a fair tax that treats all Americans fairly by taxing what you spend instead of what you earn. The current tax code is more than 73,000 pages! Marx wanted to eliminate all rights of inheritance and centralize credit by means of a national bank.

What Obama is talking about is socialism/communism when he claims that income inequality must be altered by more government intrusion into our lives and his claims are false. He said that “a dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility” is “the defining challenge of our time.”

His objective is to further divide Americans by promising what government cannot and should not deliver. This is now the Democratic Party theme leading up to the midterm elections in November. He is right about one thing, only economic growth can provide the opportunity for Americans to increase their personal incomes, provide a choice of investments, and save more for the future. In his first five years in office, economic growth has been historically slow.

In a Wall Street Journal opinion commentary by Robert A. Grady he cites a 2011 study by Lee Ohanian and Kip Hagopian, “The Mismeasure of Inequality”, that concluded that “inequality actually declined 1.8% during the 16-year period between 1993 and 2009.” According to studies by the U.S. Treasury, the capitalist system in America, providing mobility (up or down), found that “considerable income mobility” in the decades 1987-1996 and 1996-2005, found that approximately half of those in the bottom income quintile in 1996 had moved to a higher quintile by 2005. They were decades, the 1980s and 1990s, in which the vast majority of Americans gained higher incomes.

In the past four and a half years since the recession officially ended, poor people and the middle class were hurt the most and opportunity slowed. Under Obama millions of Americans are out of work and dependent on government programs such as food stamps and unemployment compensation. The later ended for many on December 31. The inequality that Obama cites is the direct result of the failure of his economic programs as well as a dramatic surge in federal regulations that harm economic growth.

The Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — is discouraging full-time employment. According to Gallup’s payroll-to-population ratio, the proportion of the American population working full-time, has dropped almost two percentage points in the last year to 43.8%. Wall Street Journal columnist noted that Obama spent 2013 fund-raising for the Democratic Party “making 30 separate visits to wealthy donors” at “more than twice the rate of the president’s two-term predecessors. On the day following the September 11, 2012 attack that killed an American ambassador and three others in Benghazi, Obama flew to Las Vegas on a fund-raising trip.

In the year ahead you will hear him cite figures based on 1979 income rates to justify his call for more opportunity, but in 1979 the mean (average) household income of the bottom 20% of wage earners was $4,000. By 2012, it was $11.499, an increase of 186%. For the middle class, the increase was 211%. Despite the 2008 financial crisis, it still rose.

Did the rich get richer? Yes. But the rich earn their money from inheritance, from business development (jobs) and investment. Under communism there is no inheritance; the state gets it all. And the state owns the factories and instruments of production, as well as collectivizing agriculture. It maintains a “progressive” or graduated income tax.

Does the political theme of income inequality work? Bill de Blasio, New York’s new mayor, ran on an income inequality platform and will be sworn in by former President Bill Clinton who will be accompanied by his wife, Hillary.

Income inequality will be the theme of Obama’s forthcoming State of the Union speech, but like everything else he says it will be a Big Lie.

[First published at Warning Signs.]

Categories: On the Blog

‘Tis is Still the Season for Giving to These Groups, All Through 2014

Somewhat Reasonable - January 02, 2014, 12:05 AM

Happy New Year to all! Along with the Holiday Season are inspirations that good citizens need to return gifts to benefit those less fortunate. From my activities, it is easy to find areas for donations that help the poor cope with expenses of energy use.

Most don’t think simple items like paying electric bills are a hardship. For the unemployed and extremely poor these are almost life-or-death choices.  Great help is available through Project Share administered by the Salvation Army. This is assistance to help the hopeless pay utility bills.

In Georgia, you can make a donation on your electric bill which is matched by Georgia Power. Donations are matched by Georgia Power Company; so if you don’t like them, make a big donation and cut into company profits. Project Share has given over $100 million to poor Georgians the past 30 years.  Similar programs exist in other states. Make your donation now!!

High energy bills for electricity, heating oil, natural gas, and gasoline are far more punishing to the unfortunate than for average citizens. With government policies directed toward higher energy costs, the situation for the poor becomes even more hopeless.

The federal government, most states, and even many local municipalities have subscribed to the idea that carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels causes uncontrollable global warming with catastrophic climate events. As a consequence, they place roadblocks for fossil fuel production and mandate use of a vast variety of “renewable energy sources” that are far more expensive than our abundant fossil fuel resources of coal, oil, and natural gas.

In many cases “renewable energy sources” are not renewable and create far more economic and environmental problems than they are alleged to solve. This global warming scare activism is a global problem that is locking developing nations (like in Africa) into perpetual poverty and reducing living standards for those in developed nations like in Europe and North America.

Without impediments to fossil fuel energy use, energy costs would decrease, millions of new jobs would be created, and, billions, if not a trillion, of annual revenue generated in the United States alone. The global benefits are extraordinary.

To slow down this anti-fossil-fuel train charging to disaster, there is a host of organizations staffed with thousands of volunteers educating the public about the nonsense of fossil-fuel caused global warming and impractical, uneconomic, and unreliable energy sources proposed as solutions. These organizations have expenses for maintaining office space, phones and computers, publication materials, mailing, hosting conferences, travel, and office salaries.  Most organizations are 501(c) 3 organizations for which donations are tax deductible.

So in a sense donations to energy advocacy organizations produces the same results as giving money to the poor because their accomplishments decrease energy costs for the unfortunate.  A few organizations with links for making donations follow.  My apology for not listing the hundreds of other organizations toiling so hard to educate the public about efforts to make radical changes to global energy use.

1.  The Heartland Institute. A Chicago-based libertarian think tank that sponsored eight international conferences on climate science, published many thousands of pages of scientific articles refuting United Nations publications promoting the global warming scare, and a vast array of other activities. Donations are made with this link.

2.  Science & Environmental Policy Project (SEPP). A Washington-based group that collaborated with The Heartland Institute on thousands of pages of scientific articles refuting United Nations publications, publishes a weekly summary of pertinent articles on climate science and energy, and a host of other activities.  Donations are made with this link.

3.  Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT). A Washington-based group that published numerous articles on climate science and energy policy, attends United Nations Conferences to refute global warming scare information, and a host of other activities.  Donations are made with this link.

4.  Cornwall Alliance. The Cornwall Alliance is a coalition of clergy, theologians, religious leaders, scientists, academics, and policy experts committed to bringing a proper and balanced view of nature and the environment.  They publish numerous articles refuting the global warming scare, provided speakers for news and religious meetings, and a host of other activities.  Donations are made with this link.

Support energy advocacy groups because they need funds to accomplish their mission. Organizations pushing the global warming scare have access to billions of tax dollars and donations from those who profit from their assistance.

Categories: On the Blog

There Is No Denying Mother Nature

Somewhat Reasonable - January 01, 2014, 11:09 PM

A retrospective analysis of the year 2013 reveals one humiliating defeat after another for contemporary ecotheologians as various climatic and political events served to further undermine their case for man-made climate change.

For starters, a number of Western governments rejected United Nations climate change protocols. Australia (Tony Abbott, whose platform featured a rejection of climate change hokum, was elected prime minister), Japan (the country dramatically scaled back its 2009 carbon emissions pledges) and Poland (which fired its environmental minister just days into the COP-19/Conference of Parties climate change forum) all sent a clear message that they would not be bound to any economically destructive international agreements based on fraudulent science.

In terms of COP-19 “accomplishments,” the Obama administration pledged to have U.S. carbon reduction targets in place by the 2015 Paris conference and there was a loose agreement on a “loss and damage” (a wealth redistribution scheme compensating developing countries for damages from greenhouse gas emissions with funds from developed countries) plan. Such “commitments” are best to be taken with a grain of salt, however, given the poor record of nations keeping such promises.

One 2013 event that held out hope for man-made climate change advocates was Typhoon Haiyan, a category 4 storm that struck the Philippines in early November. Having recast their focus on “extreme weather events” (instead of rising temperatures) as the litmus test for the existence of man-made climate change, the alarmists viewed Haiyan as a godsend.

In the wake of the storm, the main stream media and climate change alarmists trumpeted their message of linkage between climate change and the storm’s intensity. Following the hyperbole emanating from these messengers of doom, however, a number of scientific analyses and historical hurricane records were published that conclusively debunked any such linkage. In fact, claims of causality between purported climate change and Haiyan’s intensity carried about as much water as similar calls linking “super storm” Sandy and climate change the year before.

The typhoon was the highlight of a normally active Pacific hurricane season, but the Atlantic Basin was quite tranquil with the region experiencing the fewest number of hurricanes in 30 years. Of thirteen named storms, only two became hurricanes and only one of these made landfall in the U.S. Mexico experienced a total of eight storms, with three making landfall as hurricanes. Of greater significance, however is the long term record that shows no trend of increase in the number or severity of U.S. hurricanes since 1990 (2013: Slowest Hurricane Season in 30 Years, Anthony Watts, November 25, 2013).

And what about those global sea ice trends? Perhaps one should ask those aboard the MV Akademik Scholkalskiy, the misfit bunch of researchers and tourists who went venturing off to the Antarctic to see how climate change was affecting sea ice. Well, to paraphrase a famous play, a funny thing happened on the way to the Douglas Mawson base camp (the researchers mission was to recreate the 1912 exploits of the Australian scientist).

The latest news was that the ship was stuck in ice 15-feet thick with attempts by several other ships to rescue the crew members rendered unsuccessful due to similarly poor seafaring conditions. In fact, the latest satellite data shows that Antarctic sea ice is at record highs while Arctic sea ice is up 35% or more from last year’s low levels. Translation: global sea ice is now well above the historical average.

Perhaps the crowning achievement of the alarmist community in 2013 was the IPCC’s release of its Fifth Assessment Report, or AR5, another IPCC publication that came up well short in the credibility column.  Most laughable among the report’s conclusions was the statement claiming improved confidence in projections of rising temperatures despite the increasingly yawning disconnect between actual global temperatures and rising CO2 levels. Thus is the logic of the IPCC. Welcome to the global warming “pause,” 17 years and counting. [Editor: Catch up with the latest definitive rebuttal to IPCC alarmism, Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science, from the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change or NIPCC.]

In an effort to refute this widening decoupling, the “true believers” like Heidi Cullen continued to grasp for straws, claiming that the earth’s warming is taking place in the deep ocean with the effects to become more profound in the future. The problem with people like Heidi Cullen, Al Gore and NOAA’s James Hansen, is that their predicted apocalyptic events are always in the future, thus in order to avoid accountability.

Categories: On the Blog
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