Why should you care about Fracking?

Question for comment

1) For your community in central Massachusetts which would you rather they invest in solar, wind or natural gas resources and why?

2) Which states account for most of the natural gas production ? (Resource link)

As fossil fuel prices rise our search for new means of extracting usable fossil fuels has expanded.  One of the new methods that has become usable is releasing natural gas-methane from shales that contain considerable amounts of trapped gas.  Shales are rocks that are made of mud, and the gases have been trapped in the rocks since formation many millions of years ago.  To release the gases we drill into the rock layer, and then frack it, hydraulically fractured.   The diagrams below indicate the number of locations in the US where this resource is or could be tapped.  The method is described in the next two diagrams.  The key is to release the methane gas by fracturing the shale rock to allow the gas to be released from the rock.  The fracturing is done with highly pressurized fluids.



This natural gas that can only be extracted with fracking is of considerable value. In 2000, approximately 26,000 hydraulically fractured wells produced 3.6 billion cubic per day (Bcf/d) of marketed gas in the United States, making up less than 7% of the national total. By 2015, the number of hydraulically fractured wells had grown to an estimated 300,000, and production from those wells had grown to more than 53 Bcf/d, making up about 67% of the total natural gas output of the United States. EIA estimates that natural gas production from hydraulically fractured wells now makes up about two-thirds of total U.S. marketed gas production.

Here, resource for natural gas weekly updates.

frack prices

To date three problems have emerged as a result of  the 2005 ruling that fracking was exempted from regulation by the Safe Drinking Water Act (1974) leaving it up to the states to monitor and regulate a rapidly increasing number of fracked wells.

1) Contamination of surface water from fracking fluids and erosion from the drilling preparation and pipeline laying process. Radioactivity associated with drilling. Fish kill from drilling.

2) Depletion of water resources for the drilling process in Texas during a drought.

3) Release of natural gas that propagates up through the rock contaminating water wells in Pennsylvania. Also see Duke University study


Keystone XL Pipeline

This is the story of a brilliant plan that has considerable positive and negative impacts.  We have to consider four different points of view: consumers, land owners-neighbors, oil industry, and environmental groups, each has different valid concerns and can realize different consequences.

The oil sands cover an area of 14.5 million hectares in Alberta, Cananda, with the remaining established reserves comprising 169.9 billion barrels of extremely heavy crude oil, referred to as bitumen. Approximately 16 percent of the 169.9 billion barrels is currently under active development. It is projected the reserves will last until 2045. The value of that amount of oil at $100 per barrel is $16.9 trillion. The benefit is clear to the oil industry.

The Keystone oil pipeline system is designed to carry up to 830,000 barrels of petroleum per day from the oil sands of boreal forests in western Canada to oil refineries and ports on the Gulf Coast. About half of the system is already built, including a pipeline that runs east from Alberta and south through North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska.

Landowners are compensated for the pipeline crossing their land, but cannot say no in general.

There are existing pipelines for tar sands crude that has averaged a spill month including spills in seven different states. This oil is different and more corrosive than regular oil and has led to numerous problems as a result.

As consumers we are the least impacted since the majority of the oil will be exported overseas. It is Canadian oil transported to our coast for refining and shipment.

The president has rejected this pipeline plan for now.

What is your stance on this pipeline and why?

Keystone XL Pipeline Map (Washington Post)]


Oil Industry:


Keystone Rejection

Suncor Tar Sands Mining

Keystone Pipeline

Other Tar Sand Pipelines being added



Nebraska, Texas, Michigan

Environmental Impact:


Carbon tracker

[Adapted from M. Pelto]

Solar Power Today

Solar Energy Expansion US, China and Germany

Solar Energy has lagged far behind wind in terms of development because, it has not been as cost effective. Two countries that have forged ahead with success in this area are China and Germany. What is leading to this success? How does the model for sun-a prosumer model differ from other economic models?

Germany leads the world in solar energy production from photovoltaic plants despite not being that sunny. So certainly nations like Australia, China and the United States could follow suit and produce much more.solar-pv-capacity-and-addtitions


Germany has followed a model that leaves much of the development cost up to the consumer, who is also the producer, or prosumer. Hence, this can occur more rapidly. It also means the prosumer is part of the key profit takers in the industry. germany-people-powered-2012-003

Energy usage peaks in the daytime and during the summer in many regions, hence solar can be critical in meeting peak loads, which offsets storage issues. In 2013 Germany had several occasions where solar provided more than 50% of all electricity.

Part of the success has been due to the lower cost of emplacing solar panels, which mainly is realized from the more rapid emplacement, lowering labor costs. In th US costs for payoff of solar vary from city to city, due to rebates and tax incentives. The cost in 2012 was $5500 per kwatt, by 2013 it was down to $5000 per kwatt, Germany is close to $2000 per kwatt.


In the United States solar power is becoming much more competitive leading to a large growth in capacity, led by California. This has led to increased employment.

Screen Shot 2016-11-14 at 2.33.55 PM.png



ITC-Impact-Factsheet-Fig1_0China is leading the way in solar PV manufacturing today, which is an economic plus. China is also the leader in solar heating, typically with rooftop water heating.
solar pv manufacsoalr heating

How competitive is solar today?

Germany Feed in Tariff

Solar leasing


North Dakota Access Pipeline

The $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline is designed to transport 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the Bakken and Three Forks Oil Fields in North Dakota to a crude oil market hub located near Patoka, Ill. From there, the oil would ultimately be sent to refineries in the Midwest and on the Gulf Coast.  The 1,100-mile-long pipeline crosses four states, beginning near Stanley, N.D., and ending at Patoka, Illinois. The pipeline has a diameter of up to 30 inches and has been 60 percent built at this time.

The pipleine developer is Energy Transfer Partners of Dallas, Texas.  They obtained federal permits for the $3.8 billion pipeline in July, two years after it was first announced. The company says that pipelines are safer than moving oil by rail. The oil pipeline travels mostly across private land and thus avoids much of the major pipeline oversight. dakota-map

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and supporters rallied in camps near the pipeline construction alignment since last April in Cannon Ball, N.D. The encampment is said to be the largest gathering of Indian people in North America  in the past century.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, holds the last easement, located next to the Missouri River, needed for the pipeline to be built. The pipeline’s opponents argue the Standing Rock Sioux tribe was never adequately consulted on the project, which threatens their water supply, as well as that of millions of people downstream from the pipeline’s proposed crossing under the Missouri River. Construction has already damaged the tribe’s sacred and cultural sites, including burial sites. The tribe demands a stop to further destruction of its cultural heritage. Recently the Trump administration granted approval to this controversial Dakota access pipeline project.






Recent spill in South Dakota from Keystone XL Pipeline