Archive for the Environmentalism Category

Roerig Explains Hydraulic Fracturing

Speaking at last month’s Snowcon, Howard Roerig explained the process of hydraulic fracturing. The point I found most interesting was how drillers found a way to drill horizontally, slowly bending away from a vertical hole.

The sources for Roerig’s slides may be found on the YouTube page.

Contra Gasland Deception, Colorado Water Always Featured Natural Methane

A couple of years ago the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission debunked major claims of the Gasland anti-industrial propaganda film:

Gasland features three Weld County landowners, Mike Markham, Renee McClure, and Aimee Ellsworth, whose water wells were allegedly contaminated by oil and gas development. The COGCC investigated complaints from all three landowners in 2008 and 2009, and we issued written reports summarizing our findings on each. We concluded that Aimee Ellsworth’s well contained a mixture of biogenic and thermogenic methane that was in part attributable to oil and gas development, and Mrs. Ellsworth and an operator reached a settlement in that case.

However, using the same investigative techniques, we concluded that Mike Markham’s and Renee McClure’s wells contained biogenic gas that was not related to oil and gas activity. Unfortunately, Gasland does not mention our McClure finding and dismisses our Markham finding out of hand. . . .

Laboratory analysis confirmed that the Markham and McClure wells contained biogenic methane typical of gas that is naturally found in the coals of the Laramie–Fox Hills Aquifer. This determination was based on a stable isotope analysis, which effectively “finger-printed” the gas as biogenic, as well as a gas composition analysis, which indicated that heavier hydrocarbons associated with thermogenic gas were absent. In addition, water samples from the wells were analyzed for benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes (BTEX), which are constituents of the hydrocarbons produced by oil and gas wells in the area. The absence of any BTEX compounds in these water samples provided additional evidence that oil and gas activity did not contaminate the Markham and McClure wells.

I have not researched what “part” of the contamination of the Ellsworth well was allegedly “attributable to oil and gas development,” nor what sort of development that was, nor what the settlement was. In general, if there is objective evidence of a tort, the government properly intervenes to protect property rights (in light of any contractual relationships) and ensure just compensation for damages.

To me what is most interesting about the document, though, is that it demonstrates that usually methane in water is attributable to natural causes, not industrial development.

Recently I was talking with my father Linn about this, and he shared some anecdotes buttressing this fact:

Your great-grandfather Glenn Linn owned land south of Collbran, Colorado, until around 1963. As a child I spent many summers on this ranch. Of course, I have many fond memories spent in the mountains and one of the exciting memories is when we crossed the small stream running in front of the cabin Glenn would throw a match into the stream. A loud roar would ensue from the surface gas exploding.

In the 1960s the surface gas near The DeBeque bridge was very useful to the ranchers. In the cold winter the ice would freeze on the river which would force the ranchers to chop ice in order for the livestock to drink. Those lucky ranchers who had access to the river near the surface gas simply had to light the gas which kept the water clear of ice. Ranchers and cattle were both happy.

Your grandfather Otto Armstrong related that the train would stop just past the town of DeBeque so that the passengers see a geyser raise several feet into the air caused by surface gas. This must have been a great spectacle with the train engines of the 1920s and 30s bellowing smoke and a geyser spouting water feet into the air.

But we all know what’s going on here. The anti-industrial environmentalists will damn any sort of energy development that alters the natural environment in any way, no matter how much energy production contributes to human life and flourishing. And they’re not about to let the facts get in the way.

Image: Creative Commons by Tim Hurst

Warming Prophets Create Climate of Smear

I like Skeptic magazine; indeed, I have written an article for eSkepticabout religion in Harry Potter. Healthy skepticism is about thinking for yourself, declining to accept “established wisdom” without good evidence, and rejecting pseudo-science and appeals to non-natural explanations about the world.

Unfortunately, the latest article by geologist Donald Prothero for eSkepticpromotes group-think and smearing the opposition. Prothero accuses “climate change-deniers” of ad hominem attacks, even though the very label contains two smears.

First, Prothero clearly means to attribute guilt by association with the term “denier,” linking his opponents with other unassociated groups. Prothero explicitly likens his opponents to “evolution-deniers,” and never mind that many critical thinkers accept evolution but question climate alarmism. Ah, but some “climate change-deniers” are also “evolution-deniers,” and that’s good enough for Prothero. The argument seems to be, “Some of my opponents are idiots; therefore, all of my opponents are wrong.” But that’s not good enough, not if you claim the mantle of science.

Second, Prothero’s claim that his opponents “deny climate change” is simply a ridiculous lie. Nobody denies that the climate changes. Indeed, it is precisely the fact that the climate always changes and has been continually changing since the formation of the Earth that provides goodprima facie reason to think that modern climate change is dominated by nature rather than humans. In all the climate-change literature, the single page that most impressed me was the page from Al Gore’s first major book on the subject showing the pre-human cycles of climate change.

Only a fool would argue that modern climate change is due exclusively to human industry. (On the other hand, it is a tautology that, before humans evolved, nature was exclusively responsible for climate change.) However, nobody could sustain the view that human-caused CO2 emissions have zero impact on today’s climate. Therefore, the real debate is between the views of “human-dominated climate change” and “nature-dominated climate change.”

Given that nature obviously dominated climate change for nearly all of the Earth’s history, the idea that nature continues to dominate climate change remains a highly plausible starting point.

As to Prothero’s claims about the “scientific consensus” (which, incidentally, has been wrong before), there are a couple of good reasons to think that ideology drives much of the science. First, large sums of federal cash are awarded to scientists who promote the “consensus” view. Second, most advocates of “human-dominated climate change” advocate massive federal controls on the economy as a response, even though that political conclusion extends well beyond the scientific claims.

True skeptics will not be bowled over by the smear tactics and intimidation of the modern environmentalist movement.

Alien Invasions: Where Economic and Environmental Insanity Meet

“You’re traveling to another dimension. A dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. … Your next stop: the Twilight Zone.”

If the Onion covered the Twilight Zone, you’d end up with the sort of actual headlines we’re seeing today.

Consider the first headline, from Time“Paul Krugman: An Alien Invasion Could Fix the Economy.” What Krugman said was this: “If we discovered that space aliens were planning to attack, and we needed a massive build-up to counter the space alien threat, and inflation and budget deficits took secondary place to that, this slump would be over in 18 months.” He actually referenced the Twilight Zone.

And thus Krugman, a Nobel-winning economist, commits the simplest of economic fallacies, what Bastiat in 1850 called the broken-window fallacy, a type of the error of accounting for the seen but not the unseen.

The next headline comes from the land of environmental nuttiness, from the Guardian“Aliens may destroy humanity to protect other civilisations, say scientists: Rising greenhouse emissions could tip off aliens that we are a rapidly expanding threat, warns a report.” (For context, read the report from NetworkWorld.)

For any consistent leftist, this creates a paradox of unprecedented proportions. For clearly the solution is to expand CO2 production as rapidly as possible, so as to exacerbate global warming and incite an alien invasion, so that we can “stimulate” the economy and reelect Barack “The Chosen One” Obama in 2012.

(Hat tip to Aaron Bilger for blending the two stories.)

The Winds of Force and Taxes

The Associated Press released a (remarkably inept) article about “a 29 megawatt wind project near Pueblo” half-owned by Black Hills Energy. But at least the AP’s article tipped me off to the Black Hills release, which includes more relevant details.

The company’s Christopher Burke explained the real reason for the wind farm: “This approval of our wind project by the PUC is an important milestone as our utility continues to put assets and programs in place to meet the requirements of Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard…”

In other words, this project has absolutely nothing to do with economically meeting the needs of Colorado’s energy consumers, and everything to do with pandering to the environmentalist fantasy of widespread wind energy.

Moreover, “The project, planned for completion in late 2012, is expected to qualify for the U.S. Department of Treasury’s section 1603 cash grant program,” the release states. I’d never heard of the “1603 cash grant program” before; it’s part of the so-called “Recovery Act.”

In other words, the U.S. government will steal wealth from wage earners across the country to subsidize an overprised wind farm boondoggle in Colorado.

And yet, given the widespread use of such force and taxes, some people still wonder why the economy is struggling.

***

Anonymous commented on August 9, 2011 at 10:54 AM:
I have been searching for some breakdown of what goes into wind power and what comes out. Is there any net gain? Don’t forget to add in the loss from all the traffic jams caused by transporting the long blades. Jeff

Anonymous commented August 9, 2011 at 3:05 PM:
Maybe windfarms are the cause of man-made global warming, not that I believe in man-made warming. This article thinks the wind-farm build up will change climate!http://www.livescience.com/74-windmills-change-local-global-climates.html
Jeff

Green Doomsday Cultists

So the world is going to end tomorrow. Perhaps when it doesn’t the religious doomsday cultists will finally shut the hell up, at least for a little while.

I have to wonder, though, whether the doomsday scenarios of the environmentalists make much more sense.

Following in the footsteps of the global cooling and global warming scares comes the “climate change” scare. This latest iteration seems altogether too convenient, because the climate is always changing and has always been changing since the formation of the earth. Ironically, environmentalists blast critics as “climate change deniers,” when those critics are the ones pointing out that climate change long preceded humanity and, thus, obviously is driven largely (if not entirely) by non-human factors. Even Al Gore’s book provides ample evidence of non-human caused climate change, and Nova’s “Becoming Human” shows that humans evolved in an African climate that gyrated wildly between rain forest and desert. Yet environmentalists insist that, while pre-industrial climate change was caused entirely by natural factors, post-industrial climate change is caused mostly by human activity.

Also notice how environmentalists (and their lap-dog media) routinely latch onto any short-term weather pattern as proof of long-range “climate change.” If the weather is a little warmer, or a little cooler, or a little dryer, or a little wetter than average, then sound the alarms! Human-Caused Climate Change Invades New York! (Or wherever.)

It’s been raining in Colorado quite a lot over the past few days, and snowing in the mountains — allowing Aspen Mountain to reopen for the weekend and contributing to 25-foot drifts on Independence Pass – so obviously the reason is human-caused climate change. But just a few years ago, the environmentalists warned us that human-caused climate change would lead to drought and shorter skiing seasons.

That’s a pretty convenient theory that fits any and all possible weather and climate variations. At a certain point I think it’s reasonable to wonder whether claims of “human-caused climate change” remain theoretically open to challenge.

I do not doubt that, at certain stages of very-long-running climate cycles, the weather gets jumpier (more varied) than at other times. We might even be in one of those stages. But proving that would require quite a lot of evidence about present and past conditions — and good record-keeping on such matters began fairly recently. Proving that more variable weather is caused by human activity would require a far more robust set of facts. But notice how frequently we are urged to jump, without any substantial evidence, from “climate change” to “humans obviously caused it.”

In Biblical mythology, Adam and Eve lived in a technology-free state of environmental perfection. Then man sinned, setting off a a chain of events that some think will climax tomorrow. The environmentalists seem to concoct a similar ideal state — a climate paradise untouched by man — thrown into chaos by human industry.

But the climate has always been in a state of flux, and people have always suffered natural catastrophes, including wild weather patterns. It is only industrialization that has allowed us to protect ourselves from the fickle and destructive forces of nature.

Denver Post Reissues NREL’s Misleading Release

There are two stories here. One is that the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has put out an intellectually dishonest release touting the organization’s benefits to Colorado’s economy — without counting any of the costs in terms of tax subsidies and transferred resources. The second story is that the Denver Post reissued this release as “news” without bothering to mention its status as a copied release; the byline claims it is “by The Denver Post.”

Sure, if you totally ignore all the costs, any government expenditure looks like a great deal. Then again, if you ignore the costs, bank robbery also seems like a great deal, because look at how much the robbers are “stimulating” the economy by putting all that money into circulation! I have written about the general problem elsewhere, and economists have made the same rebuttals at least since the early 1800s.

But these sorts of releases are not intended as intellectually serious arguments; they are intended to stir up emotional support among economically illiterate (or simply dishonest) journalists, politicians, and taxpayers. So the fact that NREL would issue such a self-serving release is no surprise, even though any honest scientist working at the organization must be embarrassed by it.

I confess that I am surprised by the Post’s treatment of the release. I first heard of the story when hard-core leftist-environmentalist Pete Maysmith mentioned it on his Twitter feed: ”More evidence that renewable energy is a boon for CO’s economy. #coleg http://bit.ly/g2P4Kz.” The shortened link accesses the Denver Post ”story.” I got the idea that something was screwy when identical language showed up at Wind Today, and after a couple of phone calls I found the NREL release at the source.

I guess I just expected something a little more from the number thirteen newspaper in the nation.

Seeking Substance in the Energy Debate

The following article originally was published February 15 by Grand Junction’s Free Press.

Seeking substance in the energy debate

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

Scott McInnis, the presumptive Republican candidate for governor, blasted his Democratic opponent John Hickenlooper over energy policy in a February 9 speech to the Colorado Mining Association.

Hickenlooper, McInnis said, “sat on his hands” as the state’s Democrats imposed “rules and regulations” that took “Colorado from number one to rock bottom on states that are friendly to do natural gas and energy business in” (as reported by the Denver Daily News).

The next day, ColoradoPols.com, a partisan left-wing group, accused McInnis of lying. Citing a story in the Daily Sentinel, Colorado Pols claimed, “Colorado in fact issued more drilling permits than surrounding states last year.” Moreover, as the AP reported, “1,487 new wells were drilled in Colorado last year.”

So who’s telling the truth? Did the Democrats’ controls drive energy-related jobs out of the state, or did Colorado’s energy industry continue to perform relatively well despite the recession? Both sides are exaggerating their claims and ignoring important nuances of the discussion.

We know that going through energy policy takes some hard work. We urge readers to stick with us — especially if you intend to vote this November. If you don’t want politics to be controlled by big money and hyperventilating attack ads, you have to vote based on ideas and facts. That means you have to research the debates and seriously question candidates on both sides.

Energy is important. As the AP reported earlier this month, Grand Junction “led the nation with job losses last year,” suffering particularly from “job losses in the energy field. Its unemployment rate nearly doubled in the same period last year, from 4.7 percent to 9 percent.”

We’ve been advocating the Politics of Substance with our columns and with our candidate survey. McInnis, by the way, has promised to answer our survey, and we hope Hickenlooper does as well. We will publish their complete comments at FreeColorado.com, and we look forward to evaluating their remarks. See http://tinyurl.com/cosurvey10.

Regarding the energy debate, the first thing to notice is that the guy painting the rosy picture of Colorado’s energy industry is David Neslin, the director of the state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Neslin favored the rules that McInnis wants to change.

Any direct comparison between Colorado and its neighbors is worthless. It’s sort of like saying the Denver Nuggets are doing great because they can outplay the local high school team. What matters is not how Colorado compares to its neighbors, but whether Colorado is performing to its potential.

Walk over to your computer and search the internet for “Piceance Basin.” You will find a Geological Survey map showing a large region of Western Colorado encompassing Grand Junction. What’s important about this area is that it is a major reserve of natural gas (as Gary Harmon described in a great article over at the Sentinel last December).

What about the claim of new wells drilled in Colorado last year? The number of wells drilled tells us little about trends of overall production. Plus, what matters is the change in new wells from year to year.

We talked with Neslin on the phone, and he said “production was up a little bit in Colorado last year from 2008.” But would production have been even higher with improved rules?

Morever, the comparison to 2008 is misleading, because companies were already changing their behavior in 2008 in anticipation of the rules. Last year the Denver Business Journal reported that, when Encana Oil & Gas had $500 million to spend, “None of it went to Colorado; all of it went to operations in Wyoming, Texas and elsewhere, according to the company, which cited ‘uncertainty’ about the proposed regulations for its decisions.”

The upshot is that the article by Colorado Pols calling McInnis a liar is a partisan hack job that twists the facts to support its political agenda.

But McInnis is also stretching the facts. The political rules may be one factor hampering Colorado’s energy industry, but it probably isn’t the most important one.

In a media release, McInnis claims that Colorado is losing energy jobs to Pennsylvania because of the relatively better political rules there. But, as Harmon wrote, extracting the natural gas from our region can be difficult. Harmon wrote that “the Marcellus Shale formation in the eastern United States has become more attractive” due to drilling advances. (It’s also close to eastern customers.) That formation happens to run through Pennsylvania.

Energy policy is far too important to be dumbed down for partisan advantage. People’s jobs and livelihoods depend on energy production. As consumers we depend on natural gas to heat our homes and provide additional energy.

We think McInnis can make a good case that overbearing rules have softened Colorado’s energy industry relative to where it could be. But it is a complex field influenced by technological advances, federal rules, geology, prices, and costs. McInnis will be more persuasive when he offers the relevant context and nuance.

Linn Armstrong is a local political activist and firearms instructor with the Grand Valley Training Club. His son, Ari, edits FreeColorado.com from the Denver area.

Energy Debate: Rigs Lost and Unfavorable Energy Climate

With Scott McInnis beating the energy plank hard today, I thought this was a good time look into the background of the debate. My dad and I are currently working on a column for the Free Press; these are a couple of important issues I’ve come across in my research.

As the Denver Daily News reports, McInnis claimed,“What those [Democratic] rules and regulations did, frankly, was take Colorado from No. 1 to rock bottom on states that are friendly to do natural gas and energy business in.”

Amy Oliver Cooke points to (what I take as) the origin of McInnis’s claim.

Here’s what the Denver Business Journal has to say on the matter (June 25, 2009):

Oil and gas executives surveyed about where they are inclined to invest their company’s money have ranked Colorado last among the states.

The latest survey was issued June 24. It’s been conducted annually for three years by the Fraser Institute in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. …

The survey ranks states as well as other countries.

The first survey, in 2007, ranked Colorado at the top of the list of places executives considered positively for oil and gas investment. By 2008, the state’s ranking had fallen to No. 52 out of 81 locations around the world.

The June 2008 survey said executives had grown wary of the state’s efforts to tighten rules governing oil and gas operations here.

Of course this survey is subjective in nature, and articulated preferences may not match revealed preferences. The survey doesn’t mean much. What matters is whether energy companies are staying in Colorado and investing here. (That said, Colorado Pols is more than a little out of line for calling McInnis a liar, given that his remark is based on a credible source. Notably, the AP story that Colorado Pols cites imprecisely paraphrases McInnis; his quote above accurately reflects the survey results.)

Next up is McInnis’s claim: ”Statewide, the number of rigs in Colorado is down 71 percent, a testament to his [Governor Ritter's] anti-jobs policies.”

I’m not entirely sure where McInnis is getting this figure. I did find the same figure in an AP story from March 26, 2009:

New figures show the natural gas rig count in western Colorado’s Piceance Basin has taken a bigger percentage drop than in Utah’s Uinta Basin and the entire state of Wyoming.

Carter Mathies of Arista Midstream Services, a Golden-based energy services company, told The Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction that the Piceance rig count has dropped by 71 percent since October, from 102 rigs down to 30.

He says the Uinta Basin count has fallen 62 percent to 21 and the Wyoming count has fallen 54 percent to 36.

Industry officials say Colorado’s pending new rules for drilling are the reason the count has fallen more sharply in the Piceance than other areas. Officials say the reason is the higher cost of drilling in the Piceance.

Unfortunately, I could not locate the Sentinel article referenced by the AP. I did find an article from December in which Mathies, here identified as “president of Clover Energy Services LLC in Grand Junction,” said that an ExxonMobil deal is “a good signal for the longer-term prospects of natural gas.”

Another claim about rigs lost was reviewed last year by Colorado Pols. Penry stated, “The Piceance Basin has lost 60 percent of its rig count.” The clowns at Colorado Pols pretend to refute Penry by claiming “the only state with a higher percentage of rigs operating than Colorado is North Dakota.” But Penry wasn’t comparing Colorado to other states, he was comparing Colorado Period 2 against Colorado Period 1. However, that still leaves the problem of where Penry got his information.

I did get a tip from the Rocky Mountain Oil Journal, which claims that rigs in Colorado have declined from 78 a year ago to 47 now (though I’m not sure of the original date of the information). The reference is Baker Hughes, which I also found.

Baker Hughes explains:

A rotary rig rotates the drill pipe from surface to drill a new well (or sidetracking an existing one) to explore for, develop and produce oil or natural gas. The Baker Hughes Rotary Rig count includes only those rigs that are significant consumers of oilfield services and supplies and does not include cable tool rigs, very small truck mounted rigs or rigs that can operate without a permit. Non-rotary rigs may be included in the count based on how they are employed. For example, coiled tubing and workover rigs employed in drilling new wells are included in the count.

So I take it this is the relevant measurement, though I’m not entirely sure what this measurement includes or what it means in terms of the overall energy industry.

Notably, the U.S. rig count has dropped by 64 from last year, from 1399 to 1335, or a 4.6 percent drop.

Baker Hughes offers an Excel file called “Rigs By State — Current & Historical Data.” This includes a monthly count from 2000. Here I’ll list the average counts for Colorado from the January listings:

January, 2000: 18
January 2001: 26
January, 2002:25
January, 2003:31
January, 2004: 45
January, 2005: 65
January, 2006: 84
January 2007: 96
January 2008: 100
January 2009: 87
January 2010: 45 (The February 5 figure is 48.)

The recent low is October 16, 2009, with 36 rigs. The high is November 7, 2008, with 124 rigs. (May of 2008 is nearly as high.)

Based on these figures, then, both McInnis and Penry are roughly correct in their estimations of lost rigs, depending on which time frame we care to specify. From the highest mark to the latest figures, the number of rigs has dropped by 76, or 61 percent.

I’m confident the folks at Colorado Pols will apologize to Penry at their earliest convenience.

Of course, the lost-rigs figure does not prove the political rules are responsible for the lost rigs. As David Neslin pointed out to me today over the phone, we’re in the middle of a recession, and natural gas prices have tanked; “as a result, drilling activity and natural gas development declined across the nation.”

I don’t know how to square Neslin’s comment, “production was up a little bit in Colorado last year from 2008,” with the loss of rigs in 2009. Again, I don’t know how closely rig-count is related to total production. But I sure wish an expert in the field would lay out the full set of facts!

Or, fancy this: somebody who gets paid to report the news might, you know, actually research the issue rather than rely on sound-bites from bureaucrats and politicians.