It’s clear that President Obama will continue fueling our addiction to fossil fuels. While delivering a campaign speech in Cincinnati, Ohio on July 16, he proclaimed, “We’re going to invest in American energy…we want to continue to expand our production of oil and natural gas.” Obama touted the fact that oil production is “higher than it’s been in eight years” and natural gas production is “higher than it’s probably been in our lifetimes.”
Obama even went so far as to claim that “we’re moving in the right direction in terms of energy independence” and part of that is “this boom in natural gas.” We are “blessed with incredible natural gas resources that are now accessible because of new technologies,” he said. And Obama thinks that natural gas is an “ideal fuel” because it “burns cleaner than some other fossil fuels.” Ah Obama, natural gas is a fossil fuel, so it can never be an ideal fuel. An ideal fuel, after all, would not create greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Much of the natural gas we are now tapping in the U.S. is being drilled by a technique called hydraulic fracturing, or better known as fracking. Obama made it clear where he stood on fracking: “And the fact of the matter is that there are a lot of folks right now that are engaging in hydraulic fracking who are doing it safely.” But he pointed out that there are problems with fracking, and to him one of those problems is a lack of “clear guidelines for how to do it safely.” The other problem with fracking, according to Obama, is that the public needs to be informed about fracking so that “you can make sure that any industry that’s operating in your area, that they’re being responsible.”
There are other problems with fracking, and they pose big risks to the environment. The World Energy Outlook special report on unconventional gas by the International Energy Agency (IEA) published earlier this year found that unconventional gas operations like fracking have a “potentially larger environmental impact.” The reason being that unconventional resources such as shale are “less concentrated than conventional deposits and do not give themselves up easily.” That’s the reason why fracking is used.
The IEA cited several environmental concerns associated with fracking:
- Depletion of freshwater resources
- Possible contamination of surface water and aquifers
- Local air pollution
- Increase in GHG emissions, namely carbon and methane, which has a warming potential 23 times greater than carbon. Methane also contributes to smog formation
We need to get off our addiction to fossil fuels if we want to even have a chance to keep temperatures from rising above the 2 degrees Celsius rise climate experts recommend for maintaining life as we know it. Energy related carbon emissions, resulting from petroleum and natural gas, account for 82 percent of all the greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). If we greatly reduce the amount of fossil fuels we use to provide electricity to our houses and power our cars, we could greatly reduce our GHG emissions.
Photo credit: Flickr user, Jeremy Buckingham MLC