Sunday, October 6, 2013

New data on fracking

As we prepare to move into the energy unit, it's nice to have a little help from Joe Nocera, who is touting some new research into fracking. Hydraulic fracking is a means of extracting natural gas from shale formations, which are all over the US. Natural gas contributes less to climate change than does, say, burning coal, but one reason that people have been skeptical is that the apparatus used in fracking doesn't capture all of the gas that is released by the frack. When methane escapes into the atmosphere, it is about 20 times more damaging than the CO2 that is the most commonly cited pollutant. Thus, the amount of methane released by the apparatus is quite important: if the amount is small, then natural gas is much better than coal, but if the amount is large, fracking may be just as bad as coal. Nocera's investigation isn't done, but it sounds like technology can make things significantly better in this case. That's good news for people who would rather get their energy domestically rather than sending our billions to Iraq.

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