Fracking Bad For Babies headlines are premature, study author says:

New work described by @bloombergview & others as showing proximity to fracking is bad for babies is not ready for prime time, says one of the authors, Michael Greenstone of MIT:  ”The newspaper articles describe preliminary results that we did not intend to share with press. We will release a full working paper as soon as we are finished with the analysis.” The work builds on an earlier study in the region that was discussed in depth on Dot Earth.image

Update 12:15 pm: Another study author, Janet Currie of Princeton, said this study is not even a “working paper” yet: “[W]e are not trying to publicize the paper ahead of peer review.  We have not put the paper out as a working paper and aren’t comfortable circulating it yet.”

I reached out to Ivan Oransky, who is the global editorial director of MedPage Today and blogs on the science publication process at Retraction Watch. He offered this note: 

"There are good reasons why reporters should wait until studies are peer-reviewed [before] writing about them. But doing so hands over control of what journalists cover to journals and other scientific institutions, in a perhaps-unintended but no less real effect of what has become known as the Ingelfinger Rule. It also reinforces the idea that peer review is perfect, which it ain’t. When you couple those issues with the insistence by many in the news media to feed the hype machine by depicting every new study as definitive and groundbreaking, you end up with useless coverage.

"I’m not crazy about the idea that scientists should somewhat arbitrarily decide when a finding is ready for public inspection. That’s particularly problematic in fields such as economics, in which researchers leave manuscripts as "working papers" for years. Once something is presented or posted online, it’s fair game. 

"What I’d prefer, instead of the gag order that some scientists would like to impose, is that reporters take the time — with scientists’ help — to understand where a given finding fits into the world of research. Has it been peer-reviewed? Is it the first such finding, or does it confirm others? I think it’s perfectly fine to report on research that hasn’t been peer-reviewed, if reporters make it clear that the findings are quite preliminary and may not hold up. It also behooves reporters covering such unpublished research to seek outside comments from those not involved in the work. In observational studies such as the ones you often see in environmental research, there are almost always alternative explanations for the findings, that at least deserve an airing."

Update, 6:30 pm: An AP story earlier this year provides this overarching context on health and fracking:

“‘There’s a strong case that people in the U.S. are already leading longer lives as a consequence of the fracking revolution,’ said Michael Greenstone, a professor of environmental economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. That’s because many power plants have stopped burning coal and switched to natural gas, which emits far less fine soot, nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide.

“‘Obviously, that has to be counterbalanced against the local effects of the drilling,’ and that makes for a complicated decision, said Greenstone, formerly one of President Barack Obama’s chief economic advisers. Obama has expressed strong support for the natural gas drilling boom and has said it can be done safely.

Greenstone said more work needs to be done to confirm that Washington County residents were affected by natural gas activity and not by other factors, but he called the project an ‘important start.’”

.@BarackObama bus tour aimed at education, but #fracking camps to make Binghamton stop about drilling. Anti-fracking plan here. Pro here.

.@BarackObama bus tour aimed at education, but #fracking camps to make Binghamton stop about drilling. Anti-fracking plan here. Pro here.

Smart plan for cutting emissions from natural gas fields from @FredKrupp below. More insights from @Levi_M. EDF release: Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp called for action in response to a new scientific report published this week in the Geophysical Research Letters. The study reported high levels of climate-altering methane emissions observed on one day in Utah’s Uintah Basin, the state’s largest oil and gas producing region. Methane, the main ingredient in natural gas, is a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Researchers at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) led the study, which reported a methane leak rate between 6.2 to 11.7 percent of total production for an area of about 1,000 square miles. Findings are based on aircraft overflights on February 3, 2012 that measured methane in the air and estimated the proportion of those emissions from the oil and gas operations—production, gathering systems, processing and transmission. Measurements were taken over twelve days but due to poor weather conditions, estimates are based on a single day.

“Though the sample size is small, these emissions estimates are alarming,” said Krupp, who served on the U.S. Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board for natural gas. “Regulators and industry must take immediate steps to address methane emissions in the Uintah Basin, by evaluating industry practices in the region and strengthening regulations to keep up with best available technologies. Reducing methane emissions is a critical issue not only for the industry, but for everyone concerned about climate change.

“Urgency is building. In June President Obama identified methane as a key priority in his Climate Action Plan. Federal and state regulators have an obligation to ensure that strong rules are in place and enforced. This study suggests that methane emissions may be a serious problem in Utah, but we need more data to pinpoint exactly where emissions are coming from and to identify the opportunities are to reduce them. When it comes to methane, we know enough to get started. We can’t afford to wait.”

Specifically, Krupp called for the following measures to be taken:

  • Both federal and state air regulators need to publically account for the current status of regulation and enforcement in the Uintah, and conduct an audit of enforcement practices and procedures, including an assessment of current resources;
  • Utah is to be commended for publishing a list of best practices for oil and gas production, but should be putting leading practices into law;
  • EPA should act immediately to close the loophole for ‘associated gas production,’ require regular maintenance and control technologies on compressors, replacement of high bleed pneumatic controls with low or no-bleed pneumatics, flares or vapor recovery units at condensate tanks, as well as apply leak detection and repair technologies where feasible;
  • EPA should prepare a federal implementation plan (FIP) to address air pollution on Ute tribal lands in the Uintah, using steps taken in the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota as a strong model for progress; and
  • The federal government, as part of a comprehensive methane emissions measurement program, should routinely survey emissions in each producing basin in the United States to measure progress over time.  

The task of reducing methane emissions does not fall on regulators alone. “Industry must step up to the plate when it comes to minimizing methane lost to the atmosphere,” said Krupp. “While there are companies that should be commended for trying to get practices and technologies right, it is in all companies’ best interest to prevent the loss of a natural resource escaping into the atmosphere. The public deserves a full accounting of practices that contributed to methane emissions during the time of this study.”

The study in question, “Methane emissions estimate from airborne measurements over a western United States natural gas field,” was published in Geophysical Research Letters.

@CIRESnews: ~6-12% of natural gas production lost to air in one Utah oil/gas basin, according to new analysis tracking before/after methane content in air mass (one day, one area).
The paper: Methane emissions estimate from airborne measurements over a western United States natural gas field.

: ~6-12% of natural gas production lost to air in one Utah oil/gas basin, according to new analysis tracking before/after methane content in air mass (one day, one area).

The paper: Methane emissions estimate from airborne measurements over a western United States natural gas field.

Useful #fracking fact finder: @NASciences Workshop on Risks of Unconventional Shale Gas Development, May 30-31. Release: The National Research Council will hold a two-day public workshop to discuss the risks related to unconventional shale gas development and management.  Academics and field experts will speak about the operational risks of shale gas development as well as its potential effects on water, air, communities, ecosystems, climate change, and public health.  A panel discussion and open Q&A session will follow each presentation.

 

DETAILS:

The workshop will run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT on Thursday, May 30, and from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT on Friday, May 31, in Room 100 of the National Academies’ Keck Center, 500 Fifth St., N.W., Washington, D.C.  Those who cannot attend may watch a video webcast atwww.nationalacademies.org.

 

Click here for a full agenda and to register for the event.

Videos conflict with @tammierosen explanation for excluding ticket-holding farmers at #TFF2013 @Gaslandmovie II premiere. Her explanation:

"Gasland Part II had its World Premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. Guests that had purchased advance tickets and were in line for the film 30 minutes prior, as our ticket policy states, were admitted into the screening. Once the house was at capacity, the remaining ticket holders who had not been in line prior to 30 minutes were unfortunately not able to be accommodated in the theater."

One can have ground rules for behavior at an event, but excluding potential critics before the fact and stifling open discussion is not a path toward progress. 

I’ve had my own experience dealing with a disruptive appearance by Phelim McAleer (more here), the “Frack Nation" filmmaker accompanying the batch of Marcellus-region farmers and landowners who had tickets for the event. So I recognize the risks, but closing the doors to discussion is not solution. This is particularly true given that McAleer’s film-making approach is remarkably similar to that of Josh Fox.

Here’s an excerpt from one of the first Tribeca reviews of the film, by Eric Kohn in IndieWire

"The director’s activism naturally stirs up trouble, and while most of "Gasland Part II" lets its countless subjects lead the way, the story eventually returns to his personal antics: The finale involves a well-documented 2012 incident in which the filmmaker was arrested on Capitol Hill after attempting to film a congressional hearing on fracking; he handles the situation well, but ultimately gains nothing except another illustration of how much his hands are tied — by getting them cuffed. In this David versus Goliath tale, Goliath still has the upper hand. ‘Gasland Part II’ runs longer than the earlier installment, but ultimately it has less to say. Fox sounds the same alarm with a bizarre mixture of confidence in the message and an awareness of the vanity involved in delivering it."

.@BillMoyers asks Sandra Steingraber tough question about poor farmers & #fracking income. She shifts to discussion of abolition from abomination. The question:

In preparing for this conversation, I read the story of one fellow who’s been working at odd jobs, taking welfare when he must, who’s now expecting a windfall of up to $300,000 a year for the next decade from a lease he signed for fracking with Chevron. Now do you really expect him to turn that down?

Her answer: 

Well, once they get to the level of — to the end of the process, where we’re asking a desperate farmer to turn away from looking at the bedrock under his feet as a bank account, you know, as a piñata that could be shattered to make money so he could retire, so he can send his children to college — we’ve failed, right? We’ve failed.

And so I’m far more interested in going upstream and looking at this as a design problem. To say, “All right, so we’ve had our run of fossil fuels. And we’ve become incredibly dependent on them to make stuff for us, right?” So the vinyl siding on your house is made out of natural gas, right.

[An]hydrous ammonia, which is used as synthetic fertilizer in our wheat fields and our corn fields, also made out of natural gas. So we have created an agricultural system that rides a tandem bicycle with the fossil fuel industry. We have created a materials economy and surrounds ourselves with material that are essentially fossils that were exhuming from the earth at a way that is not sustainable. They’re called nonrenewable for a reason.

And so it’s time to engage human ingenuity to do something entirely different.

And that’s where I’m interested in working. Because it seems to me when I look back at history, we have, in the United States, faced other times where our economy was ruinously dependent on some kind of abomination. And of course, slavery would be the one I would use as my example here. Where people had to rise up and say that even though millions of dollars of personal wealth is bound up in slave labor, even though slave labor offered us the lower prices of goods, offered us ability to be competitive in the world market, it’s wrong to do that.

And instead of trying to regulate slavery, control slavery emission rates, have state-of-the-art slavery, we decided to take an abolitionist approach to that.

Video and transcript.

Refereed paper finds big water & greenhouse benefit in coal > gas shift. Eager for @levi_m view. Notable, of course, that it’s Exxon research (!). But findings either stand or fail based on strength of data and analysis. Main conclusion: 
The carbon footprint of Marcellus gas is 53% (80% CI: 44–61%) lower than coal, and its freshwater consumption is about 50% of coal. We conclude that substantial GHG reductions and freshwater savings may result from the replacement of coal-fired power generation with gas-fired power generation.

Refereed paper finds big water & greenhouse benefit in coal > gas shift. Eager for @levi_m view. Notable, of course, that it’s Exxon research (!). But findings either stand or fail based on strength of data and analysis. Main conclusion: 

The carbon footprint of Marcellus gas is 53% (80% CI: 44–61%) lower than coal, and its freshwater consumption is about 50% of coal. We conclude that substantial GHG reductions and freshwater savings may result from the replacement of coal-fired power generation with gas-fired power generation.

Solid review of shale gas & fracking issues & opportunities.
Kuwait on the Prairie, says @npr, in neat post on shale oil/gas #fracking boom lighting up rural North Dakota.