As President Obama continues to push for climate change action by reducing carbon pollution, is he literally burning up his global warming plan by also promoting hydraulic fracturing for shale gas? A new report from the Ceres group of sustainable investors underscores the devastating environmental and financial impact of flaring. The report finds that the U.S. fracking industry wasted approximately $1 billion last year in North Dakota alone through the practice of gas flaring. In May of this year, 29 percent of natural gas was wasted on flaring in the state—and all that wasted gas adds up to emissions equivalent to an additional one million cars on the road.
Methane leakage has been a constant issue at fracking sites. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that in the short term contributes more to climate change than carbon dioxide. In a recent op-ed piece for the New York Times, former oil and gas engineer Anthony R. Ingraffea writes that “because of leaks of methane, the main component of natural gas, the gas extracted from shale deposits is not a ‘bridge’ to a renewable energy future — it’s a gangplank to more warming and away from clean energy investments.”
And there are serious health problems for communities around the world living near gas flares. A 2011 report by Environmental Rights Action found that in the Niger Delta flaring releases toxic chemicals such as benzene that are known to cause cancer. An article on the report states that “residents living near gas flares complain of respiratory problems, skin rashes and eye irritations, as well as damage to agriculture due to acid rain.”
The volume of gas flaring in North Dakota has nearly doubled in the past two years. There is so much gas flaring going on at the Bakken oil fields that NASA has images of it from space.
Following her first public address as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Gina McCarthy was asked if she had read the Ceres report. She said she had not read the report, but was aware of the problem.
Via The Guardian