Drillers and frackers want farmers’ water

Dust bowl farm

You can't eat sand

As I read this article in the Longmont Times-Call the other day, I shook my head with disbelief. On the very same page was an article titled “Driest March in City History ends with heat” and then looked at the snow percentages (of normal) in the weather section:

Copper Mountain 57 percent; Independence Pass 46 percent; Vail Mountain 12 percent; Lake Eldora 32 percent; Loveland Basin 69 percent; Niwot 62 percent; Wolf Creek Summit 69 percent; Rabbit Ears 39 percent; Hoosier Pass 64 percent.

Something isn’t adding up. If oil and gas companies are buying up the water that our farmers need to grow our food, then what will we eat? Can we depend on other states to provide our food when they’ve suffered from the same dry spell we have? This is a clear example of market demand gone haywire. Our water (the water that belongs to the people of Colorado) is being sold to the highest bidder (oil and gas companies) so that they can make record profits at our expense, while in the meantime, we will get very thirsty and hungry and have our air, water and soil poisoned. Can you squeeze blood from a turnip? Where is this water going to come from? There isn’t enough water. Since when do we put the needs of corporate powers over the needs of the people? It was recently reported that natural gas is going to be shipped to the highest bidders in Asia. An LNG terminal on the West coast has been reconstructed so it can now export liquid natural gas.

What I’m seeing here is voodoo math. Our water is being stolen from us so that oil and gas companies can ship their products overseas while we are left hungry, thirsty, and then footing the bill for oil and gas company profits.

It’s time to conduct a thorough investigation on the economics of screwing the people of Colorado. There is no time to waste.

  5 comments for “Drillers and frackers want farmers’ water

  1. April 7, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Thanks Teresa. We need to get in front of this and stop it before deals get made and we get cut out of the picture. That’s EVERYONE’S water and needs to be conserved. Ironic as hell that we have to fight ‘conservatives’ to CONSERVE resources. Their hypocrisy has never been starker.

  2. Gregory Iwan
    April 7, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Many uninformed tools of the ultra-rich might say this piece is alarmist. Well, it is alarming that the corporate seems nowadays to always come before the common, and the longer the current state of affairs persists the worse off we (the “little people” who pay Leona Helmsley’s taxes, etc.) become. Of course, in the “market” economy everything has its price, including people. Just ask what a life is “worth” — you may learn of it via some court wrongful-death suits. Sadly, water, air, even health are anything BUT “public goods.” Indeed, the more public goods, the smaller the corporate profit margin. So everything must be monetized, including life, health’s, resources both tangible and intangible, and political preferences. That’s what we get when we knowingly (perish the thought, but it happens!) or unknowingly vote in the forces of repression, regression, and retreat from our potential. Worhsip the wallet, as long as it belongs to the one-percenter who drives your nails.

  3. brian jeffries
    April 7, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    There are no import/export LNG terminals on the west coast of the United States. As I pointed out in the comments to the TC article today, that information is in error. See http://ferc.gov/industries/gas/indus-act/lng/LNG-existing.pdf As to the LNG terminals on the Gulf and East coasts, the only LNG that can be exported is LNG that has been imported, left as liquid in the storage tanks, and then re-exported. There is currently no facility in the lower 48 that can liquify natural gas produced in the lower 48 for export. There is a terminal in Alaska that has always been for export purposes but it has been in place for twenty years or so and only serves to export production from Anchorage area fields that is in excess of local demand. There is no pipeline connection between the lower 48 and Alaska which would facilitate the export of natural gas from the lower 48. As to the water not available to farmers, the primary irrigated crop in eastern colorado is corn which is primarily going to ethanol. Ironically, supporting water to corn to ethanol is supporting the tripling of ethanol exports from the US to Brazil. Seehttp://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=5270&src=email

  4. April 13, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    I’m not sure there isn’t at least a pair of red herrings in this statement. First, while it is true that no LNG export terminal currently exists on the West Coast (two appear to be closer to fruition in northwest Mexico), why would anyone want one? Even proposed shale-gas production sites are far from these shores, though I can understand the gas industry’s apparent impression that building such pipelines might be a bit easier in the West than in the more congested East. Production from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus formation, for example, recommends Atlantic ports, as the Bartlett Shale helps promote the feasibility of Gulf Coast locations. As for the Nikiski, Alaska, terminal, this could be useful to Canadian output, though operators north of the border appear more interested in a site near Kitimat, B. C. It isn’t like Kevin Costner’s Iowa baseball field – if one builds it, no one might come. And I’m not sure a rational pipeline operator would feel any more secure transporting gas through Mexico than through Nigeria.

    To what end is all of this? Natural gas is coming out of the ground faster than it can be used. I spoke to an investment banker this week who is convinced natural gas is headed for $1.50 per mcf (it’s currently close to $2). Booming supplies from Australia and East Africa, plus the prospect of more from Russia (which will offer tax breaks for Arctic production) have Qatar, the LNG capital, working feverishly to nail down long-term deals. Russia has already cut its price for its European pipeline customers, and Australian production is widely expected to double during the current decade.

    Why send natural gas out of the country? Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Sure, Japan may pay $16 today for the $2 commodity, but there goes talk of “energy independence” or “energy security.” What to use once the gas is gone, whether in thirty or three hundred years? Natural gas is more thermodynamically efficient for generating electricity than even nuclear energy. It pollutes less than crude oil and its byproducts, and it can propel our vehicles (currently for $1.50-$2.00 a gallon equivalent). Industry can certainly use it, too. Dow and others plan hundreds of millions of dollars investment for the Baytown, Texas, region. Chemical plants using cheap[er] natural gas offer but one example of the prospect for more jobs, trade, and capital investment. Sending this resource overseas may be opportunistic, but it certainly doesn’t seem sensible.

    As for water and farming, the ethanol argument puzzles me. Corn ethanol requires more energy to produce than it can deliver. Marginal farmer profits from grain corn slated for ethanol are tiny; with the end of federal subsidies, the ethanol dog won’t hunt. Ethanol production from corn also adds a net pollution load. Natural gas beats this cycle, especially in terms of particulates. Moreover, ethanol costs north of $5 per gallon if the subsidy is included, and it takes 1.6 liters of ethanol to generate the same energy output as one liter of gasoline. Full disclosure: I have never liked ethanol much.

    In terms of crop production, corn requires about 39 inches of water per growing season, from irrigation or precipitation. This amounts to about three acre-feet per acre. If I’m going to go to all this trouble growing the stuff, I’d much rather eat it feed cattle than pour it in the tank of my SUV or ship the stuff to Brazil.

    Brazil cannot currently produce enough ethanol for its own consumption. Normally the feedstock there is sugarcane, not corn, and so food production is not foregone. Only one Brazilian plant has temporarily switched to corn because cane is out of season. Corn is more costly and less efficient. Without the U.S. subsidy, this temporary link becomes uneconomic.

    As for Colorado crops, roughly twice as much acreage is typically devoted to corn, compared to wheat, the “number two” product. Sugar Beets are third. In terms of money received by growers corn’s total leads wheat by only about 10% in a typical year, though the yield for corn is a little more than three times that of wheat. So is corn “the” or “a” primary crop here? I’m not sure; there’s more than one way to view it.

    There is more than one way to view the natural gas market. Rational husbandry would suggest a measured approach to extraction rather than a Sutter’s Mill-Virginia City style of stampede. The former might mean idling a couple of hundred rigs. But, alas, every resource hunter only wants to get rich quick, which is why every now and then they all go bust quickly. And then we all get hurt.

    April 21, 2012 at 10:18 am

    It doesn’t look like Mr. J is inclined toward dialogue. Or perhaps he went back to Wyoming. He had a letter to the editor in the Longmont Times-Call about a week ago. That was pretty empty, too. If you’re going to a wedding you usually have to dress up. If you have no “dress up” clothes, you generally stay home.

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