Tag Archive for water

Water for energy

While two former governors and our incumbent exult in the value of increased energy production, our supply of water is affected drastically. It has become necessary to remind our excited political leaders that you can’t drink oil. James Bond proved that at the conclusion of “Quantum of solace.” Double 07 allowed the villain a can of oil as his only liquid refreshment to get him through the desert. The results were deadly. Other deadly factors in the struggle of water for energy are:

Increased temperature. A recent report from the University of Colorado indicates our supply of water will be drastically affected by a projected two-degree increase in average temperature in the next 30 years, see http://cwcb.state.co.us/environment/climate-change/Documents/COClimateReportOnePager.pdf .

Irrigated agriculture. A dramatic decrease in the Texas, high plains, Oglala Aquifer—so named depending on where you stand—will force farmers to convert to dry land farming which is adversely affected by drought. See http://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/huge-aquifer-runs-through-8-states-quickly-being-tapped-out-f8C11009320. Also reported by the AP, Lubbock, TX Aug. 12, 2014. The aquifer runs from the Dakotas to Texas, and supplies the Mid-west breadbasket. It may last another 50 years, but some counties will run dry in 15 years unless recharging is increased.

Drought. Recharging is affected by draught and it is not keeping up with pumping out. All of California, most of the southwest and a good quarter of Colorado is in severe drought condition.

Fracking. “Fracking removes millions of gallons of precious freshwater from the water cycle.

Each well uses between two and five million gallons of locally-sourced freshwater which will be permanently contaminated by ground contaminants and toxic chemicals contained in the fracking fluid. About half of this water returns to the surface, where it is stored in steel containers until it can be injected deep underground in oil and gas waste wells.

“No one is entirely sure what happens to the other half of the water used in the process. Our best guess is that the water remains underground, though there are indications that at least some of this toxic cocktail makes its way back into the water supply.” http://www.cleanwateraction.org/page/fracking-dangers.

“Fracking companies begin slow shift to recycling wastewater.” See James Osborne, The Dallas Morning News, August 14, 2014

The “closed hydrologic cycle”. Yet the fact that Colorado is classified as semi-arid, a euphemism for “near desert,” is lost in the political battle over fracking. Many years ago I worked on a project for the Water Resource Division of the U.S. Geological Survey, and learned this simple fact: The amount of water on earth is constant.

“Water on the Earth is part of a closed system called the hydrologic cycle. Water evaporates, forms clouds, falls as rain or snow, collects in oceans, lakes and rivers and freezes as ice. No new water is created and it does not leave the system.” Except by fracking.

(USGS – http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/watercycle.html)

Excess fossil fuels? In a guest opinion, Congressman Gardner described how our exploding wealth of fossil fuels should be used to enhance foreign policy. Specifically, our government should force Putin to back off Europe because we would be able to resupply our allies with the natural gas they currently get from Russia. Rep. Gardner’s interest in water resources safety is zero.

Jobs? How many of those wonderful jobs generated by fracking are more than temporary? Anyone driving through the state can answer this question. Just about any road goes past oil and gas equipment erected to suck out the product. But I’ve driven up and down I-25 since I moved here in 1976 and not seen a single worker at a drilling rig.

The recent political compromise between elected officials and the fossil fuels industry solves nothing. Agreement on distance of fracking wells from humans misses the point. Our goal was to become energy self-sufficient and our most important natural resource is water.

Relevant history. As we all stood in lines for gasoline, President Jimmy Carter identified an energy crisis and increased funding for renewable energy. Then, the defense department’s share of federal energy consumption was over 98%. President Reagan ignored the problem by cutting renewable energy research 75% and increasing defense spending to drive up budget deficits. It was an amazing feat of legerdemain.

Who represents the people? Our governor joined the oil and gas lobby. Two former governors returned from political asylum to join the fray. As a card carrying member, Rep. Gardner lives in fantasy land. The Republican candidate for governor drops back 35 years to the bankrupt years of Reagan ignorance. He punts proclaiming it’s too early to invest in renewable energy. The conservative Republican alliance with the fossil fuels industry ignores conservation, its own founding principle.

The other day a friend asked if our emphasis on fracking would de-emphasize research on renewable energy. I’ll let you connect the dots. This latest panacea for energy consumption has a potential life expectancy in decades. It’s a neck and neck race as to which resource will run out first: fossil fuels or the aquifer wasted to free them.

Bill Ellis lives in Longmont. Reply to bill-ellis@comcast.net

1778 Lincoln St., Longmont, CO 80501

303-772-7687

Come, Exploit, Leave

I’ve resided in Longmont since 1986; in the same house north of Lake McIntosh. My kids have gone to school at Hygiene and Westview; with one now at Niwot.

I’m also an avid skier, to put it mildly; my wife would tell you it is more like addicted. So, I’m am keenly aware of the situation in the central Colorado mountains (Summit county especially) in the winters.

One excellent source for information about the snow pack in Colorado is the “snotel” site maintained by the Department of Agriculture folks in Lakewood – Snowpack Summary graph. It is one ski industry standard sources of data about the status of the snowpack in the state. It is updated every federal business day.

I had the April 17th graph. It showed the average, that of last year (which was a record big snowfall,) and that of this year – which is a record small snowfall. The percentage of normal, as of that date, was 40%.

Since then, that has fallen to something in the 25% to 27% range. That situation has already triggered Denver Water to issue restrictions. Boulder might soon. I know a City of Ft Collins planner who is very concerned about the impact in Larimer county.

In considering the regulation of fracking, which consumes significant amounts of water, the availability of water is a major concern!

From year to year, now days, it seems that the variability in snow pack, and so water, has become large; frighteningly so Some years may be OK, a few great, and some, like the snow season we just didn’t really have.

It is really kind of like a flood plain risk. In the case of water, what are the odds of two or three tiny years in a row? At what point is there not enough water for the residents, and everybody the City of Longmont water servers?

Who knows, Longmont itself may well have to end up going on water restrictions before the summer out. This could, sadly, get fairly ugly quickly.

The other point I made to Council was that Longmont is home to major high tech companies; it has been since IBM moved in down The Diagonal in the 1965. If the situation with the water is adversely impacted by fracking, that is not good. If the fracking causes air pollution that ruins the quality of life, that is not good(!) Part of what makes Longmont very desirable to high tech is the quality of life here; it is both a brand, and a lived reality.

Longmont could end up trading a set of long term, high paying jobs for a set of temporary, not that high paying jobs.  (and make no mistake, the oil industry is a “come, exploit, leave” kind of deal!)

That’s would be a simply stupid choice!

Hickenlooper’s oil and gas fling; Coloradans watching

Near Evans, Colorado. Courtesy of David Schemel

Governor Hickenlooper had a few particularly cozy days with the oil and gas industry the other week. First, he appeared in industry-funded ads in newspapers and on radio stations across the state, proclaiming that no water in Colorado had been contaminated by fracking. After being forced to issue a weak mea culpa amid cries of ethics violations over his unabashed hawking of the oil and gas industry, Hickenlooper then claimed that fracking fluids are edible: “You can eat this — the CEO of Halliburton took a big swig of this thing. And not to be outdone, I took a swig of it myself.”

Then, the governor issued an Executive Order to create an industry-dominated task force that will examine how to take local control away from communities across the state that don’t want drill rigs near homes or their children’s schools.

And now, satisfied with a job well done, Governor Hickenlooper jetted to Houston, Texas, to be the keynote speaker of an industry conference touting fracking.

If these antics have you thinking that Governor Hickenlooper no longer represents the people of Colorado and works full-time for the oil and gas industry, you’re not off base: Governor Hickenlooper took over $75,000 from the oil and gas industry for his gubernatorial campaign.

Even so, the grassroots movement that opposes fracking in Colorado is starting to win. Up and down the Front Range — from Colorado Springs to El Paso County, from Erie to Longmont to Boulder County — communities are standing up to pass moratoria on fracking. Why? Because their air quality is 10 times worse than Houston, Texas, as a result of oil and gas drilling. Or because there is a fracking well being planned 350 feet from their children’s elementary school. Or because their home values have plummeted due to proposed fracking in their neighborhood.

Grassroots, community rights organizations across the state are emerging. LongmontROAR, Erie Rising, What the Frack?! Arapahoe County and several others are talking to their neighbors, asking questions and pressing their city council members and county commissioners to say “no” to fracking. These aren’t dyed-in-the-wool activists, they are everyday Coloradans who love their families, their mountain air and their clean water. The mothers, insurance agents, pharmacists and retired people who don’t want a drill rig in their backyard or next to their child’s school are leading a fracking rebellion that is sweeping the state. And with some brass-nosed organizing, we are winning.

So when El Paso County and Boulder County — arguably the most conservative and progressive parts of the state, respectively — both pass moratoria to stop fracking in their communities, Governor Hickenlooper has a problem on his hands. A big problem that won’t make his oil and gas pals very happy.

And I make this prediction: industry-sponsored ads, slick oil and gas talking points, threatening letters from Attorney General John Suthers and the huff and puff of the oil and gas industry will not stop concerned citizens from demanding their rights to protect their children, homes and water from the harmful impacts of fracking and from organizing in a smart, strategic way to win. They will actually tick us off more and encourage us to fight harder.

The recent defeat of Senate Bill 88, which would have stripped communities of their local control to protect their water and citizens from fracking, is Exhibit A of this burgeoning grassroots movement. After generating thousands of emails and hundreds of phone calls, dozens of regular citizens crammed into an obscure committee meeting on a Thursday afternoon to defeat this industry-sponsored bill.

Governor John Hickenlooper

So I encourage all Coloradans to get involved with this movement to ban fracking. For a first step, email Governor Hickenloopertoday and ask him to pull his misleading industry ads. He’s done enough for the industry. It’s time he sticks up for Coloradans for a change.

This article was first published in Huffington Post and is republished with the permission of the author.

Fouled Forever by Fracking

This is a typical well

Fracking leaves scars, above and below the surface.

I have very strong misgivings about the XL pipeline proposal.  Governor Brownback tells us that it will bring “good times” to Kansas but I have good reasons to doubt it.

When I was a child, some seventy years ago, we moved to a farm about ten miles north of the little town where I now reside.  In an area adjoining our barn lot, there was a small pond of blue water.  The clay for several yards around it was also blue and I questioned about it.  I learned that it was a “sluice pond” from a gas well that had been attempted there many years before.  Gas and oil occupy the same underground areas and one cannot drill for one without finding at least small quantities of the other. In that case, the water and oil had been drained off into this little pond in that unsuccessful search for gas.  That same small piece of ground will still be blue and totally barren of vegetation, but that was a small operation.  Periodically, some drillers will go back to old wells and try low-pressure “fracking” in order to salvage a bit more gas from that well.  It was done a mile from our little lake house where we had a well of potable water.  After the fracking, the well was hopelessly fouled…. forever!

In traveling the length of Kansas in order to visit your lovely state, I was struck by how green western Kansas has become with the assistance of the gigantic irrigation systems which allow the growth of many crops that are not thought to be indigenous to the climate.  This cropland that spreads throughout the whole of western Kansas and Nebraska is the reason for the sobriquet of “Breadbasket to the World.”  The fresh water which nourishes those fields as well as all the large cities west of Wichita is a large underground deposit, called the Oglalla Aquifer, dating back to the melting glaciers from the last Ice Age.  We are aware that it will not last forever and so conservation practices have been instituted for its maximum protection.

Can one even imagine the disaster, not only to Kansas and Nebraska but to the world as a whole, should this precious water deposit become fouled by a massive leak of crude oil into its midst?  A huge share of the wheat-producing land in the world would be instantly removed from availability, world famine would be increased exponentially and the entire region returned to empty desert.  There is nobody who can guarantee that such a leak would never happen and there is not enough money in the world to compensate humanity for its loss.

Than, again, why should we tolerate it?  This is Canada’s oil, bound for re-sale all over the world.  There are refineries closer than Houston and no reason why Canada should not build their own refineries closer to the source of the product, and there must be routes for its disposal that do not endanger such a precious resource of an equally-precious deposit.  I applaud the President for his courageous demand to wait for further investigation of the environmental impact before giving further consideration to tis potentially-disastrous project.

Say no to fracking

Short-term profit, long-term damage

Fracking is a seemingly innocuous nickname for an insidious drilling method called “hydraulic fracturing,” where massive amounts of water and fracking fluid (made of a secret mix of caustic toxic chemicals and breaking agents) are pumped under pressure into horizontally drilled wells to release natural gas and oil that are trapped in rock beneath us.

Why should you be concerned?

Because this type of drilling is already occurring in Boulder County and more is coming in a big way (it is rampant next door in Weld County). Fracking will monopolize our water supply (our most valuable resource in Colorado), contaminate ground water (if you use well water, be prepared), release methane gas into the atmosphere (a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide), and much more. (Folks, this is just the tip of the iceberg). People who live nearby drilling sites are getting sick, not to mention the effects on livestock and vegetation.

Just last month, toxic fracking fluid contaminated groundwater on Boulder County agricultural land near Valmont and 95th Street. However, Noble Gas wanted this spill to be kept “hush hush,” claiming business confidentiality protection. Lies and deception do not make for good business practices.

Encana Natural Gas drilling touts on their website that they provide “a clean, affordable, abundant resource for future generations.” If we’re thirsty, sick and/or dying from fracking, will there be a future for us?

You should be very concerned about this threat to our health and well-being. Please say NO to fracking.