Question on gas drilling in Washington County Virginia

by Lewis Loflin

In 2015 the BOS has approved gas drilling, but there's a fight over listing the chemicals.

Note as of July 2012 the Washington County Board of Supervisors had held off a vote to rezone parts of the County for gas drilling until they see a report from the EPA in 2014. The vote was 5 to 4 with Supervisor Odel Owns the key vote. He is my supervisor in the Tyler District and has (or anyone else on the BOS) the option any time to call another vote.

Extract from Insiders Sound an Alarm Amid a Natural Gas Rush The New York Times June 25, 2011.

In Washington County Virginia a new eco-controversy has arisen over drilling gas wells or "hydraulic fracturing" or hydrofracking.". Most of the drilling it seems will be in the Mendota area and the negotiations as usual are largely in secret. My environmental friends aside, there are good reasons to be skeptical of this. Besides the fact it will not solve America's energy problems, the following quotes based on company e-mails should raise an alarm:

In the e-mails, energy executives, industry lawyers, state geologists and market analysts voice skepticism about lofty forecasts and question whether companies are intentionally, and even illegally, overstating the productivity of their wells and the size of their reserves. Many of these e-mails also suggest a view that is in stark contrast to more bullish public comments made by the industry, in much the same way that insiders have raised doubts about previous financial bubbles.

"Money is pouring in" from investors even though shale gas is "inherently unprofitable," an analyst from PNC Wealth Management, an investment company, wrote to a contractor in a February e-mail. "Reminds you of dot-coms."

"The word in the world of independents is that the shale plays are just giant Ponzi schemes and the economics just do not work," an analyst from IHS Drilling Data, an energy research company, wrote in an e-mail on Aug. 28, 2009.

Company data for more than 10,000 wells in three major shale gas formations raise further questions about the industry's prospects. There is undoubtedly a vast amount of gas in the formations. The question remains how affordably it can be extracted.

The data show that while there are some very active wells, they are often surrounded by vast zones of less-productive wells that in some cases cost more to drill and operate than the gas they produce is worth. Also, the amount of gas produced by many of the successful wells is falling much faster than initially predicted by energy companies, making it more difficult for them to turn a profit over the long run.

If the industry does not live up to expectations, the impact will be felt widely. Federal and state lawmakers are considering drastically increasing subsidies for the natural gas business in the hope that it will provide low-cost energy for decades to come.

The final sentence is the clincher and is true for shale gas, windmills, solar, and other "pie in the sky" energy scams: government intervention and tax payer subsidies and rigging the market. That's where the real money is at. The government through regulation will drive up the prices of say coal, that will make less efficient sources such as solar or shale gas profitable, then shift the cost off on the public.

Yet the Federal Government is just now ending wasteful ethanol subsidies costing billions per year and inflating food cost by 12 percent. Some studies show that ethanol subsidies of $6 billion in 2011 would make the price of ethanol around $10 a gallon and the few jobs created costing $14 million per job. See www.investors.com. Is shale gas the next ethanol corporate welfare program?

The gas companies have leases in Washington County, but can't drill unless the County Board of Supervisors alters land use regulations. That is where the fight is now. Local government here has been evasive on just what impact this will have on our community. Unless we know, just say no to drilling.

As more gas becomes available the price will drop and many of these speculators will lobby the government for a bailout. That is why true capitalism is dead in America and has been replaced by corporatism or crony capitalism. What is really needed is to sever big business from government.

For more on this subject in general from the environmental view see www.earthworksaction.org. Note that I often reject environmentalism when it becomes a religion or ideology, but there are legitimate issues with this and I'm going on the record to oppose gas drilling in my community.

As another example of why these scams are just stupid, let's turn to Investors Business Dailey:

$6 billion in subsidies for 2011 could cost $10 per extra gallon of ethanol...[Iowa State University's Center for Agricultural and Rural Development] director Bruce Babcock said in an e-mail that each 100 million gallons of ethanol creates 70 jobs. Thus, 600 million gallons would result in 420 jobs, or about $14 million per job.



 


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