Richard Muller: Why every serious environmentalist should favour fracking

This opinion should create quite a stir amongst enviros. – Anthony

Air pollution is a far more pressing problem – particularly for emerging economies such as China and India – than the challenges posed by greenhouse warming.

A deadly pollution known as PM2.5 is currently killing over three million people each year, primarily in the developing world, demonstrates Richard Muller (Professor of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley since 1980) in Why Every Serious Environmentalist should favour Fracking.  His co-author, Elizabeth Muller, is his daughter and co-founder (with him) of Berkeley Earth, a non-profit working on environmental issues.

Watch the animation: 

As such, air pollution is currently harming far more people than the more distant challenge of global warming – particularly for emerging economies such as China and India. They state:

“The Health Effects Institute estimated that air pollution in 2010 led to 3.2 million deaths that year [across the world], including 1.2 million in China and 620,000 in India. And the pollution is getting worse as global use of coal continues to grow…

The Mullers argues that both global warming and air pollution can be mitigated by the responsible development and utilisation of shale gas:

“China not only has the greatest yearly death toll from air pollution, but is also key for mitigating global warming. China surpassed the US in CO2 production in 2006; growth was so rapid that by late 2013, China’s CO2 emissions are nearly twice those of the US. If its growth continues at this rate (and China has averaged 10% GDP growth per year for the past 20 years) China will be producing more CO2 per person than the US by 2023. If the US were to disappear tomorrow, Chinese growth alone would bring worldwide emissions back to the same level in four years. To mitigate global warming, it is essential to slow worldwide emissions, not just those in the developed countries. And we feel this must be done without slowing the economic growth of the emerging world…”

“It is believed that China has enormous reserves of shale gas, perhaps 50% larger than those of the US. If that shale gas can be utilised, it offers China a wonderful opportunity to mitigate air pollution while still allowing energy growth… Industry experts believe that the cubic metres of gas recovered from a given well can be doubled in the near future by better design of the fracking stages to match geologic formation characteristics. And they also believe that number could double again in the next decade. Soon that will mean four times the production for only a minor increase in cost. Such an advance is expected to turn currently difficult fields into major producers, to open up fields in China, Europe, and the US that are currently unprofitable.”

The authors consider some of the concerns raised by opponents of fracking; and conclude that they are either largely false or can be addressed by appropriate regulation.

Developed economies should therefore help emerging economies switch from coal to natural gas; and shale gas technology should be advanced as rapidly as possible and shared freely.

And China and Europe are well placed to take advantage of fracking. The high price paid in China and Europe for imported natural gas, typically US$10 per million BTU (compared to the US$3.50 in the US) means that the cost of shale drilling and completion can be much higher and still be profitable.

The Mullers conclude that environmentalists should recognise the shale gas revolution as beneficial to society – and lend their full support to helping it advance.

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Source: http://www.cps.org.uk/publications/reports/why-every-serious-environmentalist-should-favour-fracking/

h/t Steven Mosher

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My view exactly,although Muller is apparently ignorant of the large number of nuclear plants China has on the schedule – thirty currently under construction and hundreds more in the planning stages. And nuclear is cheaper than gas in he US, where gas prices have dropped enormously

Mike Smith

Yikes. The Berkeley Student Council is gonna go fracking bonkers over this.

paddylol

I wonder who funded their research. CA’s Monterrey shale formation is supposedly 4 times larger than Bakken. Could it be the Gov Brown is organizing a cheering section in favor of frakking in CA?

@Mike Smith – Every Enviro is going to! He is one of theirs

Old'un

Far too rational for Guardianistas and their ilk in the UK, but it will happen here eventually. We cannot afford not to.

Mike Smith

@philjourdan says: He is one of theirs
Oh yeah. Lucky guess, I guess 😉

‘My view exactly,although Muller is apparently ignorant of the large number of nuclear plants China has on the schedule – thirty currently under construction and hundreds more in the planning stages. And nuclear is cheaper than gas in he US, where gas prices have dropped enormously”
well, no. we visit china often and are fully briefed on their plans. If you want to good place to start, start here
http://muller.lbl.gov/teaching/physics10/pffp.html
the approach is first things first. Coal is the most damaging. the easiest step to take is to move from coal to natural gas. three main benefits: reduced pollution, reduced costs, and mitigation of GHGs. you dont even have to believe in global warming to see that it makes sense.
If you live in a filter bubble, however, then you must come up with objections.

paddylol

Col Mosby, I too agree with the sentiment of Mueller’s report except for the evaluation of diesel. I am optimistic enough to believe that with time a form of filter or re- combustion device will be developed to solve the PM2.5 emissions.
Moreover, I believe that you are engaged in wishful thinking that China will replace their 200 year supply of dirty brown coal with cleaner energy sources. The Chinese can be counted on to use every ton of their brown coal. Human life is still cheap in China and will remain so until its communist government is overthrown or evolves into one with real empathy for its citizens.
BTW, nuclear power can never be cheaper than gas for the foreseeable future.
Oh, have you checked the of natural gas in th US lately. The cold spell that just enveloped most of the lower 48 states caused gas prices to spike significantly. Now we hear that gas pipelines can freeze up and shut down thereby complicating both supply and distribution.

Russ R.

A “serious environmentalist” would know that millions of birds and bats are killed each year, and that it is being subsidized by the taxpayer. If the oil or gas industries where causing 10% of that environmental carnage, the “non-serious environmentalists” would be marching on Washington demanding action.
Fracking is a great method to unlock energy, and it will improve the lives of people, and improve the environment for wildlife. That is why the current enviros hate it. The hard left has taken over the environmental movement. Any energy production, that can’t be use to reward cronies, and punish opponents, will be opposed.

BioBob

I like fracking. I want cheap energy and an ObamaPhone and Obama is going to pay my mortgage & healthcare…
LOL

neillusion

What utter nonsense… Richard Muller should know better…
If one limits the context around the soundbite one is about to make, one can sound almost sensible.
But taking the bigger picture and the best technology, one can only arrive at one conclusion:—
Thorium,
A LFTR plant.
The chinese, japanese and indians will steal a march on the usa and the west with this technology. (they have shown considerable interest and have put who knows how much into it – how much? we don’t know. You can be sure they will keep it secret anyway and only reveal their lead when they have advantage to do so.)
The usa had it in the 50’s, even a working reactor operational for five years. It was so flexible, the technicians/scientists often shut it down just for the weekend.
It is clear, an example of which is AGW, that the powers that be in the usa and europe have self serving agendas that relate not to the best interests of the people. They will not give in or give up making their money what ever way they can, forcing the rest of us to pay to use them and their agenda. They care not about the environment, the food, the health of the people – or any life except their own.

Jeff L

If your belief in CAGW is scientifically driven, then this position is internally consistent. If your view of CAGW is politically driven, this position will drive you crazy.
Of course there is an assumption about the geology that the Chinese have appropriate source rocks to make shale plays. Historically lack of source rocks has always been the biggest problem in oil & gas exploration in China. So assuming there are appropriate source rocks is putting the horse in front of the cart at this point. At the end of the day, geology still matters. Just look at domestic plays – they are not created equal & even within a given play there are mapable sweet spots, which are driven by geology.
Perfect example is Monterey shale mentioned by paddylol above. On paper, it should be great. In reality, it is a minor player in shale resources. Although the regulatory environment in CA is heinous, there is a geologic component to this as well ( based on my own work in the play ).

Tom G(ologist)

“The authors consider some of the concerns raised by opponents of fracking; and conclude that they are either largely false or can be addressed by appropriate regulation.”
From an insider: The objections are not so much false as they rely on willful misconduct and an attitude of rapine on the part of shale gas producers to be remotely realistic. That such is patently not the case is irrelevant to fractivists (And it IS ‘F-R-A-C’ . If you want the rationale, I invite you to my latest post at http://suspectterrane.blogspot.com/) There is some other information there which you might find useful or entertaining on shale gas.
I am in the beginning stages of addressing some of the objections of fractivists in a paper in preparation. As my graduate research in 1980 was on hydraulic fracturing, this will be an extension of that research aimed at responding to fractivist concerns.
But the authors are fundamentally correct.

Lance Wallace

Muller states in his book on physics for presidents (if only Obama could read it) that the long-term answer is nuclear.

With all of the flack that Richard Muller catches from both sides of the climate debates, I think his two books Physics for Future Presidents and Energy for Future Presidents are among the most overlooked and underrated.

TRM

” paddylol says: December 6, 2013 at 11:14 am
I wonder who funded their research. CA’s Monterrey shale formation is supposedly 4 times larger than Bakken. Could it be the Gov Brown is organizing a cheering section in favor of frakking in CA? ”
I like how you think! 🙂
Nice to see some realism in the ranks from M&M (and it’s not our M&M this time). Natural gas will give us that wonderful 30-100 year (depending on who’s numbers you use) buffer. That is lots of time to get LFTR and other technologies figured out Unless we get lazy, complacent and stupid. Again. Oh never mind 🙁

Janice Moore

I may be mistaken, but I think Mr. Mosher meant to post this:
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/12/06/filter-bubbles-and-the-climate-wars/#comment-1493522
on this thread.

Tom G(ologist)

HeyTRM:
“Natural gas will give us that wonderful 30-100 year (depending on who’s numbers you use) buffer”
Let me say that the volume of natural gas available as PUDs (proven but undeveloped reserves) is ASTOUNDING, and the volume which is currently, although not necessarily available comprises many times the PUD volume. If I could show you how our production reserves have INCRAEASED as a result of the performance of the Marcellus Shale during our first year of operations, you would be astounded as well. It is far above the USGS estimates
If we can’t come up with a reasonable alternative by the time shale gas runs out, then we ARE stupid.

Tom G(ologist)

In that last post, make that “currently but not necessarily UNavailable”

Rud Istvan

Muller is right on principle, but weak on facts. The Monterrey shale in Californiamis a good example of why. The Barnett, Eagle Ford, Marcellus, and other shale gas plays are relatively unfaulted basins into which the ‘horizontal’ part of the well can be run for lengths now over a mile. Makes the well work because such a long pay can be fracked. The Monterreynis all folded and faulted, so no long pay is available. Neither Chevron, nor Getty, nor any of the small independents have been able to make the Monterrey work because of this fundamental tectonic/geologic problem.
From what is known about China’s prospective shale gas resources, many of them have the Monterrey problem. China is neither stupid not technically inept. If they aren’t developing their shale deposits,,there are good geophysical reasons.

Janice Moore

Dear Mr. Mosher,
Re: “If you live in a filter bubble, however, then you must come up with {will neither come up with nor seriously examine any} objections.”
(Steven Mosher at 11:27am, today)
{edit mine}
Or, do you and I just define the term “filter bubble” differently?
Wishing I understood you better,
Janice

Janice Moore

Lest this article about pollution in China be mis-used to erroneously label U. S. (and other non-communist nations’) coal-fired electric power a significant source of air “pollution,” remember:

The following provides a brief description of 16 clean coal technologies. All but one are in use today at coal-fueled electric generating units (EGUs); carbon capture and storage (CCS) is still under development. Alone or in combination, clean coal technologies are capable of reducing sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM), mercury, acid gases, and other emissions from coal-fueled EGUs by 90 percent to 99.9 percent. In addition, the high efficiencies of advanced coal-fueled electric generating technologies contribute to reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
Wet Scrubbers (Wet FGD)
Wet scrubbers (or flue gas desulfurization) combine a mixture of lime or limestone and water with power plant flue gases to remove SO2 and acid gases. The mixture is either injected into the scrubber with the flue gas, or the flue gas bubbles up through the mixture. According to EPA, wet scrubbers achieve SO2 and acid gas removal efficiencies of 90 percent to 98 percent. Scrubbers in combination with selective catalytic reduction (SCR) for NOx control can remove up to 80 percent of mercury emissions.1
Dry Scrubbers (Dry FGD)
Dry scrubbers spray very finely powdered lime or other absorbents into a vessel where they combine with power plant flue gases to remove SO2 and acid gases. The resulting sorbent is captured with a fabric filter (also called a baghouse). According to EPA, dry scrubbers achieve removal efficiencies of 90 percent to 93 percent.2

{Source: http://www.americaspower.org/clean-coal-technologies}
And, yes, Gary Pearse, I think we ought to build A LOT more
nuclear plants. #(:))

Janice Moore

For Tom G. Ologist:
Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing Frac’ing!
Best wishes,
Janice
#(:))

TRM

” Tom G(ologist) says: December 6, 2013 at 1:13 pm
Let me say that the volume of natural gas available as PUDs (proven but undeveloped reserves) is ASTOUNDING, ”
I’ve heard that as well and boy I hope it is true and we can recover it. Not to mention the Japanese are making progress on the ocean floor gas hydrates. If that gets into production even human nature couldn’t outlast it.
Cheers

Alan Robertson

“The Mullers conclude that environmentalists should recognise the shale gas revolution as beneficial to society – and lend their full support to helping it advance.
____________________
The mullers are seriously confused- when have environmentalists ever shown that they have any regard for “society” (people, in general.)

“From what is known about China’s prospective shale gas resources, many of them have the Monterrey problem. China is neither stupid not technically inept. If they aren’t developing their shale deposits,,there are good geophysical reasons.”
Rud has never been to china to meet with those who are working on fracking today
Rud doesnt have a chinese geologist on staff advising him.
Rud has no understanding of the role existing leases play in the problem
Rud has no understanding of the role existing subsidies play
Rud has no understanding of what Shell is doing for example.
傻子
The reasons are not geophysical. It will take a long time to dispell these myths

Doug

China is a big place, and it takes some time to work out the best production techniques in different basins. West Texas has many prospective units for horizontal drilling and fracking, and may one day surpass some of the areas it currently lags behind. It is premature to say the lack of shale production in China indicates lack of potential. i worked a bit on the Daquing basin and there are lacustrine shales present which I could see being significant one day. We still have a lot to learn.

Dr. Bob

PM 2.5 is an interesting issue. I have not delved into the “science” behind it, but I suspect that it is overblown like so many toxicological studies. Much of the scare of diesel exhaust was based on heavy overloading of target tissues which did respond negatively. But work by the Lovelace Respiratory Institute in Albuquerque showed that laboratory animals exposed to ambient levels of PM emissions had no different response than control animals. So much of our tox data is based on overexposure. If the immune system is not overloaded, it copes marvelously with low level toxic materials. If it didn’t, we would all live short, brutal lives. I welcome others’ opinions on this topic.

Richard D

Steven Mosher says: December 6, 2013 at 11:27 am
well, no. we visit china often and are fully briefed on their plans. If you want to good place to start, start here http://muller.lbl.gov/teaching/physics10/pffp.html
the approach is first things first. Coal is the most damaging. the easiest step to take is to move from coal to natural gas. three main benefits: reduced pollution, reduced costs, and mitigation of GHGs. you dont even have to believe in global warming to see that it makes sense.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Yes, indeed. I remember the days when we cared about improving the quality of air and water. I’m constantly dismayed by the anti-environmental energy solutions promoted by so called environmentalists……..Mosher’s right. Add some nuclear to the mix along with fracking and you can greatly improve air quality in rapidly growing countries.

Oh noes, not another previously unknown hazardous dimension. Realize that while there are more than one, there will be a ‘worst’. PM-2.5 particles are said to cause atherosclerosis against which the Statins, HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors are the most highly prescribed drugs in world.

Paul Milenkovic

I have seen claims that “fracked” oil and gas has a very high depletion rate. This might be that a given well runs out quickly, making this resource expensive because you have to keep making new wells into the formation to extract the oil or gas. Or it might be that the resource is more limited than its champions claim.
Is this cloud of dispair surrounding a long hoped energy abundance politically driven by people who just don’t want to see energy-driven prosperity? Or is there some substance to the doubters on fracking? I have been following the CO2 Global Warming controversy here and other places to have some sense of the arguments, but what should I make of this argument?

Lady Life Grows

This suffers from the same defect that appears on this site over and over: the idea that the beneficial trace gas carbon dioxide is good only for plants. and that trivially, while otherwise it is a dangerous pollutant that must be reduced.
In fact, carbon dioxide is VITAL in animal physiology as well. You could not survive more than a few minutes, or maybe seconds, if the CO2 in your body were removed. It is a vital pH balancer that is probably also used in thousands of biochemical reactions.
At increasing concentrations up to at least forty times ambient (probably more) it increases animal well-being and longevity.
–Esther Cook, Lady Life Grows
M.S. Animal Physiology, University of Arizona

clipe

The Chinese communist Party and business elites are playing footsie. They will make noises about the environment but continue to consolidate their position while enriching themselves.
Burn baby burn!

The Party has utilized a sophisticated strategy to maintain control of its populace. While growing the economy, it has kept the majority of wealth in the hands of an elite class of business leaders, many of whom have willingly accepted authoritarian rule in exchange for getting rich. Far from forming a middle class that might challenge authority, these groups now have reason to join their rulers in repressing “instability” among the people. Meanwhile, the Party has also deliberately stoked and shaped Chinese nationalism, and many inside China now feel pride in the government’s model of authoritarian development, especially as the model of liberal capitalism staggers in the wake of the global financial

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB124319304482150525

more soylent green!

There are problems with fracking —
* Fracking makes energy abundant
* Fracking make energy inexpensive
* Fracking reduces control of the energy supply by the statist central planners
* Fracking prevents us from developing all those wonder, theoretical, unlimited energy sources that only exists in environmentalist’s imagination.

Dolf

Shale gas is well worth exploring and using when safe and feasable. But I am amazed that this argued based on huge pm deaths which sounds at least as alarmistic as warmists claims, and as ill-founded. It would be worth if this site investigates the pm2.5 claims as thorough as it does with the flawed CO2 claims!

Janice Moore

Dear Mr. Mosher,
Okay, ad argumentum, Rud was mistaken. Your post would be more helpful if you instead answered and not merely posed those issues, i.e, :
1. What do those “working on fracking today” report on the situation in China?
2.What does that Chinese geologist report about frac’ing in China?
3.What is the role played in China by the existing leases you refer to?
4. What is the role played by the subsidies you refer to?
5. What is Shell doing?
All you have said above, essentially is:
“‘Rud is a fool.’ I know why, but, I am not going to tell you what I know.”
btw: How does it make one a “fool” to be simply mistaken? Why the name-calling (at this stage, anyway)?
I hope that you have more joy in your heart than your WUWT comments over the past several months indicate. I’m really sorry if you are suffering from depression (I am not being sarcastic). That is a heavy burden to haul with you wherever you go. I have friends who will be taking their anti-depressants (if you decide to try them, hang in there, there IS one that fits you with no unpleasant side-effects; it can take 2 or 3 or more tries, sometimes, to find the right one AND the right dose) for the rest of their lives — they are determined not to ever go back into “the pit.” Depression is a brain, i.e., a physical, disorder. Taking something to help your neurons better fire is no different than someone who needs to stay on heart meds or insulin for the rest of his or her life. Ignore the stigma and DO WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU. Exercise helps. Also, watch more comedies!
Coming from me, all this will have little persuasive weight, no doubt, but ASK YOUR FRIENDS. Believe them (if it turns out they say the same things I do). They care. I do, too. You matter, Mr. Mosher. Take care of yourself.
Yours,
Janice

Steve from Rockwood

Did someone actually say they are fully briefed on China’s energy plans? I sense nose elongation.

Steve from Rockwood

Talking about India, over 300,000 babies die each year within the first 24 hours of birth, 1.7 million children die before the age of 5, 1.2 million die each year in car accidents. Over half of adult males smoke and cancer causes over 600,000 deaths. So if the poverty, smoking or bad drivers don’t get you the air eventually will. Having been there a few times I would say poverty is even more important than air pollution. Of course they didn’t fully brief me on their energy plans.

Janice Moore

@ Ms. Esther Cook, M.S. — You go, girl! Good for you. A fine, informative, and well-informed, comment from someone whose views should be respected and valued.
I have no science credentials; and I say, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it!” #(:))

Janice Moore

Re: “…many inside China now feel pride in the government’s model of authoritarian development… (quoted by Clipe at 2:06pm today)
Disgusting. They eagerly embrace what no freeborn person would every willingly submit to.
I’ll stick with, “Give me liberty, or give me death!, so help me, God.
And not ALL Chinese are such bootlickers. Remember this man? Remember! Those who love liberty are still there, but they have to be very careful about what they say. We are with you, O Freedom-loving Chinese! Don’t give up!!!
1989 Tieneman Square, Communist China

eo

PM2.5 is a generic name of particles smaller that 2.5 microns. There are natural sources of PM2.5 such as salt spray from the oceans to storm dust from land especially deserts. PM2.5 is an important component in the water cycle as the particles forms the nucleus for the formation of rain drops. Without PM2.5 the world could be a very humid with limited rainfall. Just like essential minerals in low concentration they are important for health but at high concentrations they could be destructive. This is the problem of the scare strategy to gather environmental awareness. It is the negative impacts that are high lighted and the other side often ignored. PM 2.5 could be fingerprinted to determine its source and this is an important exercise to develop cost effective pollution control policies, plans and programs rather than blaming coal fired power plants and brown coal right away. Renewable energy from biomass combustion is a major source of PM2.5.

Peter Brunson

The reference to Asthma in the video is not correct.

TonG(ologist)

Rud. I am developing the Marcellus on and in front o the Allegheny Structural Front where the rock is folded and thrust faulted. We are able to do ths as a small independent gecause the majors have to answer to stockholders and the pay out might not be as good. But it is, and we are running laterals out to 7,000 + ft at depths of 9000 ft. With geo steering we can ramp over folds, climb up section to stay in the pay zone when we cross a fault, go up dip, down dip… A little riky but we are doing it

u.k.(us)

Steven Mosher says:
December 6, 2013 at 1:41 pm
====================
My search of your Chinese phrase, translates as:
傻子 {noun}
sap · sap · idiot · simpleton · greenhorn · jackass · nincompoop · poop · a nut · poops · ninny · nitwit
———
Which exactly did you mean ?
Just curious.

Jquip

Lady Life Grows: “At increasing concentrations up to at least forty times ambient (probably more) it increases animal well-being and longevity.”
So the lesson here is: To improve carbon sequestration we should lower the concentrations and thus negatively effect the reproductive spread and longevity of aerobic organisms.
/runs for it

Jquip

u.k.(us): “Which exactly did you mean ?”
Why ask a 诡辩学者 about arguments that 攻击人?

u.k.(us)

Jquip says:
December 6, 2013 at 3:20 pm
u.k.(us): “Which exactly did you mean ?”
Why ask a 诡辩学者 about arguments that 攻击人?

(Why ask a sophist about arguments that attack ?).
This is kinda fun, but I don’t think it will last 🙂

@Janice Moore
Thanks for your comments and video on China, right on.

Janice Moore

@ U.K. (US) and J Quip — lol, I’d love to join in your fun banter, but, after I read (a long time ago…) of The Coca Cola Corp.’s marketing blunder in China (they put “Coke” into Chinese characters that meant: “Bite the Wax Tadpole” — lots of unsold inventory…), I’m kind of nervous about trusting the online translators (and that’s all I have to go on).
I really wish we could reach Steven Mosher’s heart. He seems so unhappy.
Thanks for your wit and fun above, guys (gals? — yes, yes, UKUS, I recall you played hockey, but, still… #(:))
*************************************
@ Tom “Frac’ing” G. Ologist — that is TERRIFIC. Way to go. Very impressive work your operation is doing. Oh, and…. you’re welcome….. (smile).